Mount Fuji is both the highest mountain and highest volcano in Japan. Mount Ontake stands in second on the highest volcano podium, at 3067m tall. The mountain has a rich religious history – Buddhist shrines, temples and monuments can be found high up Ontake-san.

Mount Ontake is in Nagano Prefecture, near the Kiso Valley and its traditional post towns, like Narai-juku. Beautiful gorges and rivers are found in the area.

Mount Ontake 御嶽山 Ontake-san

Buddhist Statues high on Mount Ontake
DMC-LX3 (5.1mm, f/4, 1/640 sec, ISO80)
Buddhist statues high on Mount Ontake

Mount Ontake is a pilgrimage route of sorts. Disciples in white kimonos and hats ascend the mountain to pray at the shrines. When I hiked the mountain with some friends one summer, we passed many of these disciples, who were usually in large groups and carried plain wooden hiking sticks.

The climb isn’t easy, but it’s not too difficult either. Our small group started from the 7th station, it took about half a day to go up and back down again.

The mountain has 5 stunning crater lakes. Small gas geysers can be seen (and heard) in some areas.

It wouldn’t be Japan without convenience. As you climb the mountain you pass many rest stops, where you can buy food, drink and of course, beer. The higher you go, the more expensive the beer becomes.

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View this location – coordinates: 35.893639,137.479262.

Take a look at the gorgeous clear waters of the nearby Atera Gorge in Nagano Prefecture (HDR Photo).