Many Japanese mountains have ropeways (in the U.S., we call them gondolas) or cable cars that carry visitors part way to the summit. The distance between the upper cable car or ropeway station and the peak varies widely, so check the facts before you go.
The Hakone carries visitors all the way across the top of Owakudani, a live volcano that provides the hot volcanic water for the onsen (hot spring baths) in the Hakone region:
However, the ropeway in Gifu Park stops about 20 minutes’ uphill walk from Gifu Castle, and several portions of the hike require climbing stairs. That said, the ropeway also offers a spectacular view of the sunset for anyone who rides at the proper time of day:
Similarly, the Mitake Tozan Railway carries visitors only about 2/3 of the way up Mount Mitake:
From the station, it’s still a 30+ minute uphill walk and hike (quite steep in places) to the summit.
Knowing how far you’ll have to walk from the terminus to the top is important, especially for visitors with limited mobility or strength.
Cable cars and ropeways are popular with Japanese natives as well as tourists, and often feature pre-recorded narration–usually in English as well as Japanese. The recordings offer details about the ropeway or cable car, the location, and the history of the area.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or just hoping to see more of Japan’s natural beauty, cable cars and ropeways are fun ways to see breathtaking scenery and experience another side of Japan.