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Minami Alps National Park

Land area: 35,752 ha
Designated on June 1, 1964

Photo: Minami Alps

A range of mountains, each of which is well-known and loved by Japanese climbers, towers over the park. Unlike other mountainous areas, forests extend to places at high altitudes on steep mountains. Its mountain streams develop to become Japan's major rivers and flow into the Pacific Ocean. This is a park in the mountains with abundant natural blessings.

Japan's Representative Mountainous Park

Map: Minami Alps

Minami Alps National Park consists of the major mountains in the Akaishi Mountain Chain and an area which includes the headwaters of the Oigawa River located in the south central part of the main island. It is one of Japan's representative parks in the mountains. As the mountains are very high and the natural conditions are tough for tourists, the park is unique in that almost all visitors are mountain climbers.
The mountain chain has a compound geological formation of Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata, and consists of non-volcanic mountains. It is characterized by deep mountain recesses, massive appearance and magnificent peaks with solid ridgelines.
From Mt. Kaikomagatake (2,967 m) in the north and Mt. Tekaridake (2,591 m) in the south, mountains of around 3,000 m in height stretch 50 km and form a huge mountain chain. It includes Mt. Kitadake (3,193 m), the second highest mountain in Japan after Mt. Fujisan, Mt. Senjogatake (3,033 m) and many other mountains which are familiar to alpinists. Mt. Kaikomagatake and the Three Peaks of Houousanzan are separated from the main peaks that include Mt. Akaishidake by deep valleys. The Three Peaks of Houousanzan are named after Buddhist deities: Mt. Jizogatake (2,764 m), Mt. Kannongadake (2,840 m) and Mt. Yakushigadake (2,780 m). While these three mountains are all under 3,000 m high, they are famous for the beautiful rock faces exposed at the mountaintop and the great views they command.
On the southeastern side of Mt. Senjogatake, some cirques formed by glacial erosion can be found. This massif provides sources for the Oigawa River flowing on the mountain's south slope, the Tenryugawa River on the west slope and the Fujikawa River on the east slope. Water from these rivers erodes the land to create deep valleys, and eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean.

The High Timberline Enables Thick Forests to Extend to High-Mountain Areas

Because of the climate and geological features, the timberline in the mountains in this area is higher than that in other mountains of the same height. Therefore, thick forests extend to high-mountain areas. Forests of northern Japanese hemlocks (Tsuga diversifolia) and Vetch's silver firs (Abies veitchii) cover the mountains up to around an altitude of 2,500 m in the north and 2,700 m in the south. Above these areas, the vegetation changes to that of the alpine zone. In wind beaten lands and snowfields, plenty of alpine plants grow and beautiful fields of flowers can be seen in many places. The area is a habitat for many rare species of alpine plants, some of which can be found only here in Japan. Kitadakeso (Callianthemum hondoense), an endemic of Mt. Kitadake, is an example of such plants.
Regarding the fauna, a large number of mammals such as black bears and Japanese serows live in the park. The area is also a habitat for rock ptarmigans.

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