Mt Chokai is a 2236 metre high mountain which stands on the border of Yamagata and Akita prefecture in northern Japan. The peak is covered in metres of snow throughout winter and is basically inaccesible. From spring the snow melts and fills the surrounding gorges and waterfalls with water. In summer there are quite a few paths to the summit and through June the mountain attracts “summer skiers”.
The mountain is accessed through the west coast (Sea of Japan side) towns of Sakata (yes, where the crackers are made) or Kisakata. We shinked up from Fukushima to Yamagata (Shinjo) then caught a nice little train through the rice fields and gorges of Yamagata to Sakata.
Once you get to the region it is best to have your own car, so we hired and drove to the main visitor entrance to the mountain at Hokodate, which is at close to 1100m above sea level.
After a quick visit to the visitor centre and viewing some stunning photos of Mt Chokai and surrounds (and reading numerous warnings about the Asiatic Black Bear) we started up the track. The forecast was for copious amounts of rain the following two days and this year there was more snow than usual on the path so we decided to walk as far as we could go in the one day rather than camping on the mountain. This turned out to be a good decision, as the rain really did fall over the next two days.
After a late lunch/early dinner on the snow we made our way back down to the lookout around 10 minutes from the carpark. It was a very calm evening and we were fortunate to even see Mt Chokai, as it was hidden in cloud for the rest of our trip. After watching the dusk colours over the Sea of Japan we bid farewell to the mountain.
Part II of our travels coming soon