A Guide to Mt Yotei in Hokkaido
This particular mountain is located in the Shikotsu-Toya National park, in Hokkaido prefecture of Japan. The Shikotsu-Toya National park is bordered by the popular town which includes Niseko, Kutchan, and Makkari. This is actually one of the most iconic mountains in Hokkaido and it receives thousands, if not millions, of visitors throughout the year.
Mount Yotei literally means sheep-hoof mountain because of the interesting shape and size the mountain has. It is also commonly likened to Mount Fuji because of their eerie resemblances. Another name that Mount Yotei goes by would be Yezo Fuji or Ezo Fuji. The word Ezo or Yezo is the old terminology used to call the island of Hokkaido. This phrase, Yezo Fuji, means that it is “Hokkaido’s Fuji”. Its other names include Mount Shiribeshi and Mount Nupuri.
Mt. Yotei Geology and Height
This particular piece of the land mass is not actually a mountain but an inactive volcano. It is a stratovolcano which means that it has a generally conical shape which was built by multiple layers of hardened volcanic material. It is commonly likened to the beauty of Mount. Fuji because of its iconic icy, alpine tip. This means that the shape and size of Mt. Yotei took time and multiple eruptions to form.
Generally, stratovolcanoes are characterized by quite explosive eruptions. This could explain the widened crater, or opening, the volcano has. The pyroclastic material is also well-known to be highly viscous which means that it cools and hardens before it reaches the base of the volcano. Mt. Yotei has been known to be made up of andesite and dacite.
Based on recent studies, this particular stratovolcano only erupted twice in the recent millennia. Its last eruption was in 1050 BC while the first eruption was dated back to 3350 BC. The age of the rock surrounding Mt. Yotei is quaternary. This means that it could be dated back up to 2.5 million years ago, to the Cenozoic Era. This information was derived from radiocarbon dating and tephrochronology.
Mount Yotei is actually the tallest mountain in the entire region, standing at a total elevation of 1,900 meters. It is also quite popular with ski lovers because it has the longest vertical ski descent in the region as well.
Mt. Yotei Weather
Since Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan, it is understandable that they experience mild to severe temperatures during the wintertime. The place experiences heavy snow during the months of December and January. In fact, even during the springtime, the temperature can be quite low. This is why the top or summit of Mt. Yotei is mostly covered with snow, majority of the year.
The height of the mountain is considerably high that it could be seen from surrounding towns and neighborhoods on a bright clear day. From Niseko, the mountain can be seen with its towering height, usually covered with small clouds at its crater.
For those planning a vacation to Mount Yotei, it might be a good idea to have a full-proof and weatherproof plan. The temperatures up the summit can be uncomfortably cold, the winds strong, and snow-fall can be difficult to predict for first-time travelers. The weather in the area can change rapidly and changes are often severe. Hiking up the mountain without a guide is actually discouraged.
Travel tips to Mt. Yotei in Japan
Hotels and Accommodation
There are a number of hotels, lodgings, and bed & breakfasts available in the area. This is due to the fact that there are thousands of visitors and travelers going to Mount Yotei throughout the year. This is why planning the trip ahead of time is a must for those wishing to travel to Mount Yotei. It will be difficult to find accommodation and lodging in a short span of time, especially since some of these are found in the foothills of the mountain.
There are luxury hotels which offer smart fireplaces for cold winters and private balconies for the view of the mountain. There are also heated coat racks for ski gear and coats. Inside lodgings are lounge areas, kitchens complete with Japanese style appliances, and more. Usually, inside luxury hotels are special facilities and amenities. Some have their own hot spring baths and spas. There are also pools and saunas available for those wishing to relax their body after a full day of outdoor sports.
There are no hotels exactly on the mountain, not even ski resorts that allow overnight stays. Most hotels and lodgings are found in the neighborhoods and towns at the foot of the mountains. These are near public transport and other tourist destinations.
Access and Transportation
There are a number of possible routes to take to get to Mount Yotei from different parts of Japan. The only thing people should remember is that the city center could be accessed via train through the Kutchan Station. This station lies on the local train lines from Sapporo station. Then, from the Kutchan station, there are bus terminals that can take individuals to different access points up the mountain. These usually take 20 to 30 minutes for a little over 500 yen. For those who wish to travel by taxi to get from the station to the closest point to the trailhead, the cost can take about 3000 yen.
Things to do in Mt. Yotei in Japan
Mt. Yotei Hike
Mount Yotei is the most popular hiking and skiing spot in all of Hokkaido and people from all over the world gather to this place to experience its extreme trails. The daytime hike is the most recommendable especially for first-time hikers.
According to avid hikers and trekkers, the common time to visit Mount Yotei for hiking would be between late April and early November. This is the perfect time when the temperature just becomes bearably warm from spring until it becomes bearable cold in mid-autumn. It is said that if people go earlier than the third or fourth week of April, it is almost guaranteed that they will be experiencing heavy snow. Although hikes up the mountain are still common during the wintertime, it is not really advisable since the place experiences very nasty and unpredictable weather.
