Why You NEED to Hike The 100 Famous Mountains Of Yamagata

Japan’s hidden treasure trove of outdoor adventure

Kiwi Yamabushi
10 min readJan 27


The beach town of Yura in Tsuruoka City seen from Arakura-yama, one of the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata.
The view from Arakura-yama towards the port village of Yura in Tsuruoka City. Photo by author.

A yamabushi’s role is simple: Lead others into nature. Part of that is showing you the beauty of nature in Japan, starting with my own backyard, Yamagata Prefecture.

Made of Mountains: Yamagata Prefecture

A shrine on the side of Haguro-san’s stone stairway. Haguro-san is one of the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata.
The stone stairway of Haguro-san during autumn. Photo by author.

Locals in Yamagata are a different breed.

Providing not only the most beautiful backdrop known to man, but also a source of sustenance for millennia, mountains have a say in almost every aspect of the lives of the people of Yamagata.

So much so, the word Yamagata literally means ‘mountain shape’. Or, as we like to say, ‘made of mountains’.

Why 100 Mountains?

The red torii shrine gates of Yudono-san jinja (shrine) bask in the late autumn sun. Yudono-san is one of the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata.
The Torii (shrine gates) of Yudono-san Jinja in Tsuruoka City. Photo by author.

In 1964, mountaineer and author Fukada Kyuya published Hyakumeizan, One Hundred Mountains of Japan.

This book has since become a cult classic.

It was so popular, in fact, even the current Emperor Naruhito is a major fan.

Not to be outdone, in 2016 Yamagata Prefecture set about creating their own list of 100 famous mountains. In the process, they whittled down some 2,774 peaks into a top 100.

I’m climbing them all.

And I’d love you to join me!

(And yes, Yamagata does have that many mountains!).

Criteria for choosing the mountains

Zao-san’s emerald green crater lake in the middle of summer. Zao-san is one of the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata.
The emerald green crater lake of Zao-san. Photo by author.

Fukada chose the original 100 famous mountains of Japan based on three criteria:

  1. Grace
  2. History
  3. Individuality



Kiwi Yamabushi

The Japan you never knew you needed to know. Mailer: https://www.timbunting.com/mow