Kaya-san (可也山 – 365m)
The Itoshima region is renowned for its long, sandy beaches, surf culture and winter oyster season. But it is also a hiker’s paradise, combining technical trails with beautiful views over Kyushu’s northern coastline. Kaya-san (可也山) is a short day hike that is conveniently located next to some of Itoshima’s best oyster huts and within easy reach of Fukuoka’s public transport network. Its two viewpoints offer a panorama that stretches from the seaside caves of Keya no Oto to the tip of Fukuoka Tower, while its sheltered forest and coastal trails allows for year round hiking in one of Fukuoka’s most scenic areas.
Route: Shimanaiba -> Kaya-san (365m) -> Shimakofuji -> Chikuzen-Maebaru
Time: 2-3 hours
Toilets: Shimanaiba (start) and Chikuzen-Maebaru Station
Signage: Plentiful (Japanese)
Water sources: Bring your own
Shoes: Hiking (recommended), Trail (recommended), Running (suitable)
Trekking pole: Useful for descent
Train: From Tenjin, take the Kuko Subway line west until Chikuzen-Maebaru station (approx 30 mins). Here there are toilet facilities and a Family Mart useful for supplies.
Bus: From Chikuzen-Maebaru, a twice hourly bus runs from the bus stop outside the station’s north exit to the beginning of the trail. Alternatively the start of the trail can be reached on foot in approximately 40 minutes.
The Hike Part 1: The Ascent
Opposite the Shimanaiba bus stop, a road runs straight towards the mountain. Take this road and follow it as it curves to the left, past the Bonsho bell of Unjoji temple. Shortly, the road will narrow and then split. Take the right hand option (signposted) onto a worn concrete path that ascends steeply. To your right will lie several abandoned greenhouses which continue to nurse healthy fruit trees. Walk past these to the last, where two signposts will guide you to Kaya-san (1,850m) and onto an earth track.
The trail climbs upwards steeply but is well maintained, with steps in the trickier sections. On these lower reaches, bamboo grows thickly and shelters the path from both sun and wind, leaving the forest cool but not cold. The path at this stage offers few alternative routes aside from the odd rest stop and a magnificent granite boulder with some hand carvings.
From the boulder, the path becomes steeper, before flattening as a radio pylon comes into view. Two rock steps beneath the pylon offer a decent view over Itoshima, but a better one is to be had just above. Next to the pylon a disused supply rail begins its ascent. Follow this for 50m until you see a signpost. The right hand option points to the summit, but the left takes you to a viewpoint above the radio mast, where two benches offer an opportunity for rest.
Retrace to the main path and continue upwards. The path remains steep but quickly flattens with only 600m to the summit. On the first section of flat ground, an abandoned hut stands solemnly dilapidated, housing a rusty filing cabinet and a some broken electricity sockets. Shortly after this is a sign marking a 2.5km descent (小富士梅林へ 2,500m). Do not take this yet, but remember it, as it is the path you will take later to descend Kaya-san.
Follow the main path until you come across a small shrine that contains several statuettes and an orange and black vase. To the left of this, the path splits: one earth, one gravel. Take the earth path upwards until it splits again. Here, take the left hand path to Kanari Shrine (可也裡社), which is encircled by a low rock wall.
Behind Kanari Shrine lies the path which will take you to the summit (100m) and the hike’s main view point (300m). The summit itself is a little underwhelming, surrounded by trees on all sides and barely a hump in the track marked by a signpost. But continue past here and the view will justify the climb, stretching from the seaside caves of Keya no Oto in the west to the tip of Fukuoka Tower in the east.
Part 2: The Descent
View absorbed, pictures taken, return past Kanari Shrine and the smaller shrine until you find the sign marking the descent (小富士梅林へ 2,500m). Follow it downhill where the trail is marked by black and yellow rope, necessary for the steep descent. If it has rained recently, this section can get extremely slippery. The trail is lined by bamboo and thick vines which frequently hang at head height across the path. The descent remains steep for about a kilometer before flattening out onto a ridge. Though the path would seem to carry on forward, follow the signpost down to the right where a short and gentle path descends a valley and crosses a small stream before joining a road.
Follow the road downhill and keep straight at a crossroads before heading right, and into grounds of the green-roofed Tenmangu Shrine. At the front of the shrine, follow the steps down and turn left onto the road until you reach the sea. As the road joins Itoshima’s coastal route 54, you will see a single Torii gate to nowhere, framing the sea and the mountains behind.
Facing the torii gate, follow the road left. 45 minutes along this coastal road will take you back to Chikuzen-maebaru Station. Along route 54 lies Cafe Alkanet, a quaint coffee shop that also serves cake and other snacks. Just past this cafe is an intersection. Take the right hand road to return to the station.
If you do not wish to return to the station immediately and are hiking the trail in winter and early spring, it is very easy from the torii gate to get to some of Itoshima’s famous oyster huts. These line the port wall and are well worth the detour for a delicious lunch. As you come to the start of the harbor along Route 54, take a right and follow the sea wall until you enter the port town of Kafuri, you will probably smell the oyster huts before you see them!
Author: Oscar Boyd
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
Originally hiked and written for Fukuoka Now in 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.