Great Walks in Kansai

ByJustin Hanus
Apr 26, 2024

Great Walks in Kansai

With summer fast approaching, it’s the perfect time to plan a jaunt or two away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Japan is a country well-known for its bright and busy cities but it also contains some spectacular natural scenery. The Kansai region, home to the former capital Kyoto, has an abundance of both rural beauty and rich history making it a walker’s paradise. You can choose anything from leisurely strolls to multi-day hikes taking in mountains, river trails, temple pilgrimages and more. Here are a few routes to follow.

Kumano Kodo

This world-renowned ancient pilgrimage trail is a UNESCO World Heritage Site route. Nestled within the Kii mountain range and spanning 35 km from Mie to Wakayama prefecture, it’s a series of trails that take around 4-5 days to complete. Most walkers focus on a single route, for example the 8 km Nakahechi stretch, but there are inns along the way if you want to complete the trail with overnight stops.

The route is lined with shrines and temples and the mountainous parts take you to an elevation of over 1 km, so you’ll need your hiking boots if you want to tackle these parts. Highlights include the Koyasan temple town in the mountains, Nachi Falls, and the hot springs at Yunomine.


Mt. Yoshino

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with temples, Yoshino is a beautiful mountain in Nara prefecture. It’s one of the most popular Kansai locations for cherry blossom viewing during springtime on account of the 30,000 trees that sit along the lower parts. It’s a great walk at any time of year, though, with the whole trek taking you to a peak of around 400 m in approximately 4-6 hours. You can also just saunter along the lower paths among the trees or take a stroll through the old Yoshino town.

Fukuchiyama Abandoned Railway

If you fancy something a bit more quirky – and spooky – how about a journey along a disused railway track? The JR Fukuchiyama line runs through Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, but some of the old track in Hyogo prefecture close to Osaka is no longer operational and has been turned into a pleasant walk. It’s a 5 km stretch that starts about 20 mins walk from Namaze station and takes you close to Takedao station. The walk lasts around 2 hours taking in overgrown railroads, disused tunnels, the Mukogawa Gorge and lush mountain views. It’s flat so anyone can do it but you may need a torch to negotiate a couple of the long tunnels.

Temple Towns Walk

This beautiful nature hike runs from Arashiyama to Takao in Kyoto prefecture. Arashiyama is a well-known tourist spot famed for its temples and natural beauty. The trail to the nearby town of Takao lasts around two hours and takes you along the picturesque Kiyotaki river. You can start off at Arashiyama’s monkey park and follow the path that links Gioji, Otagi Nenbutsuji and Jingoji temples, absorbing some of Kyoto’s most stunning wilderness as you go.

Kuroi Castle Ruins

Located 350 m up a mountain in Hyogo, this hike incorporates a fair bit of local history without being too physically demanding. The castle was built in the 14th century and was abandoned at the start of the Edo period. All that’s left now are the wall foundations. The trek to the summit is 2-3 km so it takes about an hour. There are two routes therefore allowing you to turn the whole thing into a loop walk taking 2-3 hours, which will leave plenty of time to savour the breathtaking panoramic views from the top.

Nankou Oronain (as36…, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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