Trek Notes - Japan

Hokkaido Hike

The Hokkaido Hike explores the wild side of Japan on the sparsely populated, northerly island of the Japanese archipelago. In winter, Siberian temperatures and powder snow has made Hokkaido a skier's paradise. In summer, with the snow gone, the weather is very comfortable and the hiking is some of the best in Japan.

A 10 day, 9 night tour, the Hokkaido Hike takes us through Japan's largest wilderness. We pass through remote verdant forests, across wet lands, up spectacular volcanoes, past steaming vents and onto high plateaux. Panoramic views, which stretch for tens of kilometres across this beautiful land, are a reward when reaching the high peaks. Closer to is the flora and fauna special to Hokkaido. We will see alpine flowers peculiar not just to Hokkaido but some so rare that they are found only on one mountain. In all there are about 500 different alpine flowers blooming through the summer season. These include Minezuou (Loiseleuria procumbens), Meakan-kinbai (Potentilla miyabei), Kibana-shakunage (Rhododendron aureum), Ezo-kozakura (Primula cunefolia), Jimukade (Harrimanella stelleriana), Ezo-no-shigazakura (Phyllodoce aleutica), Tchinguruma (Sieversia pentapetala), Ezo-in-tsutsuji (Ledum palustre ssp.diversipilosum), Ukon-utsugi (Weigela middendorffiana), Iwabukuro (Pennelianthus frutescens), and Kokemomo (Vaccinium vitisidaea).

A tour for those who exercise fairly regularly and can walk comfortably for up to eight hours. The route is largely mountain trails and includes some long ascents and descents over rough ground.

A 10 day, 9 night tour starting in Akan-ko and finishing in Shikotsu-ko Onsen. Accommodation ranges from comfortable, mountainside lodges to 3/4 star hotels most with their own onsen (hot spring) or nearby facilities. Laundry facilities are available in most of the lodges. Please note, traditional Japanese inns are uncommon in Hokkaido. The maximum group size for this tour is 14 persons.

Included/not included
Local travel from tour meeting point to finishing point, accommodation, all breakfasts and nine evening meals, baggage transfers, and entrance fees are included. Not included are flights, all lunches, one evening meal and drinks with meals.

This itinerary for the Hokkaido Hike tour is 'ground only' beginning at Akan-ko (Lake Akan) and ending at Shikotsu-ko Onsen. After receiving the booking form and deposit we will provide detailed instructions for getting to the meeting point in Akan-ko.  Arrangements can be made by Walk Japan for extra time in Japan before and after this tour. Please note that the first bus to depart for Shin-Chitose Airport (Sapporo's main airport) leaves Shikotsu-ko Onsen at 09:45 arriving at 10:36. If you have an early morning flight a taxi to the airport will be necessary.

Day 1
The tour starts at beautiful Lake Akan, a Ramsar Convention site. Our accommodation, which is close by the Lake, includes an onsen, hotspring. Everyone meets at 18:00 in the tour hotel lobby for a briefing and equipment check before enjoying the first of many sumptuous meals during the tour. Afterwards, a foray into Akan town for the rest of the evening. (Dinner provided)
Flights by JAL, ANA and AirDo to Kushiro from Haneda Airport, Tokyo's domestic airport, and Itami, Osaka's domestic airport. JAL also flies from Nagoya's Chubu Airport, which handles both domestic and international flights. Connecting express buses to Haneda and Itami run at regular intervals from Narita Airport and Kansai Airport, respectively Tokyo's and Osaka's international airports. Both journeys are approximately 60 minutes each.

Day 2
We start early and begin our ascent of Mt. Me-Akan (1,499m), an active volcano. At the top we take in the views of Lake Akan and Daisetsu-zan, the mountain range at the heart of Hokkaido and our destination for the evening. We descend Me-Akan by a different route to return to Lake Akan. An express bus then takes us to Sounkyo Onsen (hot springs), our gateway to the Daisetsuzan National park, and our base for two nights. Sounkyo is an impressive gorge a hundred metres deep that stretches for 24 kilometres. Many hot springs provide a plentiful supply of hot water to relax in. Stay in Sounkyo. 5-6 hour hike. (Breakfast & dinner provided)
Mt. Me-Akan (1,499m) Ainu name: Ponmachi-neshiri. Mt. Me-Akan towers over Lake Akan affording views to its nearby 'twin', Mt. O-Akan and beyond to Daisetsuzan, the high mountain area at the centre of Hokkaido. Mt. Me-Akan is the first of several active volcanoes we climb on this tour.

Day 3
A taxi ride to the beginning of today's hike, the first of several we will enjoy in the spectacular Daisetsuzan National Park. After reaching the peak of Mt. Akadake (2078m) there is an optional excursion to Mt. Hakuundake (2229.5m), but only for the very energetic. We then continue our hike back to Sounkyo. En route, we briefly skirt Ohachi-daira, a spectacular two kilometer wide caldera, before cresting Mt. Kurodake (1,984m) and descending to Sounkyo. A chair lift and cable car take the strain for us on the last leg of today's hike. 7-8 hour hike. Stay in Sounkyo. (Breakfast & dinner provided)
Daisetsuzan National Park & Mt. Kurodake (1,984m) Daisetsuzan is Japan's largest national park, covering 230,000 hectares and containing 15 mountains reaching 2,000 or more metres in altitude. It is a rugged, beautiful area that the Ainu call Kamui-mintara, or 'Playground of the gods'. Here the northerly latitude creates an alpine environment found only at an elevation of 3,000 metres in the rest of Japan. Snow is found near the mountain summits even at the height of summer, a season when many alpine plants bloom. The steep sided Mt. Kurodake is our first climb in Daisetsuzan and, at its summit, provides grandstand views of Ohachi-daira, the caldera at the centre of the Daisetsuzan National Park and beyond to Mt. Asahidake.

