Hiking Guide: Homanzan and Sangunsan

Homanzan 宝満山 (829m) and Sangunsan 三郡山 (936m)

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The heart of hiking in Fukuoka
Conveniently located close to the famous Dazaifu Tenmangu, Homanzan is one of the most popular mountains in Fukuoka with hikers from all walks of life. The summit not only offers a magnificent panorama of the surrounding area but also a mountaintop shrine, while the main path leading up to it features hundreds of ancient stone steps. With many easy-to-follow trails and even a camp ground near the summit, Homanzan provides a great hiking experience for all levels.

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Course Details
Kamado Jinja > Homanzan > Gyosha-michi > Kamado Jinja

Level: Beginner-Intermediate
Time: 4~5 hours
Distance: ~6km
Elevation: 829m

Facilities
Toilets: Biotoilet near summit
Signage: Plentiful (Japanese)
Water sources: Several
Other: Camp ground/lodge

Equipment
Shoes: Trail (recommended), Trekking (recommended), Running (suitable)
Trekking pole: Useful for descent

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Getting there
TRAIN/BUS: From Tenjin, take the Nishitetsu train line to Futsukaichi (二日市), then listen for the announcements and change to the train bound for Dazaifu (太宰府). Depending on connections the trip takes 25-30mins and costs ¥390.

From Dazaifu Station, the trailhead at Kamado Jinja (竈門神社)can be reached on foot in about 30mins, or in 10mins via the cheap and convenient local bus, MahorobaGO (まほろば号). When exiting the ticket gate, you may see buses in the plaza directly in front – ignore these bus stops and instead cross the road to the left. The MahorobaGO bound for Uchiyama (内山) runs approximately every half hour and costs ¥100 to the end of the line at Kamado Jinja.

MahorobaGO schedule (Japanese):
http://www.city.dazaifu.lg.jp/data/open/cnt/3/8656/1/utiyamaikiheijitu.pdf

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The hike
In addition to the very popular main route, this hike also takes in Odakeyama via the “pilgrim’s path” on the descent – a less-frequented route that offers a respite from the seemingly-endless stone stairway. There is also an option to extend the hike to the higher peak of Mt. Sangun which incorporates the Odakeyama route.
The trailhead lies behind Kamado Jinja, a beautiful shrine at the foot of Homanzan and the final stop on the Uchiyama bus route.

STAGE 1: Kamado Jinja > Homanzan
From the bus stop, take the stairs leading up to the shrine and follow them up to the main courtyard. To the left of the shrine is a sign pointing to the Homanzan trail (宝満山登山道入口), and the path beyond slopes down out of the complex. Follow the road uphill to the right where a large torii gate indicates the trailhead.

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The hike up follows part of the Kyushu Nature Trail (九州自然歩道), a network of trails stretching down to Kagoshima in the south and Nagasaki in the west. After a short climb the path emerges onto a road – instead of following it head for the narrow gravel track on the corner straight ahead, which climbs gradually and eventually rejoins the main trail after bypassing the paved section.

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Follow the path through this gradual section and signs will soon indicate the ichi no torii (一の鳥居), a large torii gate beyond which the going starts to get tougher. Before arriving at the gate the path will cross two roads, but the trail is always clearly visable and well marked.

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Past the ichi no torii, the trail consists mostly of Homanzan’s characteristic stone steps, and lots of them. Beginners should be careful to pace themselves and take breaks as required. Not long after the torii signs will indicate a small water source (水場) just off the trail, but in warmer months it’s more likely to be full of mosquitoes than drinkable water. Continue up the steps as there are better places to rest up ahead.

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Further up the winding stone path is a more reliable water source with several benches. While there are several places to take a break further up this is the last water source before the top, so it can turn into a crowded rest area on busy days. Be careful not to push yourself too hard – there are still plenty of steps to be climbed.

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Eventually, several gaps in the trees will provide a nice view of the city below and a good indication of how far you’ve come. Not far ahead is the hyakudan gangi (百段ガンギ), a section of uniformly cut steps that is regarded as one of the more difficult of the hike. They emerge into a small opening which includes the ruins of a stone building.

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From here there are only a few more sections of steps to the chugu (中宮) remains, a clearing some 20 minutes below the summit. Just past the clearing is one of the few forks in the path. Take the steps straight ahead and a few minutes later you will come across a second fork which resembles the first – this time take the dirt path to the right.

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This last stretch to the top consists mostly of climbing rocks and boulders, until the final concrete staircase emerges at the shrine atop the summit.

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Optional Stage: Mt Sangun
From the summit of Homanzan there is the option for an easy hike to a second, higher peak, Sangunsan 三郡山 (936m). Sangun is one of the highest mountains in Fukuoka’s immediate vicinity so offers fantastic views over Fukuoka prefecture. This will add an extra two hours to your hike.

Take the chained path (to the left of Homan’s upper shrine) down. You will come to a flat area with a map board. Two paths lead away from here. The right path will take you to the Homanzan campsite and to the base of Homan (instructions below). The left and ascending path will take you to Sangun (signposted)

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Follow this path onto a ridge which runs between the two peaks. After about half a kilometre of undulating hills, the path will diverge. Here, take the right hand route around a slight corner (a map board almost immediately presents itself).

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Shortly after this you will come to a small shrine which marks the summit of Bucchozan 仏頂山 (869m).

