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 and warm meals, but it is important to follow certain etiquette guidelines to ensure a respectful experience for everyone. Here are some important things to know about mountain hut etiquette in Japan:
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 notify the hut if you are delayed. This also applies to you 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 you'll cause a lot of trouble for yourself and the hut if you don't show up or are late.
Also don't expect meals if you are late. Dinner is usually at 5pm and if the hut is busy, there will be multiple time slots and you have between 30-40min to eat dinner before the next group.
Sleeping area for Yarigatake Sanso
Honzawa Onsen Hut which is open year round
Keep your backpack in the hallway
3. Be Prepared. Mountain huts in Japan typically provide futons, blankets and pillows, but they don't get washed so often. I always bring a silk sleeping bag liner. If you plan to have 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, as mountain huts often accept cash only. 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). If you're traveling with a group, try to keep your conversation quiet and to a minimum in the sleeping area. To hang out and chat with your fellow hikers use the common space.
5. Pack Out Your Trash. Bringing food and other supplies into a mountain hut creates a lot of waste. You'll have to take all your trash back and dispose of it properly. 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. Also if you can, try to avoid weekends and public holidays. Those dates tend to get booked out months in advance. The average hut season runs from July to mid/end of October, with some exceptions (Nishiho, Honzawa, Kaikoma etc) but the majority of huts will be closed in winter and spring. If you need help making a reservation, click here. 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.
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.
Tent field for Kaikoma. Be respectful and keep your tent close to your neighbor, they are usually full on weekends.
Typical dinner in a mountain hut. Rice and miso soup are often free refill.