The Tallest Mountain in Hokkaido: Asahidake

Learning About Mount Asahi


Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan and it is the second largest in the country’s four main islands. It is home to a great number of tourist attractions and is often frequented by tourists traveling to Japan. There are quite a few popular mountains on the island that made a name in the tourism industry. But, the most towering out of all would be Mount Asahi.

The tallest building in Hokkaido, Mount Asahi stands at a height of 2,290 meters above sea level. Although it is 1,000 meters shorter than Mount Fuji which is Japan’s tallest mountain, Asahidake is still a definite stunner. Just like any other mountain in Japan, Asahidake is actually an active volcano which is ripe for eruption anytime. The lack of intense activity has paved the way for the growth of lush greenery in the area making it a great hiking spot during the spring and summer.

By user:ほくなん [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Mount Asahi is stratovolcano which means that it has a conical shape built from multiple layers of hardened lava. The lava coming out of Mount Asahi is quite viscous which means that it cools and hardens before it even reaches far beyond the base. This explains its size and shape. Based on the description of the Japan Meteorological Agency, it appears that a smaller volcano started to emerge near the southeast portion of the mountain. This is called the Mount Ushiro Asahi which literally means Rear Mount Asahi.


This particular volcano is known to be made up of andesite and dacite. This is similar to the geology of Mount St. Helens of Washington in the US. Researchers also showed that the area is quite rich in sulfur which is why it was once a popular sulfur mine in its history. Based on radiocarbon dating, it appears that the age of the mountain is no less than 18,000 years old.


What is interesting about Mount Asahi is the fact that all its eruption records are mainly calculated from radiocarbon dating and tephrochronology. This is due to the fact that there is nothing in Japan’s written or spoken history about the previous eruptions of Mount Asahi. This might be a direct effect of the viscosity of the lava that it flowed so slowly it created a very minimal effect on the surrounding towns. It was found that the most recent eruption of the volcano was in 1739 and no other massive volcanic activity has been seen by civilization ever since.

All About Asahidake Hokkaido

Asahidake Map and Location

This particular mountain, Mount Asahi, is located in the town of Higashikawa in Hokkaido Prefecture of Japan. It is known to be a part of the Daisetsuzan Volcanic group which is a part of a larger range of mountains known as Ishikari. This is also why Asahidake is somewhat considered as a part of the Daisetsuzan National Park. The mountain is usually covered with snow but still remains popular to visitors. Asahidake is a popular tourist destination in the area and is frequented by hikers, skiers, and snowboarders from different parts of the world.

Asahidake Weather

Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan and is known for its severe winters and very mild summers. This is why Asahidake, a mountain located in Hokkaido is known to experience intense cold seasons. Based on statistics, it is normal for the mountain to experience very cold temperatures because of its elevation. In fact, records show that the mean temperature year-round is located in the zero to ten degrees Celsius.

The coldest month is in January where the mean temperature is about -20 to -21 degree Celsius, a value almost too dangerous for humans to stay for long periods of time. The months between October and June are known to be quite intense with very severe temperatures and snowfall. During the summertime, the hottest temperature experienced in the mountains would be between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius, in July.

Asahidake Population and Demography

Because of the severe cold season that is experienced in the mountains, there are no human settlements on the mountains itself. It would be difficult to survive temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. One of the nearest settlements would be about an hour away and is known to be Asahikawa town. This town has a total of about 300,000 residents.

Although it is quite unsure whether there were ancient settlements in the mountains, Mount Asahi is quite popular for the indigenous Ainu people. They have considered this mountain as a holy site because of its size and height. They call it the Kamui-mintara which literally translates to the “garden playground of the gods”.

Travel Guide to Asahidake

Access to Asahidake

The best way to access Mount Asahi is via the Asahidake Ropeway that traverses the mountains straight into the peak. This particular ropeway can be reached via the Asahidake Onsen located near the base of the mountain. For those traveling to this onsen, it can be reached via buses that run the route around this area. There is a bus from the Asahikawa station that is scheduled to make round trips three times a day. One way tickets cost a little over 1,400 yen. From the Sounkyo Onsen at the peak, there is a bus line going the backside way which takes tourists to the base for 2,100 yen one way.

Asahidake Hotels

Most of the accommodations available in the area are lodgings, inns, and bed and breakfasts. The hotels are usually located near the cities surrounding Asahidake and Higashikawacho. Since Asahikawa is the second largest city in Hokkaido, there are a number of great places to stay in the area. One of these would be Hotel Bear Monte, Hotel La Vista Daisetsuzan, and Hotel Taisetsu. All these are 4-star hotels that give amazing views of the mountain.

663highland [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], from Wikimedia Commons

There is information available on the internet for online bookings. There is information available for check-in times, check out schedules, available tours, prices, and more. There are photos of rooms, amenities and other facilities.

