Upepesanke-yama Dayhike

ウペペサンケ山 | Upepe-sanke

Posted on Jul 16, 2019
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Posted on Jul 16, 2019

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Reading time: 3 min


7.5 hours





Highest point



Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)

Best season

Upepesanke-yama (ウペペサンケ山, 1848m), is the southernmost of the large outlier mountains to the southeast of the main Daistsetsu massif. Its Ainu name means ‘the mountain that produces much meltwater in the spring thaw’. It is characterized by its long and narrow summit ridge which is a delight to wander along on a good day with fantastic views over the rugged landscape of central Hokkaido and beyond. Although a long day it is relatively straightforward and makes a rewarding excursion into Hokkaido’s high alpine landscapes.

NOTE: As of July 2019, the forestry road from Nukabira Onsen is currently closed due to extensive typhoon damage. Repair is unlikely. Add an extra two hours if walking the 3.5km along the damaged road (from here).

We visited this route on Jun 19, 2016

Last updated Jul 20, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details


Upepesanke is off Route 273 which runs down the east side of the Daisetsusan massif, just north of the onsen town of Nukabira at the northern end of the Tokachi Plain. This hike starts and finishes at about 900m from the trailhead 7.5km from Nukabira Onsen.

General notes

The main season for summer hiking on Upepesanke is June into October; before and after this you need to be prepared and equipped for snow on the ground and/or falling from the sky. The base for this climb is at Nukabira Onsen, a small collection of lodgings with (extremely) hot springs and an ageing ski resort. There is a Youth Hostel (Tel: 0156 44 2004) and a campsite at the southern end of the village.




The route is generally well defined throughout, though was rough in places on the lower sections when we were there. Once on the ridge proper there are no problems. There are some signs and route markers in Japanese. From the trailhead you climb up fairly steeply in places to meet the ridge at 1399m after 1hr 30mins. From here turn right (NNW) and ascend the ridge, first through forest and then haimatsu creeping pine, over minor peaks for about 2 to 2 and a half hours to reach Nukabirafuji (糠平富士, 1835m). Now turn left along the narrow main summit ridge, over some minor bumps and one major gap, to reach the main summit marker at 1848m in under an hour. The return along the same route should take 3 to 3.5 hours.

Route Timing
Up | 4.5hrs
Down | 3hrs


Public transport:

Tokachi Bus (Tel : 0155 23 5171) runs four buses a day from the Obihiro Bus Terminal to Nukabira Onsen. From there a taxi would be necessary to get to the trailhead (around 3,500yen).

By car: 

Easy road access from Route 273. The trailhead is 7.3 km up a signposted gravel forest road just north of Nukabira Onsen. There is parking for a number of cars.

Physical maps

Daisetsuzan 大雪山. Yama to Kogen Map Series No 3 (Amazon). Published by Shobunsha. 1:50,000. Includes course times and trail information (in Japanese).

Official Topo Map: Upepesankeyama (ウペペサンケ山) – map no. NK-54-1-16-4

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

This route traverses exposed alpine terrain and can be a dangerous place in bad weather with real risks of hypothermia for poorly equipped hikers. Conditions can change quickly, it is very exposed to the wind and the upper slopes can be much colder than down at the trailhead. Carry appropriate gear. Like all high mountain terrain in Hokkaido it is bear country so take the usual precautions.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Upepesanke-yama

Onsen nearby

Our favourite in nearby Nukabira Onsen is the boiling hot spa at Nakamura-ya (中村屋, 500 yen, location), a rambling old building with a mixed rotenburo and free coffee in the entrance lounge.

Extra Resources

Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 3, 北海道夏山ガイド 3 東・北大雪、十勝連峰の山々 (Hokkaido Shimbunsha). These Japanese 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

One day, Yagi-san (Mr. Goat), Kuma-san (Mr. Bear) and Buta-san (Mr. Pig) decided to climb a mountain. Actually Buta-san had never climbed a mountain before, but many times he had heard Yagi-san and Kuma-san going on about what a blast they’d had so he decided to give it a go. The three chums settled on Upepesanke as the day’s objective, as not only does it have a cool Ainu name and a fine summit ridge but it is also the closest big mountain to Buta-san’s house.

The plan called for an early start, but when the alarm went off at 4.00am a peek out the window revealed low cloud and steady rain. Yagi-san was sorely tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, but Kuma-san was having none of it. ‘I’ve come all this way to climb a mountain,’ he muttered, ‘and climb a bloody mountain I will.’ Then into this discussion walked Buta-san, already wide awake and fully dressed, a gleam in his eye. So it was settled and off they went. It turned out to be a good decision as on the drive north it began to brighten up. By the time they reached the trailhead at 6.30am the rain had stopped and sheets of cloud were beginning to peel away from the mountain. It would be a good day after all.

The first part of the climb was up a steep trail to the ridge; wet, rocky and blocked in places by fallen trees that had to be clambered over, under or around. Buta-san shot off in the lead but soon appeared a bit perplexed by the difficulties on the trail. Perhaps mountain climbing was not quite how he had imagined it (he later confided that he had been anticipating a pleasant ramble with frequent stops at hostelries for light refreshments of a mildly alcoholic nature). Nevertheless the three pals made it to the ridge in good time.

From here the ridge climbed up steadily with a few ups and downs, eventually emerging from the forest into high alpine scenery. Now and then the clouds parted to reveal tantalizing glimpses of broad mountain views. Yagi-san bounded ahead as usual with Kuma-san lolloping along behind, and Buta-san now relegated to the rear. Despite much puffing and panting he was making good progress, though could occasionally be overheard muttering ominously to himself something about imminent heart attacks.

After a final long climb they stood on the top of Nukabirafuji, the easternmost point of the main summit ridge. The weather had cleared up and they could see across to Nipesotsu and further to the broad sweep of the Daisetsusan and Tokachi ranges, wild and magnificent mountains all around. Buta-san appeared unimpressed. ‘Is this it?’ he exclaimed, ‘We have much better mountains back in Buta-land.’ Yagi-san and Kuma-san looked at each other but said nothing. Kuma-san then produced a few dried mangoes, which had an almost miraculous effect on Buta-san’s general wellbeing and morale.

The three set off along the ridge to the main summit. It was a wonderful walk, narrow, light and airy. A few patches of late snow lay in some of the gullies. After taking in the views from the top and a bite to eat they retraced their steps and began to descend. Despite being (mostly) downhill the route was long and by the time they reached the start of the final steep descent they were all feeling tired. After a short rest they plunged down through the forest back to the trailhead.

Amid the usual bustle of taking off boots and putting away gear a strange whimpering noise was heard. It was Buta-san. ‘Help guys, I’m having spasms,’ he gasped. Sure enough, he was draped over the back seat of the car, twitching and completely unable to either fully stretch out or sit up. Yagi-san and Kuma-san looked on with interested curiosity, having never observed this phenomenon before. Luckily it passed fairly soon and with the restorative properties of Nukabira Onsen being just a few minutes down the road a speedy departure was effected. Soaking in the steaming rotenburo afterwards Buta-san pronounced that he was now cured of any further desire to go mountain climbing – a shame, since it had been a jolly good day out!

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