The most recognizable landmark and symbol of the Niseko area, Mt. Yotei is a perfectly formed, symmetrical stratovolcano that is also known as Ezo Fuji (Ezo being the old name for Hokkaido). It rises up 1,898 m (6,227 ft) out of the surrounding farmland and dominates the Niseko skyline. One of the most famous 100 mountains of Japan, it attracts hikers from all over Japan during the climbing season from early April through late November, and the occasional zig-zag tracks that appear on its slopes in winter are testament to the few adventurous souls who dare to snowshoe up in search of pristine powder ski and snowboard runs in winter. There are four hiking trails up the mountain, with clear, well marked and maintained trails, and the mountain is separated into 10 stages. All four trails start from the trailhead which features a parking area, public toilets and a mineral water spring. It’s best to fill up your water bottles here as there are no other water sources available on the mountain. At the top is a climbing hut where you can stay the night for a small fee. This is very popular for those who want to get up at 4 am to watch the sunrise, and the hut can get very crowded at night so it’s best to go early and ensure you get a spot to spread your sleep mat on the floor. Again there is no water or food available at the hut, so bring everything you might need yourself. Mt. Yotei is a temperamental mountain which is well known for its bad weather, so it’s best to research your climb carefully and keep an eye on the weather. It generally takes about 4-5 hours to climb up in good weather and about the same for the descent, but in peak season the trails can be quite crowded with other climbers and more time should be allowed. This is a moderately difficult climb, but should be no problem for the average hiker in good condition. When we went we were surprised to be passed by on the way up by a very small Japanese woman of about 95 who looked like she made the climb everyday! The views from the top are amazing, and in clear weather one can see right across Hokkaido from the Japan Sea side to the Pacific Ocean side. It is definitely worth getting up early to watch the sunrise here, though don’t be surprised by the sub-zero temperatures in the early morning even in mid-summer. The trail leads to the very rim of the crater, and even though the volcano hasn’t erupted for over 1,000 years there is still enough ash and steam about to make one very much aware that they are standing on top of one of nature’s most powerful forces.
Mount Yōtei, Abuta District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan 048-1511