The Shizuoka Minami Alps are the Southern most mountains in the Japanese Alps mountain range and stretch into the top half of Shizuoka Prefecture.
These mountains are the foothills of what are known of as the ‘Minami Alps’ – the Southern most mountain range of the Japan Alps – also known as the Akaishi Mountains.
The Southern Alps mountain range contains 10 of the top 100 peaks of Japan and is known as a challenging mountain range for climbers.
The foothills of these impressive mountains though is easily accessible from Shizuoka and are waiting to be explored.
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CRUISE AROUND LAKE IKAWA
One of the best places to explore the foothills of the Southern Alps is Lake Ikawa which offers a range of different activities and attractions.
Perhaps most popular amongst them is the free 40 minute ride on the Akaishi-Maru sightseeing boat that tracks across the lake.
The Akaishi-maru operate in Summer and Autumn and is especially popular during the autumn leaves season for visitors to enjoy the spectacular colours of the changing leaves in November.
OLD RAILWAY HIKING COURSE
Hiking around Lake Ikawa is especially popular for all ages as it is a relatively flat route and offers some spectacular views of the lake and mountains.
Hop off the Ikawa Line train at Ikawa Station and you have the choice of hopping on the boat to Ikawa Hon Mura or follow the trail from Ikawa dam along the abandoned railway line.
This leisurely walk takes a little under 2 hours one way and if you don’t want to do the return journey a one way trip on the boat takes 15 minutes- 4 trips per day.
In addition to the abandoned railway there is also a suspension bridge over the lake and a 11 meter high buddha statue.
When you arrive at Ikawa Honmura there are a couple of restaurants, souvenir shops, a number of accommodation options, camp ground and hot springs.
CROSS A SUSPENSION BRIDGE OF DREAMS
There are two famous ‘Bridge of Dreams’ suspension bridges in this area of Shizuoka.
The most famous is the Sumatakyo Onsen area Bridge of Dreams suspension bridge which is often shown in many Shizuoka tourism promotions.
The lesser known of the two is the suspension bridge in Lake Ikawa which is part of the Ikawa Lake hiking route.
SOAK IN RELAXING SUMATAKYO ONSEN BATHS
The Minami Alps are a great source of Onsen water and the areas around Ikawa, Sumatakyo all the way along the Oi River provide numerous Hot Spring options to help weary hikers and travelers.
Especially in the Autumn months, when the leaves are changing, these outdoor hot spring baths are a great way to soak away your worries and refresh mind, body and soul.
Many of the hot spring baths are accessible for an on the day visit but the best way to get the most out of them is to spend the night and enjoy some of the local hospitality.
A morning onsen is a great way to start the day.
VISIT OKUOIKOJO STATION
Okuoikojo Station translate directly as The Station on Lake in Okuoi and it is argueably one of the most picturesque train stations in all of Japan.
Take the Ikawa Railway Line ABT train (the steepest railway in Japan) from Senzu Station toward Ikawa Station and the train crosses over this bridge and stop briefly at the Okuoikojo Station in the middle of the lake.
If you want to get a photo of the station you can hop off and take the 15 minute walk up the road to get a birds eye view of this spectacular spot.
HIKING IN THE MINAMI ALPS
There is not a lot of English information on hiking in this area of Shizuoka but from Lake Ikawa there are hiking trails to Nanatsu Toge 七つ峠 (1553m) Yanbushi Toge 山伏 (2014m) that reward hikers with great views of Mt.Fuji on a good day.
Follow the Oi River up to Hatanagi Lake and deeper into the Minami Alps and there are more challenging trails to some of the bigger mountains in the Akaishi mountain Range but you will need climbing permits to attempt any of the peaks from here.