Japan Trip: Mt. Nantai

Hiking with the monkeys through the shrines


Our first full day in Japan, we boarded a bullet train from Tokyo to Nikko, a world heritage site famed for its role in the founding of the Shinto religion. After checking into our very hip accommodations, we hopped a bus to the base of the biggest mountain around — Mount Nantai.

Mount Nantai sits at the base of Lake Chuzenji-ko in Nikko National Park. It's a sacred peak owned by the Futara-san shrine and you need to pay a small fee to access the path up the mountain. At the start, the trail is a set of stairs into the forest which eventually turn to a single track path. I was very excited to see a group of macaque monkeys as we began our trek playing in amongst the trees.

The trail climbs steadily up to the summit where the upper shrine sits and was a strenuous climb. Near the top, we had excellent views over the trees back to the lake. It took us an hour and 45 minutes to reach the top. We took our time looking around the shrine and eating our bento boxes before heading down, which only 45 minutes.


Mount Nantai (8,156′)


Nikko, Japan


Trail from Futara-san shrine


7.6 miles, 3,949' elevation gain

Elapsed Time


Moving Time



Cloudy, warm

Partners in Crime




Start of the trail from the lower shrine

Path up from the shrine

Signs along the path

Small hut midway up the mountain

Lake Chuzenji-ko in the distance

Upper shrine of Futara-san at the near summit

Upper shrine of Futara-san at the near summit

Upper shrine of Futara-san at the near summit

Summit snacks, Japanese style

View of Lake Chuzenji-ko from the summit

Post-hike meal at Gyoza-No Umechan in Nikko