Asahidake Onsen Hotels

One of the most popular onsen hotels right at the base of the mountains would be Hotel Bear Monte. This is located right at the Daisetsuzan National Park and gives an impressive view of the Asahidake in the background. The surroundings are filled with alpine plants and forests. What makes this place quite popular would be the fact that it has a hot water bath which is made from 100% natural hot spring. The hot spring bath comes straight from the ground without any processing or cooling. The cold temperature already decreases its temperature enough for human use.

Must-See in Asahidake

Asahidake Onsen and Sounkyo Onsen

There are two popular onsen resorts or onsen towns around Asahidake. One of them is the Asahidake Onsen which is located at the elevation of 1,100 meters. What makes this particular onsen special is the fact that it is the starting point of many of Asahidake’s activities be it hiking, skiing, or snowboarding. This onsen town has a few buildings consisted of wooden lodges, hotels, and hostels. There are restaurants in the hotels only.

The other hot spring resort town, much busier than the Asahidake Onsen is the Sounkyo resort town. It is located right at the Daisetsuzan National park. From the peak of Asahidake, hikers can now reach the other side of the mountains. In the small town, there are cute shops and hotels. Nearby are waterfalls and a gorge which is great to see for hikers.

Sugatami Pond

This particular body of what is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in the hiking trails up the Asahidake. It is located at the 1,650 m elevation which is not actually the peak or the caldera, unlike what many people are claiming. What makes this particular pond quite special is the fact that the water is so blue and so clear that it reflects the mountains on its calm surface. Like a mirror made of water, it is a picturesque view that makes the five-hour hike worthwhile.

663highland [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Asahidake Ropeway

The best way to enjoy the beauty of Asahidake is to view it from the top. Not many people can afford a helicopter ride up the mountains but the great thing is that there is now a slightly more affordable option. The Asahidake ropeway is best for people who do not have the physical capacity to endure a two to five-hour hike up the mountain. Not only that, it also provides an amazing view of the mountainside. This is actually the safest and fastest route up the Asahidake. Roundtrip price up the Asahidake ropeway costs about 2900 yen for adults on a high season and 1450 yen for children.

Daisetsuzan National Park

This is the largest national park in all of Japan which spans an entire range of mountains. Asahidake is located in the southwestern portion of the gigantic park. Since the temperatures in the surroundings can be quite harsh during the cold seasons, many parts of the national park are virtually unspoiled. It is home to a number of onsen resorts that offer baths that have 100% natural hot spring water.

The park is a great place to see bears, deer, and alpine plants. It is a special destination for nature lovers as there are a great number of hiking trails in the area and around the park. There are waterfalls, gorges, cliffs, and more – the ultimate nature trip anyone could ever experience.

Asahidake Ski Resort

What makes these slopes popular is the fact that it has powder snow which is a favorite of ski and snowboarding enthusiasts. Although the Furano Kogen is much more popular in the Hokkaido region than any other ski resort, the powder snow of Asahidake becomes irresistible to snow sports enthusiasts. For those who wish to access the slopes, there are six ski lifts that take skiers to a 500-meter slope. There are terrains available for beginners and slopes which are enjoyed by intermediate and expert skiers. The only problem is that there are no ski schools available in the area.

What many people love about the mountain is the fact that winter lasts more than half the year. The start of snowfall begins during late October and patches of snow exist until mid-May. It is more recommendable to visit the ski slopes during the springtime when the temperature is slightly higher and warmer. People can take a day trip to the different ski resorts around Asahidake or they can have the option to stay the night for an additional price.

Asahidake Hiking Trails

The reason why this mountain is quite popular is the fact that Hokkaido is the first place in the entire country to experience the autumn foliage and snow. What is interesting is that the area experience spring only by June then July becomes summer where the entire mountainside becomes green with only minimal patches of snow. Anyone living in the area would know that spring and summer only happen as fast as a blink of an eye. By late August to mid-September, the leaves of the trees and other alpine plants start changing from green to yellow then eventually to colors like red, brown, and orange. Snow comes in as early as late October and ends until early May.

The best date to take a hike up the mountain is during the summertime, the only time of the year when there is minimal snow in the area. When hiking up, it is still best to bring some heavy duty clothing as the temperatures in the summit can get cold even during the summer.

By uraomote_yamaneko [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Asahidake trail map

Since the starting point of hiking trails begin at the Asahidake onsen, the hike to the summit is only about 1.7 kilometers. For expert hikers and trekkers, this will only take about an hour or so to walk. It offers great views of the mountainside, the treeless landscape, the vents of the mountain, and more. It also offers a great view of different alpine plants which can only be seen growing locally.