Ogusukuyama 大城山 (410m)
As Fukuoka emerges from its winter, Dazaifu puts on a spectacular show, anticipating the cherry blossom season with its own display of plum blossoms. The warmer weather also brings with it more pleasant hiking conditions, the bite of the wind at the top is no longer so keen and thick winter jackets can be dropped for their lighter cousins. For hiking, Dazaifu is known for Homanzan, the 829m peak that has inspired so many to make a journey to its top, but that is far from the only decent trail. Here, we introduce Ogusukuyama (大城山), which borders Dazaifu to the north. It is a mountain with all the charm of Homanzan – accessibility, shrines, views and beautiful forests – but none of the crowds. From its lower bamboo groves to its upper pine forests, Ogusukuyama is a beautiful day hike, and offers unrivalled views over Fukuoka and its northern coastline.
Route: Dazaifu Station -> Ogusukuyama (410m) -> Tofuro-mae Station
Time: 3-4 hours
Peak: Ogusukuyama (410m)
Toilets: Dazaifu Station (start) and Ogusukuyama
Signage: Plentiful (Japanese)
Water: Bring your own
Shoes: Hiking (recommended), Trail (recommended), Running (suitable)
Trekking pole: Useful for descent
Train: From Tenjin, take the Nishitetsu Line to Dazaifu Station, changing at Nishitetsu Futsukaichi Station (approx 30 mins). At the station there are toilets and a Lawsons useful for supplies.
Price: ¥800 return
Car: Dazaifu has many car parks that cater for the area’s busy tourist season.
To the trail (15 minutes):
After exiting Dazaifu station, cross the crossroads immediately in front of the station and follow the road until it veers sharply to the right. Here there is a bridge to the left – cross it – and follow the road away from the river. Follow the curve in the road to the right as it splits and then take the first left. Follow this road uphill for 200m and follow it right when it splits and then uphill to the left. Stay on this road for another 200m, passing a map board, and keep walking as the gradient gradually steepens. When the road forks, take the left hand fork and follow past a hair salon to a grey Torii gate, marking the start of the trail.
Part 1 – The Old Dazaifu Gates 太宰府口城門
From the grey Torii gate, the path curves round to the left and climbs steeply to a dam wall. The path continues downwards from here and around a small dam lake. On the other side of the lake, four orange Torii gates house an old stone staircase which leads up the mountain. Climb the stairs past a shrine and across a small wooden bridge. A short roped section helps hikers past the steepest part of this section and upwards to a covered picnic area from which you can look back across Dazaifu to Homan. Follow the path upwards away from the picnic area round several bends before coming to a signpost. Both ways continue up the mountain but the left hand path will take you to a series of shrines next to a stream.
Take the left and follow the path down until you come across a white sign that directs you to head right. Follow the sign down and round past a small damn that is well covered by vegetation. Your ears will be able you to guide down to the stream from here and, at the sign marked 33, turn left and downwards to the stream. After taking in the stream’s tranquility, return to the sign marked 33 and now take the right hand path. This will lead you upwards and across a bridge that looks quite rotten but at the time of writing was able to comfortably support our weight. Cross it and you will soon arrive at a road.
Follow the road downhill to the left and carry on around a right hand bend. On the right hand side of the road as you face downhill there is a yellow sign and gutter bridge that leads you up the mountain.
Cross the gutter bridge and follow the path left and then right and you will meet with the road again. Again, follow the road downhill (but to the right this time) and you will find the path on the left hand side of the road marked by a wooden sign which reads 県民の森. The path twists and turns upwards and the forest becomes briefly dominated by bamboo. At the top of this path lies the ruins of one of Dazaifu’s Old City Gates 太宰府口城門. An information board gives its history in Japanese and provides some pictures. Climb the steps to the right of this board towards the ridge. Pass under a large Torii gate and continue to the plateau on top of the mound which makes a great lunch spot overlooking Dazaifu and Homanzan. If you look down from here towards the ruined gate posts, you will see a wooden bridge crossing an old drainage channel. Take the bridge and follow the path up to the road.
Part 2: To the Summit 大城山
The path continues across the road and uphill to the right (signposted). There is no gutter bridge this time so joining the path requires a climb, but a loose root provides a useful step up. Take the path left and keep left as you see a mound ahead of you. Walk beneath the mound until you reach a tree stump marking a split in the paths. Take the right hand path between the two mounds.
Currently there is an archaeological excavation taking place behind the mounds, though of what I am unsure. A sign post here points to the right, but head left down a machine-made path, laden with sandbags. Keep on this and when you reach a signposted cross roads head straight on. Two or three minutes later there will be an obvious split where the path diverges into a black and yellow roped hiking path to the left and a machine-made path to the right. Here, take the hiking path. Keep on this narrow path and follow it round and then uphill until it joins another path, the main path to the summit. Though there are some detours you can take from here, if you remain on this path you will eventually reach the summit by following signs to Ogusukuyama – 大城山. The path is well trodden and alternates between ridge and gully, cutting its way towards the summit. The path will fork at one point, but either of these routes work. The right follows a ridge with some good views before heading down to meet the left. The left is more of a gully and remains the main path to the summit. Continue along this until you see the viewing platform and picnic area up on your right. From the platform there are fantastic views over Fukuoka and if you are a plane spotter great views of the airport’s landing patterns.
Continue on the main path until you reach a route marker pillar and a heavily signposted zone. Take the middle path (pictured) but note the signpost that reads 国分へ (to Kokubu) as this will be your route down the mountain.
The path peaks at a white sign marked 27 (don’t follow this) and then heads downhill. As the path starts to climb again, it forks and here take the left hand fork. Just around the corner you will find a bench which offers more views over the city and the ocean to its north. From here the path skirts a tall pine forest which can be explored. At the next signpost, carry straight on until you see a worn, red Torii gate. Go through the gate and head immediately left up to the shrine that stands on the mountain. While exploring the shrine, not the small red figurines that sit in tree hollows and upon the walls of the shrine.
To the left of the shrine is a low-budget toilet block and a very short climb to a height marker which marks Ogusukuyama’s summit at 410m.
Part 3: The Descent to Kokubu, 国分
Return down the path to the heavily sign posted zone and find the sign which reads 国分へ. This leads to the base of the mountain and Tofuro-mae Station. It is a well trodden path with only one fork so can be travelled with confidence. Boars live in the forest surrounding the path and while they won’t present any danger themselves, they have dug at the path, providing plenty of ankle-spraining potholes. Loose leaves from autumn don’t help the situation and cover these potholes in a thick blanket of leaves, so tread carefully.
After about 20 minutes on this path you will come across a white signpost, route 36 to the left, 37 to the right. Take route 36. Around the next corner there is a large electricity pylon and the path continues below this. From here, the path seems less well trodden but is still very clear. On the lower slopes of the mountain, bamboo again dominates, meaning the forest is both lighter and much greener. Bamboo foliage drops less heavily than the leaves of its deciduous cousins, meaning that the path is not as covered in leaves and easier to walk. The path ends with a green plastic gate which is tied shut with yellow and black rope, but can be easily opened. Don’t forget to shut it behind you.
From here, the roads can be navigated to Tofuro-mae Station, a 20 minute walk. Tofuro-mae operates on the Nishitetsu local line and is one stop from Futsukaichi, where an express or ltd. express can be caught back to Tenjin. The end of the hike also corresponds with the end of the Dazaifu Historical Trail, so if you still have the energy these sites can also be explored along a 4km walk back to the centre of Dazaifu.
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
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Originally hiked and written for Fukuoka Now in February 2015
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.