What people don’t like about this, on the other hand, is that bus stops are about 30 minutes away from the trailhead. This means that people would need to trek about 30 minutes on paved road before actually starting the ascent up the mountain. For those climbing up the first time, the trailhead is the only source of water and toilet. There are no other huts or camps even in the summit.
There are night-time hikes, but these are normally a bit more dangerous as there are some paths that can become deceptive and confuse hikers even with guides. It is also difficult to find shelter at night should the weather start to turn nasty all of a sudden.
Mt. Yotei Ski
Many experienced skiers enjoy going to Mount Yotei because of the powder soft snow that falls in the area. On top of that, many skiers enjoy the long and steep descent. Unlike other ski trips and ski tours in Japan, Hokkaido offers a “backcountry” style of skiing. This means that there is the amount of time allotted for climbing up the summit on foot and going deep into the mountains for the slopes.
Many people exclaim that going up the mountain for a good ski is fun and enjoyable but there are many hazards to remember. The hike up the mountain takes hours and this amount of time can cause a sudden, significant change in temperature. This is why many skiers observe the climate and weather in the area for two weeks before embarking on a skiing journey.
What is interesting is that people actually ski into the crater and not down its sides. The best skiing conditions are the snow deposit from the wind into the crater equally. The snow layers are soft and powdery with definitely no bumps and large rocks.This is why out of a hundred people that attempt to ski into it, only less than 20 people actually get the guts to do it. The view is spectacular at the top but skiing into the mouth of a volcano (even if it is inactive) is not a welcoming thought.
Mt. Yotei Onsen
Why not enjoy a simple winter and fall holiday in the hot spring resorts found all over the towns and neighborhoods surrounding Mount Yotei. Usually, these could be found in Niseko or Kutchan town. What makes it even more special is the fact that most onsens around the area are open-air as their main selling point is the majestic view of Mount Yotei.
People enjoy onsens once the cold temperatures start creeping in October up to about the cold month of March. The onsen around the mountain has magnesium and calcium deposits. These are great for the skin but are clear, colorless, tasteless, and odorless. Some diseases which could be treated by onsens would be bruises, sprains, fatigue, burns, frozen shoulders, and muscle pain. It is truly a relaxing experience to find onsens all over the neighborhood.
Mt. Yotei Niseko Village
The Niseko village is the most famous ski resort town in all of Japan because of the beautiful light powder soft snow. Both foreign and local tourists enjoy backcountry skiing in the area because of the impressive view of nature and the landscape.
Climbing Routes Up Mount Yotei
Adventure seekers usually enjoy going to Niseko village because the ski tour is not like any other. Usually, a helicopter ride or a five-hour hike is needed to reach the depth of the mountains for the amazing slopes. There are shuttle buses connecting the different resorts at the summit with the base village of Niseko. Ne part of Niseko, known as the Grand Hirafu, is the most popular destination for tourists because it has a number of hotels, convenience stores, restaurants, and even clubs. It is a small friendly town that accommodates all tired skiers and hikers after their fun-filled day.
There are a total of four different hiking routes up Mount Yotei. The first route is the farthest from the city center and it is known as the Kimobetsu route. Usually, from the main train station, a bus will take an individual to the bus stop in about 40 minutes. Then, from the bus stop, the individual must take a 50-minute walk to the trailhead. The fastest is probably the Kutchan route. The bus stop is 15 minutes from the train station and only a 25-minute walk is required to get to the starting point. The other two routes would be the Makkari route and the Kyogoku route.
In general, for seasoned hikers, the trail up the summit takes about five hours. This would also depend on the steepness and difficulty of the trail. Out of all, the steepest is the Kutchan route which is highly recommended for experienced trekkers. Beginners may take the Makkari route which only has relative steepness. The most dangerous route is the Kimogetsu route because the trail has lost stones and rocks.
There are no restrooms and water utilities available at the Kyogku route and Kimogetsu route which is why it might be a good idea to make sure that all hikers are well-prepared before the hike. There are guides available but many hikers tend to follow the pathways without help.
Best Time to visit Mt. Yotei in Japan
Mt.Yotei Summer and Winter
Even though the summer season in Mount Yotei is cool and short, there are still a number of activities to enjoy during this time. People often go to Mount Yotei for hiking, trekking, and mountain climbing. The warmer weather is perfect for a quick climb. Tourists also enjoy going by rivers or lakes to camp, fish, and boat. These are amazing and incredible experiences to be enjoyed during summertime.
Winter in Yotei can be harsh and unpredictable, but people still go through all the extensive planning just to enjoy the slopes of the mountain. The place is great for winter time sports like skiing, ice skating, and even snowboarding. People can also enjoy short hikes up the slopes when the temperature will permit. Snow fishing is also a rare, but enjoyable activity.