Hiking in the Minami Alps: Coffee at the Top

Making coffee at the summit of Eboshidake, Minami Alps.

  • The Minami Alps, Japan.
  • My friend hiking up Eboshidake in the Minami Alps. There are a number of these rickety old ladders to get over to reach the top.
  • Misty forest, Minami Alps, Japan.

There’s a joke between a good friend and his brother regarding a hike they did in Colorado a few years ago. Early morning on a remote mountain they were approaching the summit when they saw a trail runner coming the other way. As he jogged past he sarcastically shouted out, “Coffee at the top!”

This was remote (ish) Colorado, there was no coffee at the top, but there are places where you can get coffee at the top. Mt. Snowdon in North Wales being the most obvious one to me and there’s a fancy cafe next to one of the lakes near the summit of Mt. Ontake here in Japan, too. I’m sure there are plenty more.

Since my passion switched from cycling to hiking I’ve been spending the last couple of years trying to persuade this longtime cycling pal to join me on long hikes but up until now it has been to no avail. But in recent weeks he has finally come around and seems to love it. I suspect it is partly due to his recently acquired professional physical trainer and nutritionist qualification that he has gained that’s sparked his interest. Cycling is great, but it lacks balance – you’re always using the same muscles. With hiking you use everything and have to be acutely aware of your environment and the space you are occupying (proprioception) – all the trees, rocks, roots – so as not to twist an ankle or run into a tree. It makes for a far more immersive experience and is well balanced – perfect for a physical trainer wanting a solid full body workout.

  • A wooden sign on a tree pointing the way to Sampukutoge and Mt. Shiomi.
  • Sampukutoge Lodge

So with his newfound enthusiasm last Sunday we hiked up Eboshidake (烏帽子岳) in the Minami Alps for views of Mt. Fuji (富士山) and Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳). I’ve hiked there on numerous occasions now in a variety of conditions – including at midnight in the dark – and you never know what you’re going to get until you reach the summit. Sometimes you get spectacular views and sometimes you get… nothing.


That’s what we go this time. Cloud, mist, rain, and cold despite the weather forecast showing clear skies all day. Never trust the mountain weather. Sometimes I prefer this though – life is more interesting when things don’t go to plan and it gives us an excuse to go back and try again. Bad weather experiences are more personal too and stay in the memory longer.

  • A lone deer in the Minami Alps, Japan.
  • Eboshidake in the clouds.

Apart from the exercise, the shinrinyoku, and the overwhelming feeling of isolation (that I can’t get enough of), and an encounter with a lone deer, the main saving grace for the day was, of course, coffee at the top.


You can see the data for the hike here on the wonderful Yamap website.

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