Exploring the flora, fauna and historical attractions of a new place is sometimes the best way to appreciate it. Some people might think just walking around in the more populous parts of a city or country and enjoying their cuisine is good enough to experience what the place has to offer. Others find it more satisfying when traversing rivers, standing in awe at the foot of waterfalls, hiking up the steep slopes and stopping by at temples and shrines. There’s that magical feeling every time you are in touch with nature and history that’s utterly priceless.
Japan, especially in the Kansai region, has a lot to offer in the hiking and trekking department. There are different hiking levels that will suit you and the people you’re traveling with. Certain routes are awesome for kids and the elderly so you don’t have to worry about not experiencing the best of the region because you have to consider your companion’s welfare. Tours range from nature tours, pilgrimage tours, village tours or a mix of everything. Here’s a quick look at some of the places where you can get a fascinating glimpse of the beauty of Kansai.
Mount Kongō, Osaka
It’s so famous that ships and other naval vessels are named after it. What do you expect to experience hiking up the tallest mountain in Osaka? Visitors pay homage to one of the most revered peaks of the region during the winter season because it’s quite rare to see snow in this city. It’s also the birthplace of a native religion, Shugendo, and in 1330 was the site of a battle between the imperial loyalists and the Shogunate.
Mt. Ikoma, Nara and Osaka
Located on the border of Nara and Osaka Prefectures, this famous picnic spot is a part of the Kongō-Ikoma-Kisen Quasi-National Park. It’s also the home to the Ikoma Sanjo Amusement Park, a shrine, a temple and one of the “Sixty-Eight National Views”. If you’re also in Japan for the cherry blossoms, you’re in luck here because you’ll see them along the way from the mountain temple to the town.
Mount Yoshino, Nara
Another famous cherry blossom spot is this mountain that is also known as Yoshinoyama in Nara Prefecture. The most beautiful and picturesque blooms have been viewed here for centuries. It was said that its 30,000 sakura trees of different varieties were planted around 1300 years ago. It’s best to visit and trek the mountain in late March or early April.
Mount Bunagatake, Shiga
It takes a day to hike to the highest peak in the Hira mountains in Shiga Prefecture but with the series of trails branching from it, you’d probably want to stay longer to explore the beauty of the village, mountains, waterfalls, and the false summit and until you reach the real one up there in the clouds. If it’s one of the 200 Most Famous Mountains of Japan and 100 Most Famous of the Kansai Region then it’s going to be worth dirtying your hiking boots for.
Mount Atago, Kyoto
Since it’s quite obvious that this list mentions the highest peaks, this mountain’s surely not one to miss. It’s the highest mountain in Kyoto and also taller than Mount Hiei on the opposite side of town. It’s popular as a pilgrimage route to Atago Shrine that sits atop it. It was built at the beginning of the eighth century B.C., some 1300 years ago by Taicho. A festival called Sennichi Tsuyasai is celebrated on the night of July 3.
Mount Rokko, Hyogo
There’s technically not just one mountain that’s named Rokko but it’s a series of mountains and the highest peak is called Rokkōsan-Saikōhō. This mountainous area is home to the Arima Onsen, Rokkō Alpine Botanical Garden, Nunobiki Herb Garden, Nunobiki Falls and the first golf course in Japan, the Kobe Golf Club, that was built in 1903. You’d surely have a lot on your list of activities if you spend a good number of days hiking in Kobe.
Mount Gozaisho, Mie and Shiga
Also called Gozaisho-dake, it is one of the tallest mountains in the Suzuka Mountain Range in Mie and Shiga. It serves as an entryway to the other mountains in the area where you can marvel at the raw beauty of nature. You can ride the Gozaisho Ropeway to reach the Yunoyama Hot Springs. You can also go skiing at the Gozaisho Ski Resort so you can also see how pretty this mountain is when blanketed by snow.
Takeda Castle Ruins, Hyogo
Also known as “The Castle Above the Clouds”, which basically is a literal description of it judging to the sea of clouds surrounding it when the weather conditions are just right. Come and visit sometime between September to November to personally view it. Make sure you get more information about the area, like what equipment you need and when you can go up safely. It takes 3 hours round trip but seeing the mysterious allure of the clouds and the ruins are well worth it.
Having all the time in the world to travel to Japan and trek these majestic mountains is quite a luxury but if you really want to go you’ll have to allocate a good amount of time and appropriate resources to be able to experience everything in its glory. For now, add any these or all of them to your bucket list so you’ll be inspired to pack your hiking boots and climb them someday.