Mt. Houou (鳳凰山)

This blog post was written back in 2008. For the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

Mt. Houou is one of the most beautiful yet most overlooked of the Minami Alps peaks. The rock formations are stunning, and the views out to Mt. Fuji are breathtaking to say the least.

The top of Mt. Kannon

The hike: First of all, this is almost impossible to do as a day hike unless you get a really, really early start, so plan on camping/staying at a hut along the way. From the trailhead, follow the signs to Yashajintouge (夜叉神峠). It should take around 45 minutes to hike up there. The views are great if the weather is good. There’s a hut and campground here, but don’t quit hiking quite so early. There’s a 3-way junction here, so hang a left toward Yakushi-dake (薬師岳). Most Japanese maps list the peak as 6.5 hours away, but if you’re in good shape and carrying light, you can do it in a little as 4 hours. Luckily, there are 2 huts along the way in case you got a late start or are a slow hiker. The first hut you’ll come to is MinamiOmuro-goya (南御室小屋). There’s a campground and water source here. If you continue another 90 minutes or so you’ll reach Yakushidake-goya (薬師岳小屋), just below the peak. This is a fantastic place to stay if you’d like to catch the sunrise. If you’ve made really good time and aren’t too tired, then why not continue another hour or so to Houou-goya (鳳凰小屋). This is where I stayed, but I approached from Hirogawara instead of Yashajintouge. No matter where you end up staying, you’re in for a treat of a sunrise in the morning. Mt. Houou has 3 main peaks – Yakushi, Kannon, and Jizou, all named after Shinto Gods. The highest peak is Kannon (観音岳), while the obelisk shaped Jizou (地蔵岳) is the symbol of the mountain, appearing in most photographs. If you stayed at Yakushi hut, then climb up to the top of Yakushi, ignoring the trail coming in from the right side. The ridge is pretty easy to walk on, and the limestone rock formations look a lot like snow. Mt. Kannon is the highest point. Admire the incredible view of Mt. Fuji directly in front of you, and the panorama of the Minami Alps directly behind. Continue for another hour or so (again, ignore the trail coming off the right) until reaching Jizou, where a choice has to be made. You could go right and exit the mountain in about 4-1/2 to 5 hours, or you could take a left and follow the ridge toward Mt. Kai Koma-ga-dake, which makes for a good traverse. If you head this way, then there’s an escape route off to the left in about an hour or so. This place is called Hakuhoutouge (白鳳峠). Going left here will take you to Hirogawara in about 3 hours or so. There are plenty of buses from Hirogawara back to Kofu.

When to go: If you’re relying on public transport, then do this hike between late April and November. If you’ve got your own car, then you can attempt this hike in the winter (with the proper equipment of course). Mt. Houou doesn’t get as much snow as neighboring Kita-dake, so it should be approachable in March depending on the amount of snowfall. Double check to make sure the road Yashajintouge is open before you drive all the way there.

Access: From Kofu station, take a bus bound for Hirogawara (the trailhead for the Kita-dake hike), but instead of going all the way there, get off at Yashajintouge (夜叉神峠). I think the first bus from Kofu is 9:30am but don’t quote me on that. If you’ve taken a night bus from Osaka or Tokyo, then double check the bus schedule when arriving at Kofu. Click here for bus information in Japanese. If you descend to Hirogawara, then double check the bus schedule, because the buses are limited in number outside of the peak July/August hiking season (the road is closed to regular cars, so it’s impossible to hitchhike).

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1450m)

Explore posts in the same categories: Nagano hikes (長野県)

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13 Comments on “Mt. Houou (鳳凰山)”

  1. C-chan Says:

    Hi, I read the article on the Hoo hike and fully agree with you on how wonderful these mountains are – I have climbed them eight times from various routes, but there is one point I thought you might want to correct.
    The trail down to from Hakuhotoge to Hirogawara is very steep and not well maintained, and also, the buaes from Hirogawara back to Kofu are limited in number, especially on weekdays apart from the main season (mid July to mid August). I would recommend you ask your readers to check the bus schedule carefully before they choose to descend from Hirogawara.
    The same applies to the trails to Aoki-Kosen and Yashajin, but at least from Yashajin, there is a trail down to Ashiyasu, the next village (now part of Minami Alps City, where I am living 5 years now) if there is no bus.
    Also, the “difficulty” of these mountains greatly depends on what trail you choose – the Yashajin trail is long but easy but the Dondokozawa trail (from Aokikosen) or the Hirogawara trail are a bit more demanding, at least you need a lot of power.

    Sorry, I just wanted to write a note of caution on the buses, now it’s become a really long story …
    Just one more point, is a site only in Japanese, but with up-to-date information on the mountains and bus schedules.

    OK then … if you plan a hike in this area and need information, mail me, maybe I can help you!


    • Willy Says:


      I am interested in doing the full traverse of the southern Alps during August. However, detailed information in English is hard to come by.

      Can anyone point me in the right direction?

