Starting with one of my favorite hikes in Japan. Mt Asahi or Asahidake (旭日岳). An active volcano part of Daisetsuzan Volcanic group. This majestic beast is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido with the elevation of 2,291 meters.
Total time- 6 to 8 hours
Difficulty level- Moderate (Elevation gain- 1110mt)
Access- Take a bus to Asahi-Dake Onsen from Asahikawa Station, Hokkaido
Caution- Do not consume water from the rivers or lakes in Hokkaido. Contaminated with echinococcus parasites.
During the 9 days adventure in Hokkaido, this was going to be my second hike. Although it was burning hot in Tokyo, Hokkaido was as pleasant as a Spring even in July. Tired and irritated with the poor transportation facilities in the area we came to the Seishonen Yaeijo (旭岳青少年野営場) literally means Youth Campground. This was going to be our first night in Daisetsuzan National Park. The first thing came to my mind was bears! If you know about Hokkaido, you probably know that the island has the largest population of grizzly bears in Asia. And Daisetsuzan was one of the territories. Living just few kilometers away from the bear territory on an open ground was quite an experience. Before pitching my tent asked the caretaker, ‘have you ever spotted a grizzly?’ with the same long face he answered, ‘yes sometimes in winter, but don’t worry rarely saw any in summer’. So with the fingers crossed relying on (not so convincing) ‘rarely’, pitched my tent. The campground is very clean. Has safe water and toilet facilities and cooking area. At night keep all your food in container in the cooking area if you don’t want big furry visitors. Unlike other parts in Japan there are no convenient stores near by so make sure you carry everything you need. Lots of Onsen and Sento (public baths) near by the campsite. After visiting one of those and having hot vegetable stew, we decided to call it a night.
Opened the small window on the roof of my tent, noticed the clear sky! Millions of stars had brightened the dark.. So unimaginably beautiful.. and then heard something.. something small (probably smaller than bear) circling around my tent! Something just rushed through the grass besides my tent. It is funny how humans react when they’re panicked! I checked the chains of my tent twice.. as if that was going to stop the 200 kg long clawed guest from entering. After almost continuously praying, I finally slept at around 2. When got up the sound had stopped. Opened the tent, hoping that my friend is safe noticed footprints of Kitakitsune or the Japanese Red Fox all around my tent. It was almost like they were dancing all night haha!
After breakfast left the campground early. In about ten minutes reached the trail head. I didn’t have any idea what to expect. Most of the year this mountain is covered in snow. But the real beauty of it can be experienced only in summer. The base of the mountain is popularly known as ‘God’s Garden‘. Small lakes surrounding the mountain shimmer turquoise blue. One of them is known as Sugata-mi or the Reflection. Seen from a right angle you can see the entire peak reflecting in that tiny lake. It was almost as if the mountain is staring in a mirror. The whole area was covered with different mountain flowers. Japan is well-known for Cherry blossoms but believe me those tiny modest docile mountain flowers aren’t half bad either.
Another fascinating thing I noticed was volcanic vents! So many in that area. The cloud of that smoke almost justifies the God’s Garden effect.
The hike itself was well marked. There are ropes in few places. Not too steep but its quite a walk so carry enough water. This hike is popular in summer so we had lot of company. The views from the top are absolutely gorgeous. It offers 360 degree view with Kurodake on left. Kurodake-Asahidake is another popular traversing route someday I want to try. While descending we had a company of a Fox.
Sometimes I feel mountains have personalities. And Asahi was probably one of the friendliest ones I’ve come across. The night after that hike was completely different. It was almost as if I had become part of Daisetsuzan. Either that or I was tired but slept like a baby!
Hope you enjoyed my story. For more, visit my blog once in a while and leave a comment to encourage me for writing more