Kansai is famed not just for its bustling cities such as Kyoto and Osaka but also for its many mountains, parks, and trails that offer a great walking day out. Whether you’re looking for a gentle scenic stroll or something a bit more challenging, there are many options across the region and they’re all fairly accessible. With the warm summer weather fast approaching, now is the perfect time to go through a selection of the region’s best walks.
Kurama is a rural town nestled in the mountains of northern Kyoto, around an hour from the city center. The town is accessible by train and, once there, you can enjoy a pleasant scenic walk past waterfalls and tall trees to the Kurama-dera temple that sits at the top of the mountain. Kurama also has hot springs that you may want to take advantage of if you need to soothe any muscle aches and pains. Or perhaps you might prefer to trek on over the mountain to the neighboring town of Kibune that is about an hour’s walk away. At Kibune you can enjoy food and drink in one of the many Japanese inns or restaurants.
One of Osaka’s best nature spots, Minoo Park is a forested valley that sits on the northern outskirts of the city. It is a 30-minute train journey from Umeda station and is known for being a fantastic place to see the autumn colors. There is a 3-kilometer hiking trail alongside the Minoo river that isn’t too challenging as it’s mostly along flat terrain. There are plenty of temples and shops along the way, plus the 33-meter Minoo waterfall. You may even see a few monkeys if you’re lucky.
These series of pilgrimage routes are classified as World Heritage Sites. Located on the southern tip of the Kii Peninsula and spanning across the Mie and Wakayama Prefectures, these trails are visited by many throughout the year but you can choose a manageable section for a great summer day walk. The routes are slightly more challenging as some are across mountainous terrain, but there are inns along the route where you can stay if you want to spread the trek across more than one day. A nice easy section is the 5-mile stretch of the Nakahechi route starting at Hosshinmon-oji.
This low trek through the mountains in the Himeji area close to Kobe takes around 5-6 hours and takes in some lovely views of Osaka Bay as well as Mount Takanosu. The walk starts at Sone station and, although the name suggests high elevation, you don’t travel higher than 200 meters above sea level so it’s not too strenuous. You will see plenty of pine trees and, if you’re lucky, maybe the odd wild boar.
For something a bit different, you can try this abandoned railway trail just outside Osaka that runs between two old stations – Namaze station and Takedao station. The route is about 5-kilometers so it can be completed in around 2-3 hours. It takes you along overgrown railway tracks and through some disused tunnels, so it’s a good idea to wear some sturdy hiking boots and bring a torch.
This beautiful and breathtaking walk in southern Kyoto takes you from the Fushimi Inari shrine through thousands of vermillion torii gates that form an elongated tunnel that leads you slowly up to the 233-meter Mount Inari. The local station is not too far from the center of Kyoto city. The walk can be done at a gentle pace in 2-3 hours with the option to stop for tea along the way if you like.