ADVENTURES AROUND THE WORLD© Christopher Earls Brennen
Hike C10. Mount Uzu, Hokkaido
- Hiking time: 2 hrs
- Estimated hiking distance: 3 mi
- Elevation gain: About 1000 ft
- Topo Map: Geospatial Authority of Japan Online Map
- Difficulties: Some danger from poisonous volcanic gases
- Permit: None
Mount Usu is a volcano near Lake Toya, Hokkaido, Japan that has erupted four times in the past 100 years. Its most recent eruption occurred in the year 2000. This hike takes you to the rim of the volcano with the help of the Usuzan Ropeway that climbs most of the way. Then some distance down into the crater.
The adventure begins at the lower station of the Usuzan Ropeway at 42o32.34'N 140o51.61'E and an elevation 610 ft). The ropeway departs from Kazan-Mura, a small group of souvenir shops at the foot of Showa Shinzan. From Toyako Onsen, it can be reached in 10 min by car or taxi or in 15 min by bus from Toyako Onsen (one bus every two hours); however the bus does not run during most of November and from March to late April. The ropeway runs from 9am to 4pm in summer.
Close by the lower station of the Usuzan Ropeway is Showa Shinsan, a small and extraordinary offshoot of Mount Uzu. It is a volcanic cone that grew out of the side of Uzusan between 1943 and 1945 and was named "Showa New Mountain" to honor the Japanese emporer at the time, Emperor Showa (1926-1989). Accompanied by earthquakes, the cone suddenly rose from a flat wheat field to its current height of 951 ft. Still venting sulfurous fumes today, Showa Shinzan stands directly next to Mount Usu. You can get good views of the young volcano from the Usuzan Ropeway
The Usuzan Ropeway brings you close to the main mountain's summit. The upper station's observation deck at 42o32.42'N 140o50.66'E and an elevation 1903 ft offers panoramic views of Lake Toya and neighboring Showa Shinzan. From a second observation deck a short walk away, there are views of the ocean and Mount Usu's largest crater, which was formed in an eruption in 1977.
From the top of the cable car a 15 min hike up a stairway brings you to a second observation deck at about 1960 ft with a view of a jagged rock summit known as Kompira-san. Then you come to the rim of the great crater of Uzusan and the Crater Observation Deck from which there are 600 steps down into the crater itself (about 1300 ft elevation). You climb again to get to the end of the trail at the Usu Outer Rim Observation deck (elevation about 1650 ft). It takes about 1 hr to get from the Crater Observation deck to the Usu Outer Rim Observation deck. About 10 min before reaching the latter there is a trail fork. The left fork takes you down to the town of Uzu. The round trip hike from the Top Station of the ropeway to the Usu Outer Rim Observation and back takes about 2 hrs.
The Uzusan crater
Last updated 1/27/23.
Christopher E. Brennen