The hike

Yuurappu-dake (遊楽部岳) is a mountain standing to the northwest of Unseki-toge (雲石峠), a mountain pass connecting the towns of Yakumo (八雲) and Kumaishi (熊石). The name of the mountain comes from the Ainu yu-rap, meaning ‘descending hot springs’. As Yuurappu-dake is also the headwaters of the Ken’ichi-gawa (見市川), it’s sometimes called Ken’ichi-dake (見市岳) The name ken’ichi comes from the Ainu kene-ush, meaning ‘place where many Japanese alder grow’. Ranking as the second-highest peak in southern Hokkaido (after Kariba-yama (狩場山)), this secluded Japanese beech-covered mountain is also a great home for the Ezo bear (ヒグマ).

The trail to the summit is a long one, marked by a number of climbs and descents, and is oriented towards stronger hikers. The trailhead sits at the end of a forest road following the Futoro-gawa (太 櫓川) from Hidari-mata (左股) district in the town of Kitahiyama-cho (北檜山町).

Shortly after starting out, you’ll cross a small stream and head into a forest of Sakhalin fir. You’ll soon mount a ridgeline covered in the shapely-branched Japanese beech, Mongolian oak, and castor aralia and slowly begin to gain altitude. Because the trip will end up being quite long, it’s a good idea to take it easy here at the beginning.

From the lower slopes of the mountain heading up towards the ridgeline, you’ll probably see evidence of bears here and there; in fact, it’s not unheard of for hikers to come across a bear walking along the hiking trail itself. In places where visibility around corners and across the low grass is bad, try to call out or carry a bell and make your presence known to avoid any encounters.

Around the fifth station marker (五合目), you’ll enter a forest of Erman’s birch; over the trees the views will open up towards the summit of Usubetsu-dake (臼別岳) ahead. You’ll climb and descend along the ridgeline covered in skeleton flower and Japanese wood poppy before coming to a final steep climb.

From the summit of Usubetsu-dake you’ll be able to see the islands of Okushiri-to (奥尻島), as well as Matsumae’s (松前) Oshima (大島) and Kojima (小島) islands floating distant on the sea; and finally, you’ll see the summit of Yuurappu-dake itself. However, the col ahead descends a bit, and with the trail laid out before you, you might get a sense of just how much more walking you’ll need to do before you reach your goal. Judge carefully the weather, your strength, and how much time you have before continuing on.

Making a steep descent through a forest of dwarf stone pine, you’ll cross a grassy field and come to the bottom of the col. Following the snowmelt around here you’ll see short-stipule violet, oriental swamp pink, Japanese fawn-lily, and Kamchatka thistle growing.

From the bottom of the col you’ll start the last steep climb. When you reach the top of the ridge, which is actually the highest point on the trail, you’ll find a branching trail heading towards Shiramizu-dake (白水岳). To the south you’ll see the deep gully of the Ken’ichi-gawa headwaters, as well as the beech-covered soaring forms of Shiramizu-dake and Hiyamizu-dake (冷水岳).

You’ll head east along a flat ridgetop covered in more beech and Japanese alpine cherry, and although technically it is at a lower altitude than the highest point along the ridge, you’ll arrive at the geographic summit of Yuurappu-dake.

You’ll head back along the long ridgetop trail you ascended. Feel free to take your time on the way back, enjoying the beauty of the mountain’s Japanese beech.

Trail advice

  • You can take a taxi to the trailhead from Yakumo-eki (八雲駅) train station or from Kitahiyama-cho (北檜山町), but be aware that the distance to the trailhead is quite far.
  • Along the trail the only place to collect water is at the small stream near the trailhead. Make sure to fill up enough for the long trip.
  • From the upper Hiratanai-gawa (平田内川), near Hiratanai Onsen (平田内温泉) hot springs, there are two trails--one passing across Hiyamizu-dake, and one passing across Shiramizu-dake. The two trails meet on the other side of their respective peaks and connect to the junction near Yuurappu-dake. This trail is oriented towards exprienced hikers.
  • From early summer to late in the fall you’ll want to take precautions against bears. In particular, make sure that you don’t leave any trash or food behind.
  • At the upper part of the Usubetsu-gawa (臼別川) you’ll find Usubetsu Onsen Yutopia Usubetsu (臼別温泉湯とぴ あ臼別), which is an unstaffed outdoor hot spring, and is lovely for a post-hike soak. From the sign on National Route 229 (国道229号線) it’s about 3.5 km to the spring. There’s a cleaning and management fee of 100 yen. For inquiries call the Setana Town Taisei Office (せたな町大成 総合支庁).

Seasonal info

The Japanese beech bloom in June. The Manchurian violet, Small’s trillium, and Japanese wood poppy bloom as the snow is melting. At the col between Usubetsu-dake and Yuurappu-dake, it’s likely that snow will remain well into the end of June. The leaves start to change from October onwards.