The Hotaka Dake is an igneous massive in the North Alps of Japan (Kita Alps) that contains the third tallest peak in the country and the tallest in the North Alps, as distinguished from the South Alps (Minami Alps). Collectively, they are called the Japan Alps. While the South Alps contain sedimentary rock, the North Alps are predominantly igneous, with both volcanic and plutonic rock types. The Kita Alps are well-travelled in the summer months and series of comfortable mountain huts, similar to those in the Alps, are well-spaced, staffed, and equiped to accomodate the throngs of Japanese hikers during the peak summer months. Oku-Hotaka (3,190 meters) , the highest of the the group, sits at the south end of a knife-ridge which connects to the famous Yarigatake (3,180 meters) mountain, aprx. 6 miles to the north ("yari" is the Japanese word for spear). Other prominent peaks in the Hotaka massive are: Mae-Hotaka (3,090 meters), Nishi-Hotaka (2,908 meters) Kita-Hotaka (3,106 meters), and Karasawa Dake (3,110 meters). The Japan Alps are truly remarkable and beautiful and a developed infrastructure allows easy access. At the base of the Hotaka massive, sits the resort town of Kamikochi in the Azusa River valley. The peaks are the centerpiece of the Chubu Sangaku National Park.
From Tokyo take a train or bus to Matsumoto. From Matsumoto take a narrow gauge train to Shinshimashima. From Shinshimashima there are buses to Kamikochi, which takes 2.25 hours/minutes. At Kamikochi, walk upstream for one half hour along the tourist path; walk across the Kappa bridge and follow a well marked trail to Hotaka dake's summit. Trails fan out in all directions as well for different approaches. Maps can be obtained at the tourist kiosks and myriad stores. Any department store in Japan will also have detailed topo hiking maps in the book section.
No permits whatsoever. No fees to summit. The mountain huts are expensive at the range of 80 USD per night at the low end. Camping on the ridge is by first come first serve and a fee of about 600 Japanese yen is charged to pitch a tent near the ridge tops where there is little room. This is true in particular of the tentsites at the Hotaka Dake Sanso (hut), 2,996 meters high between Hotake and Karasawa dake. Camping in the valley is free (1997). The area is the centerpiece of a large national park and crowds can be a problem, especially in the tourist village of Kamikochi.
When To Climb
July - September/early October. June may still have patches of snow that make going impassable. The mountains receive alot of mositure. Bring rain gear as weather is very changeable.
Camping is allowed in designated areas in the the Azusa River valley and in Kamikochi; it is free but with minimal facilities. However, you can walk to lodges with a few hundred meters and get water. When I was there, there were plenty of people who pitched tents.