Mt. Chokai (鳥海山; Chokai-san) is a 2236m high mountain in southern Akita/northern Yamagata. Hiking Mt. Chokai is a regular undertaking, particularly in the summer. The mountain can also be climbed in the winter.
Haraikawa trail headThere are several parking lots at the Haraikawa trailhead, and also a bathroom and running water. There is drinkable water farther up the mountain, so there's no need to fill all your bottles here. There is also a warming house, particularly useful after winter hikes, and a camp ground. The campground is on a ridge and exposed to high winds, but on the other hand, it has a very nice view to the north. To get to Haraikawa, drive from Yashima or Chokai. Taking a taxi is very expensive, and there are no buses.
Climbing from Haraikawa
- Summer. At normal speed, it takes about 4 hours to get to the summit. Depending on the year and season, there are usually good water sources for the first 2 or 3 hours, but close to the top it is dry. The first autumn snow is usually in October, and it doesn't fully melt until August. But there's no problem hiking with a little snow — consider wearing hiking boots to help kick footholds in the snow. The summit is 4.4km from the warming hut at Haraikawa.
- Winter. In the winter, it still takes 4 hours to get to the summit — just follow the flags up the snow. Going down is fast, since you probably will bring skis, a snowboard, or a sled.
Mt. Chokai Omonoimi JinjaThis summit hut is popular with hikers who stay the night and get up to see the sun rise from the top of the mountain. Overnight fare includes a bland dinner and breakfast, so many hikers bring a little extra food. Reservations highly recommended. The hut is open from early summer to early October — in that season, the website has relevant pricing reservation information.