Situated in one of the smallest prefectures in Japan, Tottori-ken, Mt Daisen is often called “mini Fuji” due to its striking similarity with the aforementioned volcano. Measuring just over 1,700m, Daisen belongs to the top 100 mountains in Japan and is well worth a visit, proving a relatively easy yet beautiful hike.
Daisen national park can be accessed via buses that start in Yonago. However, you’ll have an easier time if you can travel by car. Two main routes both start from the same valley station which has a few shops (one outdoor shop Mt Bell), plenty of free public parking spaces and the famous temple Daisen-ji that can be entered for a small fee of 300 Yen.
The main trail is fairly direct, starting at roughly 700 meters and plowing pretty much straight up the mountain. Depending on your conditioning it will take anywhere from 2 – 4 hours to make it to the summit, and another 2 – 3 back down. A round trip clocks in at just over 6 kilometers. There are no mountain huts or rest stations on the way up, and only one portable toilet half way up, as well as 3 toilets when you reach the summit.
The hike starts in the dense forest that covers most of the mountain, only breaking out onto its alpine slopes near the end from 1,500 meters. Being so direct, the hiking style is pretty much like walking up a ladder, you won’t be training cardio here, just pure leg strength as you make one 50cm step after the other. Be warned if you suffer from knee pains, this will be taxing going up but especially harsh coming back down.
The top of the mountain transforms into a wonderful alpine landscape. The municipality of Daisen decided to restrict access to the mountain pathways and created a wooden walkway at 1,500 meters to stop folks from wandering off the official path. This semi-raised platform constructed from wooden planks means that nature can unfold underneath and around with little interference from hikers. While a little strange at first it lends to a unique charm for the final 30 minutes of the hike, which can be walked as a loop.
Unfortunately a landslide a few years back damaged the final stretch to the ultimate peak, so the pathway officially ends at 1,710 meters. And while you’ll have a spectacular view to the South side into Okayama, you’ll be missing the typical summit experience. The final station has a small container housing a tiny makeshift shop and a small construction site for a planned visitor center, due for completion at some point in 2050! Not the most beautiful or serene resting point. As with most mountains in Japan, Daisen is covered in snow over winter and sees many clouds and rain during the rest of the year. So bring appropriate clothes and a solid pair of shoes, as well as waterproof items just in case. A wind breaker is useful while making your way across the flanks at the top. Other than that you won’t need any technical equipment. Pack a bento box for the summit and you’re all good. Enjoy!