Are you an avid mountain climber or someone looking for a fun challenge? Looking for a good day climb up a beautiful mountain side? Look no further than Mt. Chokai, also known as the “Fujisan of Tohoku” due to its symmetrical shape when viewed from Akita. Mt. Chokai is a 2,236 meter (7,336 foot) tall mountain located on the boarder of Akita and Yamagata prefectures, right along the Sea of Japan coast. It has been designated one of the Top 100 Mountains of Japan, Top 100 Landscapes of Japan, and Top 100 Geographical Features of Japan.
While Mt. Chokai is technically climbable year-round, it is completely covered in snow for the majority of the year. However, from August until around the second or third week of October the trails are free of snow. It is during this time that most people venture to the top.
While Mt. Fuji is about 1,500 meters taller than Mt. Chokai, people who have climbed both say that Mt. Chokai is both the more beautiful and more challenging climb. Luckily, unlike Mt. Fuji, there is no problem with altitude sickness. In addition, Mt. Chokai is not nearly as busy as Mt. Fuji, so you don’t have to ascend with hoards of other people.
There are nine different trails to get to the top, but the most popular (and easiest) is the Hokodate Trail, which starts in Kisakata, Akita (Map: https://goo.gl/maps/KE1nA). This is the trail of choice among people climbing a mountain for the first time. The first half of the trail is mainly stone stairs. Fear not, though, because this changes after the halfway point. The halfway point is marked by a cabin overlooking a beautiful lake.
From here, the trail becomes much rougher, and you often have to navigate boulders and rocks of various sizes. About ¾ of the way up, there is a glacier with snow that never melts. After crossing it, the summit starts to become within reach. While your body will likely be exhausted, you will soon arrive at the “false summit,” which has a hut that occasionally sells food and drink (at premium prices). From here, you can call it good and head down, or you can choose to set out on the demanding climb to the actual summit about 100 feet up.
The Hokodate Trail is a bit longer than the other trails. By this trail, it takes an average of 4-5 hours to reach the summit and about 3-4 hours to reach the parking lot at the bottom. Like all climbers will tell you, make sure to check the weather forecast, bring plenty of food and water, wear proper clothing, and be smart. Most of all, though, enjoy the beautiful scenery that Mt. Chokai and the surrounding area has to offer!