Mountain Treks in Kansai

ByJustin Hanus
Aug 28, 2023

Mountain Treks in Kansai

Japan is well-known for its vibrant and colorful city life, but beyond its urban sprawl, there is some magnificent natural scenery that makes the place a hiker’s paradise. The Kansai region, home to cities such as Osaka and Kyoto, has an abundance of mountains across its districts. With autumn fast approaching, the climate will soon be perfect for a lush mountainous hike that takes in glorious scenic views. Here is a selection of the best mountain treks in Kansai.

Mount Yoshino

One of the most picturesque treks in the whole region, Mt. Yoshino spans between Nara and Osaka. This World Heritage site is particularly popular during the cherry blossom period in the spring as there are around 30,000 trees in total to wonder at. However, it makes a great hike all year round. The mountain path is split into four sections that cater for those looking for easy to moderate walks. The Shimon Senbon is the lower area with a ropeway, the Naka Senbon is slightly higher up, featuring temples, shrines, and a park, and the higher areas (Kami and Oku Senbon) are for more seasoned hikers, offering great panoramic views.

Mount Kongo

Reaching a peak of well over 1,000 meters, Kongo is Osaka’s tallest mountain. It’s also steeped in historic lore, seen as the birthplace of the Shugendo spiritual practice and the location of a key battle between followers of this belief and imperial forces in the 14th century. The mountain has accessible routes for non-seasoned walkers, with ropeway facilities if you get too tired walking to the top. If you’re up for more of a hiking challenge, it forms part of the wider 45 km diamond trail route that runs through Osaka, Nara and Wakayama. You will find temples, a museum, a café and even a campsite near the summit. The mountain is a popular trekking route during winter as it’s a great place to experience snow in Kansai.

Mount Rokko

One of the key tourist attractions in Kobe, you can visit Mt. Rokko for a fun day out or engage in an energetic hike towards the summit. It takes about 4-5 hours to reach the summit by foot, during which time you will have to negotiate some rocky paths, albeit with some help from chains installed to assist walkers. Fear not if you start to tire as there is an accessible ropeway crossing. During this hike you will see some gorgeous red sandstone as well as the Nunobiki falls and herb garden. Other attractions at the summit include a botanical garden and a petting zoo, not to mention fabulous views of Kobe Harbor. Seasoned walkers can continue the trail onto Mt. Maya or nearby Arima Onsen.

Kisen Alps

The Kisen Alps are a series of rolling peaks playing out on the Osaka-Wakayama border. They are a popular trail with hikers due to their close proximity to the city, meaning that they offer great close-in views. Despite the urban nearness, the walking routes are relatively unspoiled and you can witness plenty of flora and fauna all year round. The terrain can be rough at certain points but there are a few nice picnic spots where you can marvel at views of Osaka, Kansai airport and the Pacific ocean. It takes around two hours to reach the summit. The route is not particularly tough but be sure to wear durable hiking boots.

Mount Atago

Kyoto’s grandest peak reaches the heady heights of around 925 meters, atop which sits the holy Atago Shrine. This one is more of a steep and tiring trek that should only be tackled if you’re looking for a proper hike. It takes around 5 hours to reach the top and there are a lot of steps involved. On the way, expect to see pretty wooded areas, mysterious abandoned buildings and maybe the odd bit of wildlife. The mountain hosts an annual Festival of Good Luck at the end of each July.

Mti, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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