Posted on Feb 26, 2020
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Posted on Feb 26, 2020

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Reading time: 2 min
12.5km

Distance

6 hours

Time

1030m

Ascent

1499m

Highest point

6/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
May-Oct

Best season

The centerpieces of the Akan-Mashu National Park are the two volcanic peaks of Meakan-dake (one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains) and Oakan-dake. Separated by Lake Akan with its popular resort, in Ainu they were known respectively as the Female Mountain and the Male Mountain, and this nomenclature has carried over into their Japanese names as well. Of the two, Meakan-dake (雌阿寒岳, 1499m) is perhaps the more interesting with its spectacular active volcanic crater providing a thrilling airy traverse. The circular route includes the bonus option of climbing the perfect subsidiary cinder cone of Akanfuji (阿寒富士, 1476m) on the way.

Photos by Rob Thomson, summit images by Jacob Prusak

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

The Akan-Mashu National Park (阿寒摩周国立公園) is in east Hokkaido, midway between the major cities of Kushiro on the Pacific coast and Abashiri on the Okhotsk coast. Meakan-dake lies at the southern edge of the park above Meakan (Nonaka) Onsen (雌阿寒温泉 野中温泉) accessed by a minor road turning off Route 241 about 20kms from Akan Lakeside village (阿寒湖畔). The trailhead is just north along the road from the public parking area (with public toilets), here.

General notes

In Ainu the mountain is called mat-neshiri, ‘woman mountain’. Meakan-dake is an active volcano and is closely monitored. In recent years there have been occasional temporary restrictions on hiking due to increased activity – please check locally. There is a campsite, Onneto Campground (オンネトー国立野営場, open 1 May – 31 October, location) by the small Lake Onneto at the trailhead for the descent route. The nearby resort of Akan Lakeside 阿寒湖畔 has shops, onsen, accommodation and a campsite. The lake is famous for its spherical green balls of algae known as marimo. There is also an Ainu Kotan (village) with regular dance performances and shops selling woodcarvings. Despite the touristy nature of the place, behind the scenes it is an important centre for the transmission and development of contemporary Ainu culture. Some of the upmarket tourist hotels have displays of the work of the talented woodcarvers based here. The summer hiking season is from mid-May into October.

Hut

None

Route

The trail is well defined with signposts at junctions. The trailhead (meakan-dake onsen tozanguchi, 雌阿寒岳温泉登山口) is at 710m elevation by the road just north of the onsen buildings, a couple of hundred meters from the car park. The path climbs steadily up through a forest of large pines that eventually thin out into open rocky ground and haimatsu dwarf pines after 30-40 minutes. From here it climbs up to the crater rim, then follows it round with the crater on your right to the summit in about two hours total. Continue on the path around the crater edge, passing a trail that comes in from the left after a few minutes at a signposted junction, and drop round and down to a col below Akanfuji (阿寒富士, 1476m) in about 20 minutes. From here an obvious path climbs up the cone and will take about an hour for the return trip. The descent then enters pine forest and in an hour or so you should be at the campsite trailhead by Lake Onneto (オンネトー). Turn right and go through the campsite to pick up the trail that follows the lakeshore for a short while before entering the forest to return back to the car park at Meakan Onsen (雌阿寒温泉) in about 45 minutes.

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 2.5hrs

Just over 2 hours for the ascent, and about 2.5 hours for the descent. Add an extra hour if climbing Akanfuji.

Transport

Public transport:

No public transport access.

By car: 

Turn off Route 241 to onto Route 949 towards Meakan (Nonaka) Onsen (雌阿寒温泉). There is a large car park with a toilet just past the small complex of onsen buildings, here.

Physical maps

In Japanese: Yama to Kogen  Map 1, 山と高原地図 利尻・羅臼 知床・斜里・阿寒 (山と高原地図 1). These guides are updated every few years.

Official Topo Map: Onneto (オンネトー) – map no. NK-54-1-4-2
Official Topo Map 2: Meakandake (雌阿寒岳) – map no. NK-55-31-16-4

NOTE: The GSI 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

Check to see if there are any restrictions on climbing due to volcanic activity. Warning signs will be posted at the trailhead if restrictions are in place (this does not actually happen very often). The upper slopes, summit and crater trail are very exposed to the wind and the appropriate bad weather gear should be taken. The usual bear precautions should be followed.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Meakan-dake

Onsen nearby

Nonaka Onsen by the trailhead (here) is cheap and cheerful and a good place to soak away the exertions of the climb. There are plenty more onsen facilities back at Akan Lakeside.

Extra Resources
  • See Hiking in Japan’s Meakan-dake post here.
  • National Parks of Japan Meakan-dake guide here.
  • Mountains of Hokkaido route guide here.
  • Japan-Guide’s post about the Akan National Park here.
  • Blog post by Lauren (including video) here.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

‘Look Rob, it’s clear on top,’ I exclaimed as the mountain came into view through the windscreen on the way up Route 241 from Ashoro. Unfortunately that was not to last more than a couple of minutes and we ended up walking the circuit entirely in the mist. Luckily I had done it a couple of times before in good weather so could gleefully explain to Rob what he was missing in terms of the spectacular view into the crater with its small lakes and roaring vents.

As we reached the crater rim we were indeed greeted by what sounded like the roaring scream of jet engines, a combination of the fierce wind and the vents below. It was a huge contrast to my last visit on a perfect summer’s day, when the sound had instead been augmented by the shrill screams of thousands of needle-tailed swifts as they wheeled and dived over the crater like squadrons of fighter aircraft.

Editor’s note: Our friend Jacob sent us some of his smartphone snaps from the summit in gloriously clear weather, only a few days before we were on the mountain.

No such luck today though, so we continued on round in the mist down to the col. The wind had lessened down here but the mist showed no signs of clearing so we passed on the climb to Akanfuji and headed back down. After the final trudge through the forest from the campsite we arrived back at the onsen to warm our chilled bones. It is a simple no-frills kind of place but very pleasant nonetheless.

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