Commune with nature on your next trip to Japan by checking out some of the country’s favorite hotspots for both rock climbing and bouldering (a form of free climbing that doesn’t require special equipment).
Many of the best spots for dipping into climbing are easy to access, conveniently located just outside of Tokyo. It’s a chance to experience firsthand the bona fide craze that’s sweeping Japan — the dizzying number of Tokyo bouldering gyms is a testament to the phenomenon. In 2020, the Tokyo Olympics will be the first to have rock climbing. And at the Climbing World Cup in Colorado in 2018, Japanese men and women consistently placed among the top three finalists.
But you don’t have to be an Olympian to enjoy the breathtaking beauty and range of climbing opportunities, from beginner to advanced, in Japan. Check out some of the best destinations below. If your schedule permits, try visiting on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Campsites and simple hotels are also options for those who want to gaze at the moon and make it a longer adventure.
Ogawayama is one of Japan’s first climbing hotspots; locals started scaling its majestic granite slabs and rocks in the 1970s. A rock climber’s paradise, with a roaring river and a grassy valley, it offers an exceptional range of options. A 2.5-hour drive from Tokyo, the best time to visit is between July and October, as the elevation at 1,600 meters above sea level can make it chilly in winter and spring months. Download a map and check out the tips from local climbers here.
Just west of Ogawayama sits Mt. Mizugaki, another popular climbing destination and a day trip from Japan (the scenery along the way offers what some consider to be the best unobstructed views of Mt Fuji). It takes about three hours to reach the top of the 2,230-meter-high peak, and as long as you are in reasonable shape, it does not require advanced mountaineering abilities. Stop and have a coffee at the Fujimidairagoya Lodge, about 45 minutes by foot from the main parking lot, to chat with the owners about their favorite trails. You can find maps and more details here.
Mitake, one of the climbing areas closest to Tokyo, is about an hour and a half outside Tokyo. Mt. Mitake, revered as a sacred mountain in the past, is located within Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, 480 square miles of forested mountains, hills and gorges with rural towns. If you opt for a more leisurely hike rather than a rigorous climb, check out Musashi-Mitake Shrine, a center for mountain worship for almost 2,000 years, and a forested valley known as the “Rock Garden” with its verdant moss-covered stones and waterfalls. You can find a detailed climbing map here.
Hungry for more climbing possibilities in the land of the rising sun? This guidebook is an excellent resource. You can also swing by Tokyo’s Calafate, widely considered Japan’s top climbing store, for more local advice and the latest gear.