Hiking in Sasaguri: 畝原山・Uneharasan and Pilgrimage Walking

I had set out with a particular hike in mind but a closed path had other plans for me. Luckily, I was in Sasaguri which is famous for its 88 temple pilgrimage walk. It takes about 3 days to complete so obviously I did not get it done while accidentally stumbling into it, but I would absolutely love to do it all sometime this year.

I got a beet dyed onigiri with pickled plum at the station before I left, it was so good! The weather forecast a rainy morning but I had faith it would clear up. Personally I really like the atmosphere in the rain on the mountains, and it’s nice to have the place to myself!

There were rice paddies, temples and wild wisteria EVERYWHERE. I had never seen wild wisteria that wasn’t supported by structures to spread them wide so I had no idea how hugely tall they could get.

Along the pilgrimage walk was a little more populated. There were a number of abandoned cars and appliances, my favourite road-side mushrooms and miso for sale, and of course more wisteria.

One of the reasons I wanted to come hear was for the waterfalls and the dam, and I was not disappointed. I was really surprised by the Henro 88 trail, it was so sweet and well done. I really can’t wait to go back. At this point I circled back to the train station I came from but decided to head south to keep on the pilgrimage path a while.

There was more beautiful waterfalls, strange debris and bamboo everywhere I went.

It was not the hike I had planned at all but I am so happy I got the chance to explore Sasaguri a little!

As always, here is my course on Yamap.

Hiking The Tallest Peak in Fukuoka: Mount Sefuri・脊振山 Edition

At just 5 minutes shy of 8 hours, I think this was my longest hike since moving here. The Sefuri mountains are on the Fukuoka/Saga border and are the highest in Fukuoka prefecture (1,054.6 m). The path I took up was a little long, but without a doubt the prettiest I have taken up in Fukuoka. Every 5 minutes I was walking by or in a new little stream or waterfall.

There was one of the funniest trail heads (or ends) I have ever seen, a huge, long rope to pull yourself up on with a swimming pool ladder to get out of the path! I loved it, it was really fun without being difficult, and popping up at the top felt like I was coming from a different world.

The views of the city were pretty amazing, but I can’t say it was my favourite summit. Although there is a nice shrine and tiny shelter, it is also home to the Japanese Air Self Defense Force so there was barbed wire and lots of buildings complete with parking lots. I was the only person up there but still, it was more relaxing to only face away from the barbed wire fences.

This was from near Mt. Kana・金山 where the surrounding mountains were particularly beautiful. I sadly didn’t get that many good pictures because I was focused on my timing. I will definitely go back so I can spend more time in the waterfalls though so it’s fine by me.

Finally at the end of the day I got to see some pretty blossoms along the way. From the bus stop I could see the Air Self Defense Force at the top of the center mountain in the distance. It was very fun to see how far I had come, it looks so tiny!

And of course here is my whole 8 hour trip hike on Yamap.

Hiking in Kirishima Kinkowan National Park Part 1: 韓国岳・Mount Karakuni Edition

The only good Mondays are vacation Mondays! This was from our hike last week down in the south of Kyushu, in Kagoshima. While I have been typically lucky with the weather while hiking, my luck ran out on this hike! I had chosen Kirishima specifically for the breathtaking views, and I cannot wait to come back to see those views someday because I didn’t see much on this trail. At best, it was cloudy; at worst I couldn’t see 5 meters in from of my face. But! That doesn’t mean it did not have wonderful highlights.

The first part of the hike is known as the lake viewing trail. Luckily, I was able to see a couple lakes after the clouds cleared when we double backed on the trail. Kirishima, like a lot of Japan, is heavy with volcanoes that contribute to the amazing scenery. This area is still quite active! On February 1st, just a few weeks earlier there was enough volcanic activity that some of the trails and roads were too dangerous (lethal levels of toxic emissions) to go on. Which turned out well for me, as the clouds cleared on the way back and I got a peek of the views.

Towards the top, and particularly at the summit, visibility was not great for the most part. The hike up itself wasn’t bad and I just kept thinking about when I could come back next time!

Every time the clouds would pass for an instant I could get an idea of the altitude I was walking through. It was very interesting being around 1700m meters up and not seeing anything around me to give a sense of depth.

Closer to the bottom, I found a really nicely maintained shelter and I took a break from the wind in there. Nearer to the end, I couldn’t believe how much greenery came out of nowhere! As did the sun, so at least I wasn’t in the clouds all day long.

Later on our way to dinner we drove past a look out spot where we could see the mountain I had hiked earlier. Unfortunate that this was the clearest view of it I had gotten all day but such as life! There are so many course to do here that I wouldn’t hesitate to come back and give it another try. Plus, my lucj did change quite a bit the next day.

And here is my course on Yamap!

Hiking In Aso: A Continuation of the Most Amazing Place

This is another day from my hiking trip last week, a little further south in Aso which is very famous for it’s beautiful scenery, nature and parks. Even the drive up (left photo) was incredible.Our first hike was a quick little warm-up on Mount Eboshi・烏帽子岳 (right photo). We started off close to the crater and just did a quick loop around.

