Summit #1: Mt. Akagi (赤城山)

The Mountain

In addition to being one of the Nihon Hyakumeizan, (100 Famous Mountains of Japan) Mt. Akagi is also a beloved symbol of Gunma Prefecture and one of the Jomo Sanzan (Three Famous Mountains of Gunma).

The mountain–actually a stratovolcano with multiple peaks–measures 1,828 meters at its highest point (the summit of Mt. Kurobi) and features three beautiful crater lakes.

Mt. Akagi’s highest point, as seen from the trail

There is no single peak called “Mt. Akagi;” the name applies to the entire stratovolcano massif, which includes several subsidiary peaks. A climb to the summit of Akagisan means hiking to the highest point on Mt. Kurobi.

The hiking trail begins near the shores of Lake Onuma, not far from Akagi Jinja, a Shintō shrine dedicated to Akagi Daimyojin, the deity said to inhabit Mt. Akagi.

Mt. Akagi Trailhead

From the trailhead, a winding, rocky path climbs up and over two subsidiary peaks before reaching the summit of Mt. Kurobi. Along the way, the trail offers beautiful views of Gunma Prefecture:

Gunma, as seen from the trail

As well as Lake Onuma:

Lake Onuma, largest of Akagi’s crater lakes

And smaller Lake Konuma

Konuma, with the city of Maebashi in the distance

Like many sacred mountains, Akagi has a shrine near the summit as well as at its base:

The summit torii on Mt. Akagi

These mountain shrines pay homage to the deities of the mountains. Historically, Shintō priests and worshippers climbed to the summits as an act of worship.

The climbing season runs from April to November. If you climb in May, as I did, the spectacular wild azaleas should be in bloom, and you might even catch a glimpse of snow on the summits of the neighboring alps.

It takes between 90 and 150 minutes to reach the summit (depending on your speed and fitness) to reach the summit. The descent is faster, but if you plan to hike Akagi as a day trip from Tokyo (as I did) be sure to get an early start.

There’s also a 4-kilometer course that circumambulates Lake Onuma, for those who prefer a more horizontal, but still lovely, walk.

To reach Mt. Amagi from Tokyo Station, take the JR Shinkansen to Takasaki Station (50 minutes), transfer to the JR Ryomo Line and disembark at Maebashi Station (15 minutes). At Maebashi Station, board the bus bound for Mt. Akagi Visitor Center and disembark at the Mt. Akagi stop (70 minutes). Note: on weekdays in some seasons, you may have to transfer to another bus en route.