      Many thanks

      • wes Says:


        Lonely Planet’s Hiking in Japan guidebook has a pretty good description of the route (starting at Hirogawara, finishing at Sawarajima). Be warned that it’s a looooong route that’ll definitely take you over a week to complete.

        I’ve done the entire traverse, but broken up over 2 trips.

        Let me know what kind of questions you might have.


  2. Max Levy Says:

    A great hike – I enjoyed it very much!

    There is one thing to note: there is no water or official camping at Yakushidake-goya (薬師岳小屋). Also the 3 hours from Hakuhoutouge (白鳳峠) down to Hirogawara were really challenging – the descend is very steep, stony and feels never-ending (from 2457m to 1600m). We took the last bus from there at 16:00, the one before was at 15:00 – but it was full, so if you plan on sitting during the ride come beforehand.

  3. ken Says:

    Hi, wonderful information you’ve put up here. I’m planning on doing this hike from the Yashajin(夜叉神峠) trail head in early/mid October. We’ll be packing heavy as to spread it this out over 3 days and take our time to enjoy the scenery.

    Just wanted to get some advice and double check some things:
    -about 5 hours to MinamiOmuro-goya (南御室小屋)?
    -water sources at MinamiOmuro-goya (南御室小屋), our planned 1st camp point, and Houou-goya (鳳凰小屋)?
    -about 2.5 hours from Minami Omuro to Houou-goya (鳳凰小屋)?
    -temperature along the trail/camp sites? Would there be snow that early or only rain at that height?

    Any help or insight would be great. Thanks!

    • wes Says:


      Sorry for the late reply. I hope your planning is going well.

      The maps say it is about 4-1/2 hours to Minamiomuro hut, but it depends on how much you are carrying. There’s about 1100 meters of vertical elevation gain spread out over about 6km. With a big pack it could take about 5 to 5-1/2. Remember that it gets dark earlier in the autumn (it’ll be dark by about 6pm), so watch the shortened daylight if you’ve got a late start.

      There are water sources at both huts and they are reliable.

      The time to Houou hut depends on whether you go over to Mt. Jizo or if you take the shortcut at the saddle below Mt. Kannon. The maps say it is closer to 3-1/2 hours if using the shortcut. I think it can be done in 2 to 2-1/2 hours, since you’re on the ridge and there’s a lot of up-and-down, but not any huge climbs.

      Temperatures will be at or below freezing at night, and probably close to 10 degrees celcius during the day. I’v had snow flurries in mid-October in the Minami Alps, and if a cold front pushes through then the rain could very well turn to snow. A good rule of thumb to remember though, is that the Minami Alps get much less snow than the Kita Alps.

      Enjoy Mt. Houou. It’s a really beautiful mountain with incredible Mt. Fuji views. Fingers crossed for good weather.


      • Ken Says:

        Thank you very much Wes, and also to the other comments. You’ve helped a great deal with our prep. We’re as set as we can be to give it a go this week.

      • cat Says:

        Hi Wes,
        have you done this trip at the end of October? How is the temperature and transport at this time? We are looking for a 3 day trip and this area looks beautiful. Have a tent and good gear. Could you recommend a route for us?
        Best wishes,

  4. Robert Self Says:

    It should be noted that the route down to Aoki Kousen, down the route called in Japanese “Dondoko Sawa” is one of the most remarkable waterfall routes in Japan. There are four MAJOR waterfalls that will take your breath away. It’s a good descent route but long, steep, and rocky. You will not make great time, but the waterfalls must be seen at least once in a lifetime. An ideal route would be start at Yashajin, stay overnight at Yakushi-dake Goya (being careful to pick up water at the hut before), hiking to Jizo Dake, then descending Dondoko Sawa to Aoki Kousen. Buses operate from there until October.

  5. Andy Says:

    Great website! I’m planning on doing this hike in early July with some friends. Just one question – you say you approached from Hirogawara. What is that ascend like as far as difficulty and time needed to get to Houou-goya? We’re in reasonable shape and will be carrying light. Thank you!

    • wes Says:


      The maps says to allow about 6 hours from Hirogawara to Houou-goya. I think I did it in about 4. There’s over 1200 meters of vertical elevation gain spread out over about 5km, so it’s quite steep in places.

      Your biggest concern will likely be the rain, as early July is right in the middle of the rainy season. Though it doesn’t rain every day, there can be some days of nonstop downpours if you’re unlucky enough to schedule your hike during them.

      This is the best English-language website for weather conditions. Here’s the report for Kai-koma, which is the mountain next to Houou. There’s no report for Houou, but Kai-koma is a good enough indication of what you’d be in store for weatherwise.

      • Andy Says:

        Thanks for the info and the link. Hopefully we’ll be able to avoid the rain.

  6. vana Says:

    hi! I’m planning a trip there in June this year, and planning to stay in one of the mountain huts…from the websites, it seems that all of them require prior reservation and only accept reservations through phone calls? Is there any other way that we can make reservations or are we able to just go there on the day itself? Thanks! Nice website!

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