Day 4
Early morning start. We reverse our journey of yesterday on the cable car and chair lift up from Sounkyo to the beginning of our walk for the day. A steep, one hour climb brings us back to the crest of Mt. Kurodake (1,984m). Here the landscape suddenly changes from the deep gorge of Sounkyo to an almost Shangri-la like land of Ohachi-daira, an enormous caldera ringed by a series of mountains. Our route takes us around one side of the caldera, still spuming smoke and steam, to Mt. Asahidake, Hokkaido's tallest peak. En route, we pass through alpine flower meadows. On the far side of Mt. Asahidake another cable car saves our energy and legs and brings us down to Asahidake Onsen. 8 hour hike. Stay in Asahidake Onsen. (Breakfast & dinner provided)
Mt. Asahidake (2,290m) Ainu name: Nutakukamu-ushuppe We climb the park's tallest peak, Mt. Asahidake, which is also Hokkaido's highest peak and an active volcano. Steam continuously venting from the side of the mountain provides a spectacular sight as we descend from the peak. On the lower slopes is verdant forest that turn into rugged, lava rock slopes that are carpeted by alpine flowers in full bloom from mid-June through the summer. A hot spring welling up between rocks in a valley provides a welcome spot to refresh oneself.

Day 5
Today we ride the cable car again to the high plateau at the foot of Mt. Asahidake. Our hike, to Aizankei Onsen, is a less demanding trek that takes us through fields of alpine flowers, over residual snowfields and past marshy ground. Many of the alpine flowers are in their full glory and are all the more striking with Mt. Asahidake, smoking fumeroles and the snow providing a fabulous backdrop. 5~6 hour hike depending on route chosen.
From Aizankei Onsen we make our way to our hotel in Furano by train, arriving in time for dinner at a restaurant in town. Dinner is not provided this day so you may choose your own restaurant and style of meal. Your guide will provide ideas of where you may like to eat and settle you into the restaurant of your choice. Or, you are welcome to join your guide for dinner. Stay in Furano. (Breakfast provided)

Day 6 - An early morning transfer to the start of today's climb of Mt. Tokachidake (2,077m), another volcano and one of the most active in Japan. It most recently burst into life in 1988 and climbing was prevented until 1990. At the top, on a clear day, we will be afforded views right across the Daisetsuzan National Park to Mt. Asahidake. We descend to our lodgings at Tokachidake Onsen, where we will stay for two nights. Tokachidake Onsen is at 1,270 metres making it an ideal base to hike from. 6-7 hour hike depending on route chosen. Stay in Tokachidake Onsen. (Breakfast & dinner provided)

Day 7 - Today we continue our exploration of the south-western part of Daisetsuzan National Park, including a climb of Mt. Furanodake (1,893 metres) before returning again to our lodgings in Tokachidake Onsen. Stay in Tokachidake Onsen. (Breakfast & Dinner provided)

Day 8 - Time to relax until mid-morning when we begin our transfer to Lake Shikotsu-ko, the deepest and one of the most beautiful lakes in Japan. We will spend two night here. Stay in Shikotsu-ko Onsen. (Breakfast & Dinner provided)

Day 9  - Early morning taxi transfer (30 minutes) to start of the climb of Mts. Fuppushidake & Tarumaezan. Minibus pick-up for return to our lodgings in Shikotsu-ko Onsen and where we stay the night. Hike 4 hours for Tarumaezan; 6 hours for Tarumaezan and Fuppushidake. Stay in Shikotsu-ko Onsen.
For those who would rather not walk, pleasure boat tours, fishing for rainbow trout and scuba diving activities on Lake Shikotsu-ko are available at extra cost. These tours and activities are provided by local companies, we cannot assume any responsibility in respect of these tours. (Breakfast & dinner provided)
Mt. Tarumaezan (1,041m, climb to 1,023m) and Mt. Fuppushidake (1,102.5m). Ainu names: respectively, Taoro Mai and Fuppu Ushi Tarumaezan is on the south side of Lake Shikotsu-ko, a 360m deep, sparklingly clear water lake formed in a calder created over 30,000 years after a gigantic volcanic explosion. Its beauty is enhanced by being ringed by three active volcanos, including Tarumaezan. This mountain was most recently active in 1981. Another explosion in 1909 created the Tarumaezan's lava rock dome, an impressive and imposing sight, that distinguishes the mountain. A relatively easy walk and climb over volcanic rock. The lower slopes are particularly abundant in alpine plants and flowers.

Adjacent to Tarumaezan is Fuppushidake. Unlike the former, Fuppushidake is dormant and has not been active since ancient times and its slopes are covered in forest. Given enough time and energy we can walk over both peaks of Fuppushidake and Tarumaezan. Spectacular views are provided from both mountains over Lake Shikotsu to Mt. Yotei, and the low lands across to Sapporo, Chitose Airport and the North Pacific Ocean. There are a number of routes between and around the two mountains and our route will reflect the interest of the group, the weather, time available, etc.

Day 10  - The tour finishes after breakfast in Shikotsu-ko Onsen. Travel to Shin-Chitose Airport, Hokkaido's main airport, is by direct express coach from Shikotsu-ko Onsen. Onward travel from here to elsewhere in Japan by air or, in Hokkaido, by rail. Please note that the first bus to depart for the airport leaves Shikotsu-ko Onsen at 09:45 arriving at 10:36. If you have an early morning flight a taxi to the airport will be necessary. (Breakfast provided)

Dates 2012
21 June
05 July

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