between the Japanese Alps and Hokkaido lays a huge, mountainous region with ideal ice forming condition – its just little ventured into during winter. all across the region we have come across reports of isolated icefalls that only the locals know about and amongst these is Futakuchi keikoku.
Arguably Japans best ice and mixed climbing location – even if only a handful of climbers know about it – finding out about Futakuchi took a lot of questions, a lot of delving and a lot of misdirections, but eventually we nailed it. sitting in series of low valleys in a perfect ice formation zone (low freeze level, consistant temps and weather, lots of 1000m-ish mountains and narrow gorges, lots of waterfalls) Futakuchi keikoku is Japans quiet cousin to the more popular Yatsugatake, even tho it covers an area 3 times the size.
obscure but well defined: the area topo for Futakuchi keikoku in the old guide book, showing only the classic routes
access is easy, the area is covered in hotsprings and using the shinkansen you can be at the ice area by lunchtime from Tokyo, or most of a day from Niseko
Futakuchi consists of 2 main valleys with an array of about 200 icefalls and mixed routes all laid out like a cross between Ouray and Cogne. no huge mountains to scale, a short approach and easy access to civilization actually makes this a ‘sportier’ location even tho its 3 times the distance from Tokyo than Yatsugatake.
Ice covers the valley walls to form hundreds of routes, including about 30 classics within Japan like Megalomaniacs and The Physical Brothers. with a bunch of routes at around M7-8 and loads of WI3 – 6 ice, if it was anywhere near Tokyo it would eclipse Yatsugatake for popularity, but instead its quiet and esoteric. most of the ice routes are between 30 and 90m, strung along multi-layered bands of volcanic rock either side of narrrow gorges.
a rare image of the route ‘Mihara’, M7+. from Gakujin magazine