Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Mt. Moriyoshi – The Stunning Scenery and the Snow Monsters

Situated in northeastern Japan, the famous Mt. Zao (蔵王山) in Yamagata Prefecture (山形県) and Mt. Hakkoda (八甲田) in Aomori Prefecture (青森県) are well known for the “Snow Monsters” that take shape over trees and branches. However, one of the drawbacks of being so well known is its tendency to be crowded…

Mt. Moriyoshi (森吉山) in the Akita Prefecture (秋田県) is among the top three locations for finding the snow monsters that form as a result of the unique weather phenomenon. With it being less famous, it stands to reason that it is less packed! If we only get to go to one of them, we would definitely go to Mt. Moriyoshi. As a bonus, you can play with the super cute mascot dog Hokuto! (≧▽≦).

A List of Contents

Spring, Summer, and Autumn at Mt. Moriyoshi

Although many tourists visit Mt. Moriyoshi in winter for skiing and/or the snow monsters, it is a great destination to visit throughout the year. It is recognized as one of the Top 100 Mountains in Japan with beautiful flowers. In early June, more than three hundred different species of flowers begin to bloom. This peaks in late June and lasts all the way to late August!

© Akita Tourism Federation

For the types of flowers that bloom in these months, check out the Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort’s website HERE.

In October, autumn colors begin to blanket the mountain. During this time (mid to the end of October), a cable car offers an easy way to access the top of the mountain. This 20-minute journey to the top of the mountain is so stunning that the only appropriate way to describe it would be “wow”!

Mt. Moriyoshi’s Gondola Lift Operation Hours

In 2023, the gondola lift operates from the 3rd of June to the 29th of October daily. But from the 21st of August to the 29th of September, the lift only operates on weekends and public holidays.

  • The operating hours of the lift are from
    • 8:45 am to 4 pm from June to September
      • The last lift goes up to the summit at 3:30 pm.
    • 8:45 am to 3:30 pm in October.
      • The last lift goes up to the summit at 3 pm.
  • The lift also operates in their snow season daily from December to March.
  • In April, the lift operates on weekends and public holidays as long as there is enough snow to ski.

How to Get to Mt. Moriyoshi

The trip to Mt. Moriyoshi cannot be achieved without much effort. You will need to take the trains running on the Ōu Line (奥羽本線) to get to JR Takanosu Station (鷹ノ巣駅) first.

From there, you will need to change to Akita Nairiku Line (秋田内陸線) to get to Aniai Station (阿仁合駅). Note the Akita Nairiku Line’s Takanosu Station is just next to JR Takanosu Station.

The Ōu Line runs from JR Aomori Station (青森駅) in Aomori prefecture, passing JR Hirosaki Station (弘前駅), JR Odate Station (大館駅), JR Takanosu Station (鷹ノ巣駅), and all the way to the south of Akita prefecture after passing JR Akita Station (秋田駅).

HERE is the timetable for the Akita Nairiku Line. Currently, there is no English version, so you will need to check the timetable using Japanese characters.

Note that the timetable from Takanosu Station to Aniai Station is the second table on the timetable pdf link.

However, if you still have trouble reading the timetable, contact us HERE, and we will get back to you.

© Akita Tourism Federation

If you are a dog lover, this train line will melt your heart. The sheer volume of Akita Inu-themed decorations lining the train and countryside afford many photo opportunities for those traveling on the train (*´ω`).

© Akita Tourism Federation

Tip: To get the best view of the scenery along the rail track, go straight to the front or back of the train. The photos/videos that you can take from there are just at a totally different level from the windows next to the window seats (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Booking Your Sightseeing Taxi

In roughly one hour (if you are coming from Takanosu Station), you will arrive at Aniai Station (阿仁合駅). From there, you will need to use one of the sightseeing taxi services that are available (by booking) to get to Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort (森吉山阿仁スキー場).

Tip: There is a toilet on the train to take care of your biological needs.