The view from the top! It felt so different from the scenery the day before in Kuju, an hours drive away.

Back at the bottom where we started, you can spot my friend in the bottom right picture. We took a quick peak close to the crater where we could see some volcanic activity.

It really felt out of this world walking around the peaks. We headed up to Minamidake (South Mountain) and onto Nakedake (Central Mountain). The visual history of the terrain was breathtaking. Again, we were the only ones on the whole mountain range that we saw.

We had another incredible sunset at the top, this time at Nakadake with the active volcano behind us.

We couldn’t resist not using the little burner again so we had cup noodles and coffee. Also, all the restaurants close around 7:30pm so there are not an overwhelming amount of choices at night. Honestly, nothing takes as good as noodles at 1700m with this view.

Eventually we made our way back down and were spoiled with the clouds and sunset. I can’t believe how lucky we had been. The hike before there hadn’t been a cloud in the sky and we were covered in stars so we really got the best of both worlds each day.

It was painful to leave, and now I am constantly searching for the next place to go.

Here is the course we took on Yamap.

Hiking in Kuju・九重 AKA The Most Beautiful Place I Have Ever Been To

Mid-week I took a little vacation so a friend and I could hike around the Aso region. I had been pretty busy with work and had done barely the minimum amount of preparation for the hikes. Which worked out wonderfully, I was completely overwhelmed with the beauty of the place. It is unbelievable to me that these views are so close (kind of) to where I live. We got so lucky in so many ways: weather, trail conditions, no closures due to volcanic activity and we didn’t see a single other person the entire hike. We had the whole mountain range to ourselves and it was something I’ll always remember.

Even though it’s still technically winter it was warmer than I had thought it could be. The ground was still icy but it was very beautiful. In the first part of the trip we walked through some valleys with buried signposts and eventually reached Hutate Pass (bottom left picture). Then it’s time to really start going up. There is this golden grass everywhere and at this time of day it was just magical to climb up (bottom right picture) to the first peak, Mt. Shiroguchi・白口岳.

Here we are at the top, ready to make lunch. I have often seen people using these little campfire burners on hikes and I cannot believe I waited until now to get one. Coffee has never tasted better than it has at 1700m. We had funny ‘just-add-water’ camping food and it was just the best. In the distance you can see the Sleeping Bhuddha made up of the 5 main peaks in Aso.

These are in around the second peak, Mt Inahoshi・稲星山. All this area was formed by volcanic activity, and some of the volcanoes are still active.

At 1786.5m, we made it to Mt Kuju・久住山. It was so windy and incredible. It’s easy to understand how addictive mountain hopping here can get; there are just so many, so close and every view is more beautiful than the last. You can see the crater (right, middle picture) surrounded by mountains and if you look very closely you can see the ash coming from the Nakadake in the distance. Tragically, just after we got to the top my phone completely shut down so the bottom right picture is the last I was able to take for a while. As we were descending the sun went down and I got one last picture (bottom left). There wasn’t a cloud in the sky so our view of the stars was maybe the best I’ve ever seen.

I took all of these photos on my old, half broken phone and wish they could do more justice to reality. It was the best.

Here is the course I took on Yamap

Hiking the Bull Mountains: Totoro Edition

I went back to Onojo in the south of Fukuoka to go hiking in the Ushikubi・牛頸 area. Some of the trails create the outline of a bull, and Mount. Ushikubi・牛頸山 means Bull’s Neck mountain.

Here is the summit (447m), I love a mountain souvenir! There is a New Year’s wreath, a bucket with small sticks you can take as a summit souvenir, and in the box on the left you can write down your name and the conditions of your trip in the mountain diary.

I have not seen the Totoro films, or have any special attachment to him, but that did not stop me from adding around 3 hours to my trip to go visit him in the forest. It was so fun to see! It’s always fun when people do creative things in nature.

There were many peaks I hit on this hike, but they were not always obvious, with small markers but the trails were really beautiful. Not a ton of views but still nice.

Towards the end there were a lot of bamboo forests.

This is in and around Tenpaizan・天拝山, which is part of the Kyushu Nature Trail that I would love to spend more time on, maybe when the flowers start to come out. You are encouraged not to feed the cats (I saw a lot of) or boars (luckily, no). This was the first time I have seen ume・plum blossoms outside, I definitely never saw them so early in Tokyo. Makes me hopeful spring is here soon. I really love these old maps, I will have to come back later to find everything.

At the end there was a little garden and temple with a small local souvenir shop. You can buy hardboiled eggs for ¥70, but I went for hot fresh genmai amazake・玄米甘酒 with fresh grated ginger. For a sweet they had lunar eclipse manjus, little pastries with purple sweet potato paste inside. It was truly an incredible way to end the 6 hour hike.

I have a pretty big hike coming up so hopefully this was good practice for it!

And as always, here is my route on Yamap.