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Keep to the ridge for the next two kilometres and you will reach Sangun. The top of Sangun is home to several Bond-esque radio and observation towers but spectacular views are to be had from the viewpoint above these. Once you see the towers, follow the path to the right around a concrete wall until you get to a road. Follow the road up and round to the left until you are walking between two of the structures. Follow the road over its hump and, at the end of the right hand wall, you will see a path heading upwards to the right. At the top of this is the true summit of Sangun (936m) with fantastic views back towards Homan and over the mountains to the west.

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Once you have finished enjoying the views, there are two options for descent. The first of these is to follow the road to the base of Sangun and is rather uninteresting, leaving you far from any transport links. The second of these is to return the way you came to rejoin the trail down Homanzan, a far more pleasant hike to the base.

STAGE 2: Homanzan > Gyosha-michi
Take some time to rest and enjoy the view because the way down from the summit requires a clear head and steady legs. A staircase descends behind the large boulder in the center of the summit, on the opposite side to the shrine. At the bottom is a steep section with chains and metal plates fixed into the rock. First time visitors should make use of the footholds and take their time getting down.

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From here the going gets easier. When the path forks, follow it right as it heads down to the camp ground, which is only a short walk from the summit.

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The Houmanzan Camp Center (宝満山キャンプセンター) includes a camp ground and log cabin where visitors can rest or even spend the night for a small cost. Behind this are several bio-toilets, and following the path beside these shortly leads to a good water source.

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Close to the path that lead down to the camping ground from the summit is another which continues down the mountain. From here on signs will indicate several different side routes, but follow those in the direction of Kamado Jinja, written either as かまど神社 or sometimes as 竈門神社.

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Before long this path will emerge into the clearing with the chugu (中宮) remains, which should be a familiar sight from the way up. From here there are two options for the way down – following the Kyushu Nature Trail which was used on the way up, or the gyosha-michi (行者道), a lesser-known alternative that provides a change of scenery from the stone stairs. The latter can be accessed by a small path to the left of the main trail before descending from the clearing.

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STAGE 3: Gyosha-michi > Kamado Jinja

The gyosha-michi is mostly a trodden dirt path which is fairly easy to follow despite limited signage and the occasional rock to climb over. For some time the main path can be seen to the right but very soon disappears as the gyosha-michi dips down through bamboo groves before running along a wire fence.

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Some steeper sections have ropes or ladders, but these are not really required and should be used with caution. Take the time to check the path ahead – at one point it follows alongside an overhanging rock and at first glance seems to continue straight ahead, but actually lies down to the right.

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After some time the path forks, and a sign indicates Kamado Jinja to be 60 minutes in either direction. While they merge again shortly at Torigoe Pass (鳥越峠 or 鳥追峠), these should not be treated as equal paths – the left is much harder to follow and not suited for beginners. Take the right for a fairly easy path down to the pass.

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Torigoe pass is a crossroads of several paths, which may be confusing at first. While seemingly the shortest route, the path directly to Kamado Jinja consists largely of old logging roads that make for rather uncomfortable and slow progress. On the other hand, the path that runs via the Odakeyama shrine (愛嶽山 or おだけ神社) is a very pleasant and interesting hike.

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More of a shrine in the forest than a mountain, Odakeyama is reached by a gradual climb on an easy path. The approach passes firstly through some unique metal torii gates before stairs lead up to the old shrine. The path back to Kamado lies to the left of these stairs.

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The remainder of the trail is easy to follow as it winds gently down through cedar trees, eventually emerging from the forrest just before dropping back into Kamado Jinja.

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Comments & Tips
• Homanzan is very popular, and on weekends the main trail can get busy with people of all ages. Be patient and aware of people around you, and let faster climbers pass.
• Kamado Jinja is home to 2 resident deer, kept in a small pen near the path. Visitors can hand-feed them with food obtained near the main building.
• When using the chains to descend from the summit, wait until the previous person is completely at the bottom. Only one person at a time should be using a section of chain. A pair of gloves also makes tackling the chains and ropes safer and more comfortable.
• The cabin at the Houmanzan Camp Center can be used as overnight lodging (¥500). While the facilities are very well maintained, bedding/cooking gear is not provided. For more information visit the website (Japanese): http://www1.bbiq.jp/houman_k/3page/3page.html
• If the area has received some recent rain, the gyosha-michi may be muddy and slippery. Good shoes and a trekking pole come in handy. You are far less likely to meet other hikers on this path, so take care if travelling alone.
• Until recently, the path leading away from Odakeyama shrine towards Kamado Jinja was home to a unique shrine carved into the trunk of a tree. On a recent visit it was very sad to see this is no longer around.

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• Tsukushi no Yu (都久志の湯, adults ¥500) is a bath house only a few minutes walk from Kamado Jinja. Follow the signs from the carpark near the bus stop for a well-deserved soak.

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• A short way downhill from the carpark is a cafe called Hitotoki (人と木) that sells apple pies for those looking to treat themselves on the walk back to Dazaifu or while waiting for the bus.

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alps-kam

Authors: Kamil Spychalski & Oscar Boyd
Kamil Spychalski is an Australian resident of Fukuoka and recently turned hiking fanatic. Since last year Kam’s been exploring many of the great hiking trails near and not so near to Fukuoka. Each month he will share details of his recommended trails for beginners and the more advanced.

Oscar is a student from London, UK. He is a keen hiker and aims to summit every mountain in Fukuoka visible from his bedroom window. If you have any suggestions contact him on Twitter @omhboyd

►Full Hiking Guide here.

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Originally written for Fukuoka Now September 2013. Accurate as of December 2014.
NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by Fukuoka Now staff. While we have done our best to check for accuracy there is a possible of error and facility details may change. If you notice any errors or changes please contact us. This report was originally written in September of 2013.

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