© Akita Tourism Federation

Important: Reservation at least one hour in advance is required to use this taxi service. If you can not speak Japanese, you can get to Takanosu Station a bit earlier than the train departure time to kindly ask the staff at the train station to help you make a booking. Ani Taxi takes bookings by phone at +81-186-82-3115. Otherwise, you can book the taxi HERE online as well.

The timetable for the sightseeing taxi can be found HERE. There is only a Japanese version available at the moment. The taxis that depart from Aniai Station are B Route (Bコース) on the bottom right corner of the first page.

  • The one-way cost is
    • 1,100 yen for adults
    • 550 yen for children up to and including elementary school students
  • You will have at least 10 minutes between your train’s arrival and the taxi’s departure time before the taxi heads towards the ski resort.

The sightseeing taxi information page on the Akita Nairiku Line HERE has the Routes’ names and phone numbers. You can also refer to these for reservations.

As multiple services are heading to the Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort, there is no rush to board the next taxi service immediately. You can rent one of the bicycles for sightseeing around the station before you head up to the mountain. For more information about the free bicycle rental, refer to Akita Nairiku Line’s website HERE.

Arriving at Akita Prefecture through Ōdate-Noshiro Airport (大館能代空港)

If you are accessing the Akita prefecture by airplane, the sightseeing taxi can pick you up from Ōdate-Noshiro Airport (大館能代空港). The taxis that depart from the airport travel along the A Route (Aコース) on the top right corner on the first page of the sightseeing timetable HERE.

  • The one-way cost is
    • 3,700 yen for adults
    • 1,850 yen for children up to and including primary school students
  • You can also skip the train trip and go straight to Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort from JR Takanosu Station along the A Route.
  • Reservation to go to the ski resort via the A Route has to be made 15 minutes before departure.
  • Coming back from the ski resort to JR Takanosu Station or Ōdate-Noshiro Airport requires reservations to be made 2 hours in advance.

There are 4 taxi services that you can call to make your reservation. Please refer to Akita Nairiku Line’s website HERE for phone numbers. The phone numbers are also listed in under course A’s timetable in the link provided above.

A Brief Mt. Moriyoshi Event Calendar

  • The ski season starts from mid-Dec to early May (while there is enough snow)
    • From April to early May, the resort is only open for skiing on weekends and public holidays.
  • The hiking season: the gondola lift operates from the 3rd of June to the 29th of October daily in 2023.
    • Note between the 21st of August to the 30th of September, the lift only runs on weekends and public holidays.
  • Fall foliage usually peaks from mid to late October

Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort

The sightseeing taxi will bring you to Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort. As your return trip back to Aniai Station needs to be booked at least an hour in advance, you may want to make the booking with your taxi driver before leaving.

Alternatively, the staff at the ski resort should be more than happy to help you with the booking as well.

© Akita Tourism Federation

From here, you can take the gondola lift to the top of the mountain (ゴンドラ山頂駅舎) to meet the “snow monsters”!

Before you board the gondola lift, you can meet the mascot dog – Hokuto! How can you not meet an Akita Inu when you visit Akita Prefecture? The Akita looks quite similar to Shiba, except a lot bigger.

He is the main reason why we would choose to visit the “snow monsters” in Mt. Moriyoshi over the ones on Mt. Zao or Hakkōda mountain ranges (Oh… and also because it is less crowded (≧▽≦)).

  • This scenic 20-minute trip costs
    • 2,000 yen
    • 900 yen for elementary school students

For more information about the gondola lift and the area in general, please refer to Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort’s website HERE.


The Snow Monsters

© Akita Tourism Federation

When you arrive at the top of the mountain, first rent the ski pole, snowshoes, and boots for free. You will need them to get to the “snow monsters” safely.

Important: The 3 items that can be rented out for free are only for you to access the snow monsters field.

