Tarumae-san & Fuppushi-dake

Tarumae-san (樽前山), a broad-sloped volcano on the southern edge of Lake Shikotsu (支笏湖) caldera, erupted explosively during the Edo Period, dumping a huge amount of ash and rock on the area around Tomakomai and Chitose. The unique lava dome was created in the 1909 eruption; and even today the volcano remains active and a source of apprehension. The name of the mountain is probably related to the Ainu taru-mai, but the meaning of such a word is unclear. On the other hand, the volcanically active Fuppushi-dake (風不死岳), covered thickly with evergreen forest, definitively comes from the Ainu fup-ushi, meaning 'place where the Sakhalin firs (Abies sachalinensis, トドマツ) grow rampantly.'

In this guide, you'll follow a trail that connects both mountains. Since it's possible that due to volcanic activity, the hiking trails may be closed, it's a good idea to check the reports before heading out to the mountain. The trailhead sits at Tarumae-san's 7th station marker (7合目), which is to say that the trailhead is 7/10 of the way up the mountain. Since the approach is so easy, Tarumae-san has lately become a very well-climbed mountain, and overuse is becoming a problem. Please be careful not to tread on any plants off-trail and to pack all your trash out with you and dispose of it responsibly.

[Translator's note: If you see any trash on the trail, please pick it up and pack it out. I know it's gross and it's not your trash but please just do it.]

After passing through a stand of Alnus japonica (ミヤマハンノキ), you'll come out onto a long slope covered with eruption ejecta but across which you'll have a practically unobstructed view. On Tarumae-san's characteristic broad slope you'll see flowers like Pennellianthus frutescens (イワブクロ or タルマエソウ, named after the mountain), Japanese wintergreen, (Gaultheria pyroloides, シラタマノ キ), and wild rosemary (Ledum palustrum, イソツツジ) among other such volcanic-growth plants.

After a short while climbing, you'll come to the outer rim of the crater, where you can almost fall into the view of the billowing smoke from the lava dome. From here you'll probably get a good idea of how alive the mountain is. It's said, in fact, that during the 1667 eruption, the smoke blew as high as the stratosphere and the rumbling could be heard in Aomori.

Since the crater is off-limits, you'll climb over Higashi-yama (東山) and around the north rim of the crater towards Fuppushi-dake. If there's low visibility, be very careful not to stray from the main trail -- there are a number of side trails diverging and converging here.

After descending an easy scree-covered ridge, you'll traverse the eastern slopes of the descriptively-named 932-Meter Peak and pass a junction, heading out across a saddle ridge toward Fuppushi- dake. Past the saddle you'll enter a forest of Erman's birch (Betula ermanii, ダケカンバ) and proceed up a steep slope to an undulating ridgeline. This ridgeline will bring you to the summit of Fuppushi-dake. The summit is covered in trees, so, looking back towards Tarumae-san, you should get a good sense of how different these two mountains really are.

For the trip back, head back to that junction and take the trail heading directly to the 7th station marker trailhead. This trail traverses the long flank of Tarumae-san and weaves among endless clusters of wild rosemary, which in mid-June look spectacular. That such beautiful plants can live on the flanks of an active volcano makes this a moving part of the hike.

After an easy traverse, you'll end up back at the trailhead.

Hiking advice

  • There is a Chuo Bus (中央バス) that runs from Shin- Chitose Airport (新千歳空港) to Shikotsu-ko Lakeside Village (支笏湖畔) through Chitose Station (千歳駅). Also a Chuo Bus from Sapporo Station (札幌駅), from June to late October. From Shikotsu-ko Lakeside Village to the trailhead takes about 20 minutes by taxi.
  • At the Tarumae-san 7th station marker trailhead is a small hut that's used only for emergencies and which can accommodate 10 people. It's open year round.
  • There is nowhere to refill on water on the trail.
  • There used to be a hut at the summit of Tarumae-san but it has since been torn down.
  • There is another trail up the North Ridge (北尾根) of Fuppushi-dake, starting near Shikotsu-ko Lakeside Village.
  • The Shishamonai Trail (シシャモナイ・コース), which used to start at Koke-no-doumon (苔ノ洞門) and took you up past the Tarumae lava dome to Higashi-yama, has been closed for a number of years. The Tarumae crater and westward is off limits.
  • The Shikotsu-ko Campground (支笏湖キャンプ場) is quite pleasant. At Shikotsu-ko Onsen there are numerous hotels to stay and bathe at; there is also Kyuuka-mura Shikotsu- ko (休暇村支笏湖, 0123-25-2439) which offers day-use bathing (日帰り入浴). Information can be found at the Visitors' Center (ビジターズセンター, 0123-25-2543).

Seasonal info

In late June, the wild rosemary, Pennellianthus frutescens, and Weigala middendorffiana (ウコンウツジ) are at their peak. Keep in mind that since there is no shade from trees on Tarumae-san that it will get quite hot in the summer. The leaves change color on Fuppushi-dake in October.