Mt. Nantai (男体山)

Mt. Nantai is the Mt. Fuji of the Nikko area. Its easy access makes it one of the most popular hikes in the Kanto area, so be prepared for crowds during weekends and national holidays.

The hike: From the bus stop, head up the stairs to the shrine. The trail starts directly behind the shrine, and you’re supposed to pay 300 yen for the privilege of climbing to the summit, but I just hiked without paying and no one stopped me (but the deities got revenge by dumping freezing rain on me!) The path is very well-trodden and oh so steep. It’s less than 5km from the shrine to the summit, but you’re climbing over 1200 vertical meters! During the first hour or so, you’ll cross over a forest road several times, and part of the path actually follows the road for a short while. Once you leave the road, it’s no turning back and there are very few places to rest. You’ll come across 2 different emergency huts, neither of which are in very good condition. The course is very rocky, so use care on the descent, especially if the rocks are wet. Every year, people have to be airlifted out due to nasty falls. Anyway, after what seems like an eternity, you’ll finally reach the summit ridge above the tree line. The last 20 minutes of hiking is through reddish-brown volcanic strata, bringing images of Mt. Fuji to mind. There’s a shrine and emergency hut on the summit itself, but no water source, so unless you fancy lugging up a ton of water, you should accept this as a day trip. The hut has definitely seen better days, and can fit about 2 or 3 people comfortably. If the weather is good, then you’ll have an excellent birds-eye view of Lake Chuzenji. Either head back the same way you came, or traverse down the other side of the mountain. I’m told the trail on the back side isn’t used very much and is much, much longer (you’ll have to hike on a forest road for about 8 or 9km in order to get back to civilization).

When to go: This hike can be done between late April and early December. A winter hike is also possible, depending on the year. The peak is prone to avalanches during periods of heavy snowfall, so use caution and common sense if climbing in the winter.

Access: From Nikko station (日光駅), take a bus bound for Yumoto Hot Spring (湯元温泉) and get off at the Futarasan Jinjamae (二荒山神社前) bus stop. Click here for the bus schedule.

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1212m)

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17 Comments on “Mt. Nantai (男体山)”

  1. Hi Wes – the forest road round the back of the mountain is a bit of a slog, but is nice after the (usually crowded) summit. About 1/3rd from the peak however the path gets pretty indistinct and there’s a nasty hidden ravine on the north side of the mountain. If you lose the path, backtrack, don’t press on…

  2. Jessy Says:


    Your article was very useful but how long does it take to do it ?
    I’m planning to visit the shrine Toshogu and after make the trail during the same day. Do you think it’s possible even if i leave early in the morning tokyo ?

    thanks in advance

    • wes Says:


      I think doing both Toshogu and Nantai in one day will be difficult, even with an early start. For one, the train takes a long time to get to Nikko station. From the station, you’ll either need to walk or take a bus to Toshogu. From there, you’ll have to take a bus to Nantai.

      Nantai is a 1200-vertical meter elevation gain, and the timing will really depend on your level of fitness. I’d say it’ll be a 6-hour round trip but you could probably do it faster if you’re really fit. The trail is steep.

      If you have more time, then I’d recommend going to Toshogu and then camping along Lake Chuzenji so you can climb Nantai early the next day. If you want to do Nantai as a day trip from Tokyo then I don’t think you’ll have time for Toshogu.

      I hope that helps


  3. jessy Says:

    Thank you Wes for your answer.
    The fact is i don’t intend to climb Mt Nantai but just walk around Lake Chuzenjiko and come back.

    According to this map, i just want to walk around one side of the lake. So, if i don’t climb Mt Nantai (6h round-trip), it’ll be possible to do both toshogu shrine and hiking in the same day ?

    Thanks in advance !

    • wes Says:


      I think walking around the lake and visiting Toshogu is possible in one day. Are you going to be based in Tokyo? I’d definitely try to get an early start (maybe first train from Asakusa). You’d have to make a bus to Chuzenji by late morning (perhaps the 11:36 bus?) to have some time to really enjoy the lake.

