Where is Mt. Daisen?

 Perhaps you have heard the famous quote: “Mt. Fuji in the east and Daisen in the west”. Mt. Fuji is considered the iconic symbol of Japan, which is located in Kanto area in the east, meanwhile, Mt. Daisen, which is less renowned than Mt. Fuji, is a symbolic sacred mountain of Tottori prefecture as well as Chuugoku region in the west.   

Daisen 大山 is a volcano located in the western part of Tottori prefecture, and is selected as one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. It is a general term for multiple peaks, consisting of Kengamine, Misen, Tengugamine, Sangyamine. Kengamine 剣ヶ峰, which is 1729m above sea level, is the highest peak in the Chugoku region, but summitting is currently prohibited due to severe collapse. Therefore, Mt. Misen became the general route for hiker, which is the second highest with 1709m peak.

 Mountain range of Daisen varies greatly depending on the viewing direction. From the west side, it is a neat mountain with a wide base, while the north, south and east faces have a rough profile with steep rock slopes. Above all, the north side has a well-known route for winter alpine climbing.

There are several routes to climb Daisen and all of them are well-maintained and wide which are certainly suitable for beginners. It takes roughly 4 hours to reach the peak. Overnight hiking is totally safe as long as you have a headlamp or a torch.

Figure 4. The hiking map of Mt. Daisen. I started from Daisenji temple bridge, Monberu mae bus stop

 My unforgettable hike to Mt. Daisen!

Before embarking on the trip, I was frankly scared of hiking alone in the dark in an unfamiliar trail. It is risky to go trekking without any support from my partner because night hiking is something I had never done before, so I had absolutely no experience in it. It was the first time I had gone hiking solo at night! I was elicited, yet nervous.

To be honest, I was not well prepared for the trip. My backpack contained a few clothes, towel, water and a torch only. No tent, no sleeping bag. I checked for the hut information and intended to stay overnight there after summitting since the hut is right next to the summit point. I headed for Mt. Daisen with an empty plan, which means no back-up plan neither.

Access: From Yonago station, there are 8 daily buses bound for Daisen information center, where you can ask the police man where the starting point is. I caught the bus at around 4 pm. The bus driver is a decent and warm-hearted middle-aged man who told me a lot about Mt. Daisen as well as Tottori prefecture. We have been keeping in touch until now.

 Arriving at Daisen information center at 5pm. I went directly to the police office in order to filling the form for hikers. I had to provide them my name, address and emergency contact in case I have some kinds of freak accidents and unable to descend. After one day after you turned the form in, if they do not see you back, they will send rescue team to search for you.

I started hiking at the starting point near Montbell clothing store. The route is turned into stairs and gradually goes up, so climbing Mt. Daisen is literally climbing upstairs. There are signboards at every resting stop which tells you the elevation and how long it would take to reach the summit.

It was a clear trail until half of the way to the fifth station where it becomes rocky and earthy. From there, the route is beset with low bushes and gravels. The track turns into a small and narrow pathway which fits only one person at a time.

Figure 2. The sunset

It got darker and colder after the sun set. I switched on my portable torch and continued walking. Since I started hiking, there was nobody else on the way. I wondered if I was the only freak who hiked Mt. Daisen at this time after the dusk.

My torch was not powerful enough to light up things beyond 5 meters. I treaded lightly and cautiously not to step on any animals (which are hopefully not snakes) and insects on the way. There was nobody ascending nor descending besides me when I reached the peak. I made it to the top alone from 5 to 9pm and did not accidentally stepped onto poisonous creatures.

Figure 3. Me groping my way in the dark

There is normally a free hut at the top where you can rest and wait for the sunrise. If you intend to hike overnight and stay at the hut, be sure to check whether the hut is open. I went to the police office to register to hike Daisen but he did not inform me about the closure of the hut due to reconstruction. When I reached there at 9pm, there was no one and I could not enter.

As the saying “Man proposes God deposes”, I was crushed as my plan was ruined. I ran into another trouble because I did not bring a tent nor sleeping bag. I was screwed! I had no idea what to do next since this situation came totally unexpected.  I felt lonely and frightened. Even the sky studded with stars could not delight me.

It would take me 3 hours to going down and I did not book any hotel in advance nor bring enough cash. The intimidating dark and the plumb silence freaked me out. All my ebullience evaporated completely as soon as I acknowledged that I would have no accommodation that night. I missed my cozy and comfortable bed.  

Fortunately, a male hiker showed up 30 mins later. He was surprised to see a girl sitting slumped in front of the hut alone at that time. After knowing my situation, he made a phone call and arranged for me a hotel room nearby. It turned out that he is a local tour guide who hikes Mt. Daisen a lot at night in preparation for the upcoming marathon run competition. I would say I was extremely lucky that day to have him find an accommodation for me.

We descended together and he led me to the hotel. It was late at 12pm but the hotel owner was still awake to wait for us. I was so grateful and just want to burst into tears there. If you do not want to encounter such a problem like I did, be sure to check the accommodation information carefully in advance. I ended up staying overnight in a nice hotel after a long and adventurous hike to Mt. Daisen.

This is absolutely unforgettable memory for me! Mt. Daisen is genuinely a wonderful mountain to visit when you travel to Chugoku region of Japan. If you do not have spare time to hike, you can visit many interesting destinations around the base of Mt. Daisen such as the cow farm and parks. There are many activities to explore and do not forget to try their tasty dairy products!

If I have a chance to hike Daisen again at night, I will be more well-prepared with a better torch, sleeping bag, a portable blanket, anti-insect spray and most importantly, the hut information! Though mountains in Japan are easy to climb thanks to clear trails, they should not be thought as trifles. There are some hazards lurking in the dark that you might not notice. Always be prepared!