If you are lucky enough, staff might be explaining the special weather phenomenon that produces the “snow monsters” in the gondola lift station (though not in English). There are English pamphlets available to give you detailed explanations of what the “snow monsters” are.

The “snow monster” loop course will take approximately 20 – 30 minutes. Make sure you have warm enough clothing before you head off!

Tip: if your clothes aren’t warm enough, you can rent out a warm poncho for 500 yen.

© Akita Tourism Federation

→ The frost on trees is akin to a set of winter clothes for trees. Please do not try to shake the frost off or break any branches
→ Please do not litter
→ Please do not go beyond the red/orange mark (refer to the photo). These are off-patrol areas where no one will notice if you wander too far away and get lost.

Tip: Bring a bottle of water with you. Although the “snow monsters” field is only a few minutes away from the gondola lift station, walking in the snow is physically taxing, and you will get thirsty!

When to Visit Mt. Moriyoshi to See the “Snow Monsters”?

The “snow monsters” appear from early January to early March. In February, Nighttime “Snow Monster Viewing Parties” are held on the weekends! These parties require at least five people and are held from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on the dates advertised on the ski resort’s website HERE (Japanese only).

  • Bookings are open in mid-January, and you have to book before 5 pm the day before.
  • The cost to join is
    • 3,500 yen for adults
    • 1,500 yen for elementary school students and younger
  • Private viewing sessions (with flexible dates) are also available at 35,000 yen.
  • To book, give the ski resort a call at +81-186-82-3311.

Important: Cancellation or no-show on the event day will incur 100% of the total charges.

If you do decide to attend this nighttime party, we recommend staying overnight at Hotel Fusch (ホテルフッシュ) or Ani no Mori Buna Hotel (阿仁の森ぶなホテル), which are a two-minute drive away from the ski resort.

They also provide free pick-up and drop-off services to the ski resort, which will be handy once the party ends (Please re-confirm this when you make a reservation).

The Restaurant at Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort

If you ever get hungry during your time at the ski resort, visit their restaurant and grab some delicious food. You can check out their menu in advance HERE to decide whether you want to bring your food. The only vegetarian option you will get is french fries, as the noodle soups contain fish extracts.

Skiing at Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort

Apart from meeting the snow monsters, Mt. Moriyoshi is a great place to ski and snowboard.

Full ski and snowboard sets, including ski poles, snowshoes, boots, skiwear, goggles, hats, gloves, and snowboard, can be rented out for 6,500 yen for the whole day (5,500 yen for 5 hours).

You can rent out individual items separately if you don’t need the full set. A set without skiwear can also be rented out at 4,000 yen for the whole day (3,000 yen for 5 hours).

Discounted plans that include ski/snowboard rental plus a one-day chairlift pass are available for 8,300 yen (6,300 yen without skiwear).

Refer to the official website HERE for the most up-to-date price list. You can translate it using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.

Tip: If you are a student, remember to bring your student ID for a discount (=゚ω゚)ノ.

If you aren’t comfortable skiing or snowboarding by yourself (or, like us, haven’t tried these sports yet), there are ski/snowboard lessons that you can attend!

  • The pricing for private ski lessons (up to three people) is as follows:
    • 12,000 yen for adults
    • 5,000 yen for children up to 12 years old
  • Group lessons running on weekends and public holidays cost from 3,600 yen to 5,500 yen for both skiing and snowboarding.
  • You will need to be able to speak basic Japanese to join the lessons.

Important: Reservations are required for private lessons 2 days in advance.

Backcountry and Mountain Guide During Snow Seasons

The view from the summit of Mt. Moriyoshi is just jaw-dropping. But without proper knowledge, gear, and physical strength, it can be very dangerous to journey there alone.

Therefore, having a local guide who knows the mountain well and can show you the most beautiful spots of Mt. Moriyoshi is highly recommended.

When planning your trip, contact one of the local guides below for pricing. They both have proper mountain guide licenses.

