Summary: Mount Nantai (2,486m asl) is a sacred mountain which rises above Lake Chuzenji in Nikko, accessed via a steep climb. Great views from the summit.

Mount Nantai is not a walk I’d planned on doing, but as we’re in Japan for a family holiday and staying in nearby Nikko, it seems a good candidate for a half-day hike. A stratovolcano in the Nikkō National Park, Mount Nantai (男体山) translates to “man’s body mountain” (it is also called Futara-san). The mountain has a relatively short climbing season (from 5 May to 25 October, when the gates are open) and it’s one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains – so it is a popular hiking destination. I make a small donation and receive my “charm” at the Nikko Futarasan Jinja Chugushi Shrine at the foot of the mountain.

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The Omote-sando trail starts immediately behind the shrine, with a series of steps through the dense forest.

The trail is divided into 9 stations (9合目) with an elevation gain of just over 1,200 metres. As the trail gains altitude, there are increasing views of Lake Chuzenji – although today is not very clear.

The track gets harder as it ascends, passing three corrugated refuge shelters. There are a few chains to help with the steepest sections.

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As the track passes the eighth station and nears the Mount Nantai peak, there’s a volcanic scree slope – although a series of steps helps to make progress a little easier. (I was surprised both by how many people were undertaking this walk on a week day – but also how many elderly people were making this journey up the mountain.)

The effort of the increasingly steep ascent is offset by the increasingly scenic views of Lake Chuzenji. Behind the lake are multiple peaks within Nikko National Park.

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At the top of Mount Nantai (2,486m asl) is the back shrine of Futarasan, which includes a bell and a statue depicting the mountain’s god.

I enjoy a brief respite at the Mount Nantai summit, watching the many worshippers ring the bell and pray at the shrine, before retracing my steps to the lower shrine. (You can also descend via a less popular path over the north flank of the mountain to Shizu Hinangoya (志津避難小屋) to finish at Senjogahara.)

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More information on Mount Nantai

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