      Toshogu is located about 2km from Nikko station, so you’d have to factor in a 4km-round trip walk (or take the local bus). If you took the 6:20am train, then you’d get to Nikko station around 8:30am. Not sure what time the train runs on the weekends, but you can use the website Jorudan to help you plan your trip.

      Type in “Asakusa” in the depart column and “Tobu-Nikko” in the arrive column.

      Good luck with your planning. I really hope the weather will work out for ya.


  4. Indy InAsia Says:

    What a great report, Wes. With clear and useful answers to Jessy’s questions. I have lived in Tochigi for 8 years and never climed Mt. Nantai. This page has inspired me.

  5. Hi Wes
    I have a query about the emergency huts – I may be starting this hike late in the day. The Lonely Planet book (1st ed) only identifies one hut, at the 8th stage (around 2200m) – this is the only map I have access to here. Can you recall where the other hut is? And can you advise whether the huts have a built in floor or are they dirt?

    Keep up the good work on the website.

    • wes Says:


      Sorry for the late reply. I hope it’s not too late for the info.

      To be honest I don’t remember the huts too much. I remember there being a tiny emergency hut which I think was at the 8th stagepoint. My friend and I huddled in there together during a rain storm. It definitely had a wood floor and I think there is a bigger (but older) emergency hut nearby. I didn’t check inside of it.

      We were planning on staying at the emergency hut at the summit but gave up because it was really cold and snowing when we were up there in October. We decided to head to the valley where it was much warmer. I remember that hut being somewhat cramped and a bit drafty, but I’m sure you could make it work if you needed to stay there.

      Of course if the weather is good and there is no cloud or condensation you could just sleep out in the open.

      I hope that helps,


      • StewartJ Says:

        Thanks Wes, timing is fine, I’m in planning mode for a forthcoming September trip to Japan. It continues to be an even greater challenge accessing hike info out of country – for example, Amazon Japan want over $30 to send a mountain map that costs less than Yen 1000.

  6. Gohar Khan Says:

    Hello Wes,

    Thank you very much for the report and such a valuable website that you’ve put together.

    I was wondering if the trail-head will be open on 2nd May? The start of the path is via a temple. I’ve heard that it officially opens on 5th of May. So, would it be viable to climb it before the ‘official opening’? Would the path be closed before the official opening season?

    Any help would be appreciated!


  7. kuk Says:

    hello :)

    I would like to visit Mt. Nantai on end of Feb or beginner of march is it ok for tourist to travel alone. by the way can you suggest place for stay or ryokan there before climb on the mountain next day morning? becasue I read take 6hours+- depend on our fit T-T but it really nice and worth landscape to visit.

    best regards,

  8. Albert Says:

    How many hours needed for this hike?? Can I go to summit and back to civilization in one day??

    • wes Says:

      Albert, Nantai is possible in a day if you stay overnight in Nikko the night before and take an early bus up to the trailhead. The peak is already covered in snow this year however, so you’ll need to keep that in mind.

  9. Dawid Says:

    Just a small note about winter hike: I tried it at the end of November (29th), but was rejected at the trail entrance as the mountain and trail leading to it is closed by the temple after mid-November. I’m sure if one really wants to the entrance can be bypassed somehow, but I decided not to anger local deities.

    • StewartJ Says:

      There are trails up on the opposite side of the mountain that have no ‘guard’. Access is a bit more complicated, you need a vehicle/taxi but the trail to the top is shorter, much less rocky and there is a very nice hut that can be used as a base/overnight rest point not far from the start of the trail (I don’t know if it has season restrictions though). I don’t think the temple guards are representative of the views of the local deities.

      • Nantai san is considered as a sacred mountain and the Futara-san shrine owns the mountain. Yes, I think the guards are representative of the views of the local. Japanese people are respectful and when you travel to Japan you should follow the common rules, respect the Japanese etiquette and behave properly. My P.O.V.

        I live in Kiyotaki, Nikko. It will be a pleasure to answer anybody’s question about the area… simply drop me a line.


  10. Rakesh Puri Says:

    How is the situation now. I am planning to go tomorrow

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