Mokoto-yama Loop Hike

藻琴山 | To-etok-shipe

Posted on Apr 14, 2020
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Posted on Apr 14, 2020

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Reading time: 2 min

7.5km

Distance

2hrs

Time

300m

Ascent

1000m

Highest point

3/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
May-Nov

Best season

Mokoto-yama (藻琴山, 1000m) is the highest point on the rim of the large caldera lake of Kussharo-ko 屈斜路湖, appearing as the prominent mountain at the north end of the lake. To reach the summit only requires a short and easy walk along the rim of the caldera with spectacular views across the lake to the mountains of Akan in the distance. From the rocky peak itself the panorama extends even further to the mountains and plains of the south and east. Starting from a relatively high altitude with a fairly gentle ascent this is a great walk for all the family on a fine day.

We visited this route on Oct 15, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Mokoto-yama is at the north end of Lake Kussharo, the largest caldera lake in Japan, in eastern Hokkaido near the town of Kawayu 川湯. The walk starts at Highland Koshimizu 725 Viewpoint ハイランド小清水725展望台 (facilities and toilets, 725m, location) above the lake just off local Route 102 about 15km from Kawayu.

General notes

Mokoto-yama is the Japanese name for the mountain; the Ainu call it to-etok-shipe, the mountain behind the lake (Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 6, p.90). There is a campsite with cabins close to the trailhead, the Highland Koshimizu Campground (ハイランド小清水キャンプ場, location, TEL: 0152-62-4481). A network of well-signposted trails run around the back of the mountain to the Ginreiso Hut, the campsite and back to the car park so it is easy to extend the walk, though the paths go through the forest and this would mean forfeiting the views on the return. The summer hiking season is from May into November.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | 1hrs

The route timing above applies if just going up to the summit and back the way you came, along the summit ridge route. If doing the full loop outlined here via the hut, expect about 3.5hrs for the full loop: 1hr 20mins from carpark to summit, 25mins from summit to hut, and about 1.5hrs from the hut back to the carpark via the campground and forest trail.

Route

The trail starts from the car park (here) and is well defined and signposted. After a short but not too steep climb through dwarf pines it joins and follows the gently undulating ridge that forms the northern rim of the caldera. It passes a rocky outcrop then climbs up to an open space just below the summit where the trail to the Ginreiso Hut 銀嶺荘 branches off north. The summit is a couple of minutes further on, just over an hour in total. Return the same way in less than an hour, or drop down to the Ginreiso Hut and take the longer trails through the forest that lead back to the campsite キャンプ場 and/or the car park at the viewpoint 展望台 (1.5-2 hours).

Transport

Public transport:

There are no public transport options for this route.

By car: 

Take Route 391 north out of Kawayu for 4km then turn left onto local Route 102 for about 10km, passing one viewpoint, to the turn off to the Highland Koshimizu 725 Viewpoint ハイランド小清水725 where there is a large car park (here), toilets and a small cafeteria and souvenir stalls etc.

Hut(s)

Mt. Mokoto Ginreiso Hut (full details here)

Ginreiso Hut (銀嶺荘, 820m) on Mt. Mokoto is one of the newest huts in Hokkaido. It is small and pokey, but well built and very well insulated. Even in winter, the area teems with birdlife – we saw a beautiful kumagera black woodpecker while we were there. There’s a natural spring next to the hut for water (winter will require some digging), and the coal stove is excellent for heating the hut up in winter. The peak of Mt. Mokoto, on Lake Kussharo’s caldera rim, gives expansive views across the lake.

Physical maps
GSI Topo Map: Mokoto-yama (藻琴山) – map no. NK-55-31-10-4

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

route safety

Although this route is relatively short, the usual caveats about appropriate bad weather gear apply. The caldera rim and summit are exposed to the wind. The usual bear precautions should be taken.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Mokoto-yama

Onsen nearby

There are many onsen in the nearby town of Kawayu 川湯, and along the shores of nearby Lake Kussharo 屈斜路湖. One favourite onsen on the Lake Kussharo lakefront is the (very public) open-air hotpool at the Kotan township, here.

Extra Resources

Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 6, 北海道夏山ガイド 6 道東・道北・増毛の山々 (Hokkaido Shimbunsha). These guides are updated every few years.

Guide Options

If you’d like to hike this route and/or explore other areas of central Hokkaido with a local certified guide, then contact Jun Ishiguro. He’s a JMGA (Japan Mountain Guides Association) mountain guide on the board of directors of the Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA). As a senior figure in the Hokkaido guiding scene, and with extensive experience, he can tailor trips to your needs. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Mokoto-yama is my local mountain, visible from my wife’s family home on the shores of Lake Kussharo. I have climbed it many times, including with my children when they were still in elementary school. I even managed to get my wife up there once. It was also the first mountain I ever did on skis. It never disappoints.

The most recent visit was with Rob, who had also done it the previous year on skis with Haidee, staying at the Ginreiso Hut. Now it was a beautiful autumn day and we reveled in the views across the lake, enjoyed a little scrambling on the exposed rocky towers two-thirds of the way up, and soaked up the panorama beneath us from the rocky summit.

Rob wanted to see the hut again without snow, so we dropped off the back to check it out. From here we followed the trails back though the forest to the car park, slightly regretting that there were few views on this route. Back at the car park a cold wind had picked up so we headed back down to Kotan and the onsen. For a change, we took the 22km gravel road that runs along the north shore of the lake, though the glorious autumn forest. While much slower, it was a great way to end the day.

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Mokoto-yama Loop Hike Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

31/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.