Mt. Moriyoshi Sightseeing Pass

Up till 2020, from early January to early March, the Mt. Moriyoshi Sightseeing Pass (森吉山観光パス) was on sale. This one-day discounted ticket allowed pass holders unlimited access to the non-express trains on the Akita Nairiku Line. The sightseeing taxi to and from Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort and the return trip on the gondola lift is also included.

For information about where the pass was on sale, please refer to the official website HERE.

☛ Mt. Moriyoshi Sightseeing Pass is not on sale in 2023.
☛ Once purchased, the pass cannot be refunded. Before you buy the ticket, make sure the gondola lift in the ski resort is running.

Mountain Hiking at Mt. Moriyoshi

Hiking from Mt. Moriyoshi Gondola Station to the Summit

From the beginning of May to the end of October each year, Mt. Moriyoshi is open for hikers to explore (note there will be snow until June, so choose your footwear carefully).

There are a couple of hiking courses available. The easiest hiking course to the summit starts from the Mt. Moriyoshi Ani Ski Resort gondola station.

From the gondola station at the top of the mountain, it takes roughly 3.5 – 4 hours for you to get back to the gondola station along the course. The tracks along this course are well maintained and are suitable for children and seniors (=゚ω゚)ノ.

No matter which part of the year you decide to hike Mt. Moriyoshi, the stunning scenery created by the alpine plants will never disappoint!

→ Please don’t wander off the mountain track, or you can get lost
→ Although Mt. Moriyoshi is open for hiking from May, the gondola lift only starts to operate in June.

Hiking from Mt. Moriyoshi Trailhead 

If you want a more challenging hiking course, the Kometsuga course (コメツガコース) is another option to consider.

This hiking course is known as the Kometsuga Mountain Lodge (コメツガ山荘) course because the trailhead is right next to the mountain lodge.

Please note that you will need to either drive there or take the sightseeing taxi from Animaeda Station (阿仁前田駅). It is the E-Route on the top right-hand corner on the second page of the pdf HERE.

Again, booking is essential by calling Yonaizawa Taxi (米内沢タクシー) at +81-186-72-3212.

  • The taxis departing from Animaeda Station need to be booked at least 20 minutes prior
  • The return trip to the station must be booked 2 hours in advance.
  • The one-way cost is 1,600 yen per person
    • 800 yen for children up to and including primary school students)

Please note that the sightseeing taxis only run from the 1st of June to the end of October each year.

Before you start hiking, you can utilize the toilet facility at the mountain lodge. Also, make sure to submit your hiking notification there. Even if there is no one around when you arrive at the lodge, still go in and submit the notification.

This course will take roughly 3 hours to get to the summit of Mt. Moriyoshi. Since most of the tracks are not well maintained on this course (you will be going through bushes and forests), look for the red marks on poles or trees as your guide.

Important: It is also possible to meet a bear during this trip (the possibility isn’t high as they hide from us too). According to the guide (who has been through multiple bear encounters), if you see a bear, do not scream! The safest thing to do is to back out of the scene slowly without scaring the bear.

Yunosawa Yumoto Soma Onsen Ryokan (湯の沢湯本杣温泉旅館)

Yunosawa Yumoto Soma Onsen Ryokan is another accommodation you can consider staying for a night when visiting Mt. Moriyoshi.

The reason? Because they provide the below benefits!

  • Discount coupon for the gondola lift to the Ani Ski Resort
  • They provide free pick-up and drop-off service from Animaeda Station (阿仁前田駅)

One con is you will need to bring your bath towel.


The Stunning Spots along the Akita Nairiku Train Line

Find out more about attractions along the train line by clicking the photo!

The trains of Akita Nariku Line (秋田内陸線) run in the countryside of Akita prefecture. The one-carriage train that is decorated with Akitas (a breed of dog)’s pictures brings its passengers closer to the most beautiful but hidden spots that are less known by travelers in and outside of the country.

Find out more about the beautiful spots with our article HERE!

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