SHIRANE-SAN (MT. SHIRANE)
Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
Major jumpoff: Yumoto, Nikko
LLA: 36.796° N 139.379° E; 2578 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 4-6 hours
Difficulty: Major climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail class 2
Aside from Nantai-san, the most popular mountain in the Nikko area, there is Shirane-san, the highest mountain that is nestled deep in the wilderness of Nikko National Park. Its secluded location is the reason why the prefix “Oku” is added to the mountain; in Nihongo it means “inner” and you really have to go the heartlands of Nikko to reach the mountain. However secluded, though, many people still come to this area for it is home to the famous Yumoto Onsen (hot springs) as well as some ski resorts.
The beauty of the mountain – as well as the trail – is amazing. The trails pass by pine forests and woodlands, they turn into open trails with splendid views. You can view the three peaks from each other, and what;s more, you can view the Japanese Alps (N-W) and even Fuji-san (S).
The flora and fauna are, like that of Nantai-san, wondrous and even when it is early summer there is snow in the ridges and even on the trail; though it gets more challenging on the way up, you can slide your way down the snow! Finally, the itinerary described below passes the three peaks of the mountain, with Lake Goshikinuma a big plus – there is much diversity and variety in the trail and Nikko is Nikko. The sidetrips alone – lakes, waterfalls, temples, shrines – make everything well worth it.
0500 Take train from Tokyo to Nikko, then bus to Yumoto
0730 ETA jumpoff; start trek
1100 ETA Mae-Shirane-san (First Peak; 2373m)
1230 ETA Oku-Shirane-san (Second Peak; 2578m)
1300 Start descent, passing by Goshikinuma Lake
1400 From lake, ascend to Goshikiyama
1445 ETA Goshikiyama (Third Peak; 2379m)
1500 Start descent
1730 Back in Yumoto; dinner then take bus
Logistics and climbing notes. There are no permits needed for the climb; the trails are well-marked. However, there are two entry points from Yumoto and make sure you take the one nearer relative to Nikko – this is the one that leads to the sequence of peaks described in the itinerary. In case you are pressed for time, it is possible to truncate the trail but proceeding directly from Mae-Shirane-san to Goshikiyama, bypassing the main peak of the mountain.
Transportation. Trains for Nikko depart from the Tobu Asakusa station; it is advisable to lump this trek with a Nantai-san climb for a weekend adventure that will enable you to save up on transportation by buying a Nikko Free Pass (JPY4400). In this case you can take Nantai-san first and spend the night near the Chuzenji or Yumoto areas. More infos on the transpo in the Nantai-san page.
Shirane-san actually sits in the border between Tochigi and Gunma prefectures (a traverse is possible); fans of the manga/anime series Initial-D will identify the area; indeed as you climb Shirane-san to your right are the winding mountain roads that roaring motorcycles pass by – in the anime as it is in real life. The live-action series Gokusen likewise has its ending in the Nikko area (as do some anime and Japanese dramas).
The blogger took this trail on June 14, 2008, a day after his climb up Nantai-san. His experiences were published in Shirane-san were published in August 2008 issue of Manila Bulletin Travel and was also detailed in Hiking matters #14.
Photo: Shirane-san as viewed from Goshikiyama – the third peak in the trail. (G. Lasco, 2008)