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Staying in a Japanese Mountain Hut

If you need help making a reservation for a mountain hut, check HERE.

When hiking in Japan, it is common to stay in mountain huts or lodges along the trail. These huts provide a place to sleep, warm meals, and are great experience of Japanese mountain and hiking culture. But it wouldn't be Japan without having some specific guidelines and rules. These mountain hut etiquettes ensure a respectful experience for everyone and huts can be quite strict about them. So keep them in mind when planning your overnight hikes;

 

1. Respect the Rules and Customs. Each mountain hut has its own set of rules and customs that should be respected. Before entering, take the time to read any signs or notices posted outside or inside the hut. Some huts may have specific rules on where to put your shoes, how to use the toilet (toilet paper in a seperate bin), where to get drinking water, where to put your backpack, trash, no toothpaste etc.

2. Follow the Schedule. Mountain huts in Japan have a strict schedule for arrival time, meals, lights-out, and wake-up times. These schedules are designed to ensure everyone can get a good night's sleep and be well-fed before starting the next day's hike.

Make sure to follow the schedule and be considerate of others who may need to wake up early or sleep in.

The most important one is to arrive by 4pm latest and to call the hut if you are late. In recent years many huts have complained of international visitors not arriving in time or even after dark.

This also applies to not cancelling your reservation. If you don't notify them, they might report you as lost or missing and send out a search party. Huts in Japan are much more safety focused and it causes a lot of trouble for the hut if you don't show up or are late.

The schedule also applies to dinner and breakfast times. Usually meals are served at fixed times (e.g. 5pm for dinner) and for busy huts you also only have a 30-40min slot to eat your dinner in the dining area. Once dinner is over they clean the kitchen and you won't be able to get food anymore, even if you reservd it beforehand.

3. Be Prepared. Mountain huts in Japan typically provide futons, blankets and pillows, but they don't get washed after every use. Bring a silk sleeping bag liner for comfort and hygiene. If you plan on having meals at the hut, inform them during the reservation process. Due to Covid, dinner inside the hut may not be allowed for tent campers, but lunch options are usually available. Consider bringing a portable battery, as not all huts provide charging facilities.

Lastly remember to bring enough cash. Most huts are Cash Only  and prices range from 8000Y to 17000Y, depending on meals, room type, and season.

4. Show Respect. When staying in a mountain hut, it's important to be respectful of the other hikers and the staff. Keep noise to a minimum, especially during the lights-out hours (usually from 8/9pm until 4:30am depending on the season). Most huts have shared sleeping areas, so keep your conversation to a minimum in the  dorms. To hang out and chat with your fellow hikers use the common space. Also don't forget ear plugs.

5. Pack Out Your Trash. Bringing food and other supplies into a mountain hut creates a lot of trash. There are no garbage cans and you'll have to take all your trash back down the mountain. If you buy a drink in a can or PET bottle, you can usually throw it away at the hut. Bring a ziplock/plastic bag for all your trash.

6. Make a Reservation. For some huts this was always the case, but since Covid almost all huts require a reservation beforehand. Often this applies to the tent field, too.

If you can, try to avoid weekends and public holidays. Those dates tend to get booked out months in advance. The main hiking season for Japan is from mid July to mid October. With some exceptions (Nishiho, Honzawa, Kaikoma etc) huts will be closed outside of the main seaon. If you show up without a reservation a lot of huts now charge a penalty fee or you might be refused if it's full. If you need help making a reservation, click here.

7. No Wild Camping in National Parks. Just like in many other countries, camping in the Japanese mountains is permitted only in designated camping areas. This practice helps protect the delicate ecosystem and ensures proper waste management. These camping spots often provide nearby toilet facilities (with some exceptions, such as in Daisetsuzan) and access to drinking water. It's worth noting that approximately half of these camping areas now require advanced reservations to manage visitor numbers effectively.

Extra Info:

- Not all huts provide free drinking water, depending on the hut it's around 200Y per 500ml/1l.

- Staying in tents often doesn't include the toilet fees. 100Y extra.

- Dietary restrictions like vegetarian meals are not usually possible.

- Most huts will not have English speaking staff, come prepared and have google translate on your phone

- For reserving huts and emergencies you should have a working phone number

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