Ibarayama (井原山 – 983m) and Raizan (雷山 – 955m)
To the south of Itoshima’s Keya Beach lie the twin peaks of Ibarayama (983m) and Raizan (955m) and one of Fukuoka’s best hikes. With waterfalls, stunning panoramas and dense forests, this is one of the most (if not the most) scenic hikes in Fukuoka but it is not without its fair share of challenges. Steep climbs and long roped sections mean that this hike is not for the faint of heart, and should only be considered by those who are confident in their experience and fitness. The rewards are worth the challenge however, and hikers will come away both exhausted and satisfied by this tricky but beautiful hike.
- Route: Chikuzen Maebaru Station -> Raizan Kannon Mae Bus Stop (雷山観音前バス停) -> Ibarayama (983m) -> Raizan (955m) -> Raizan Kannon Mae Bus Stop -> Chikuzen-Maebaru Station
- Level: Advanced
- Time: 6-7 hours
- Distance: ~19km
- Max Elevation: 983m
- Toilets: Raizan Kannon Mae Bus Stop
- Signage: Some (Mostly Japanese, some English)
- Water sources: Bring your own
- Shoes: Hiking Shoes
- Trekking pole: Very Useful
- Train: From Tenjin, take the Kuko Subway line west to Chikuzen-Maebaru Station (approx 30 mins). Here there are toilets and a Family Mart useful for supplies.
- Bus: From Chikuzen-Maebaru, an infrequent community bus (looks like a yellow van) runs to Raizan Kannon Mae Bus Stop (雷山観音前バス停 – 20 minutes). Upon arriving at the bus stop (a large lay-by with decent toilets) double check return times as return buses are also infrequent.
Timetable: Click here. Between 前原駅南口 and 雷山観音前 and vice versa.
- Car: The Raizan Kannon Mae Bus Stop (雷山観音前バス停) doubles as a car park.
Maps: Physical copies of the route map can be found in a waterproofed box next to map board across the road from the bus stop. While all direction is in Japanese, the map is extremely useful and of good quality.
Part 1 – From Raizan Kannon Mae Bus Stop – 1 hour
From the bus stop, walk up the hill for about three minutes until you come to a hairpin bend. On the left hand side of the road, signs point to ‘Zubaji Mountain Cottage’ and ‘Iwarayama Raizan Halfway Natural Sidewalk’. Take the turn and follow the track (the light blue line on the official map) around the corner for about 5 minutes until you come to a steel welding shed and another set of signposts on the right pointing uphill onto a smaller track.
Take this track and follow it upwards through the forest for about half an hour, occasionally crossing minor roads. The route is well signposted – keep following the signs to the Ibarayama Mountain Entrance Bus Stop (井原山入口バス停). After about 30 minutes, the trail will start heading downhill. Keep on the trail and after 30 minutes you will emerge onto a road (marked as a green dashed line intersecting the light blue line on the official map).
Part 2 – Arai Valley Route (洗谷ルート) – 2 hours
Follow the road around to the right and you will soon come to a bridge. Do not cross the bridge, instead take the path that leads up the mountain on the right hand side of the road, past an artificial waterfall.
This trail is marked as a purple dashed route on the map and follows the river for almost its entire course. The path starts strongly and meanders alongside the river, but as you ascend becomes less obvious as it crosses and recrosses the river. Sometimes the next section of the path requires some searching at either bank of the river, but the route is usually marked by small pieces of red tape or stacks of stones.
Though the river is not deep enough to pose any danger, it is certainly enough to get your feet wet if you are not wearing hiking boots. This section of the hike is both one of the most beautiful sections and also the most challenging. At points you must use the fixed ropes to climb near vertical sections of the trial.
After an hour and a half of following the river you will come to a large, two stage waterfall marked on the map as 二段の滝. From here, the path will climb more steeply away from the river and up into the forest. In the forest the path is less obvious, and if you lose your bearings, just keep heading uphill towards the ridge above, where you will eventually meet the main path that traverses the ridge between the two peaks. Assuming you stay on the main path, you will eventually emerge onto the ridge path.
Part 3 – The Traverse (縦走ルート) – 2 hours
The ridge runs between Ibarayama and Raizan, a journey that takes around an hour and a half. On the map, the traverse route is represented as a strong, solid purple line. Whilst the forest and river sections are fairly enclosed, the ridge is at times very exposed, so watch out for high winds, sun and rain and pack appropriately for the weather.
After emerging from the Arai Valley and the forest, turn left on the ridge to head towards Ibarayama, a 25 minute walk that first heads downhill before climbing to the peak. The peak itself is very open and offers fantastic views north to the sea, east to Fukuoka, south to central Kyushu and west to Raizan. Enjoy!
To get to Raizan, follow the traverse path back the way you can for about an hour and 20 minutes. After about 45 minutes, you will reach a lesser, unnamed peak (944m), which though small offers another panorama. From this peak, the route is largely covered until you get to Raizan. The views from Raizan are stunning, and a large rock gives an extra vantage point over the heart of Kyushu.
Part 4 – The Descent – 1 hour 30
From behind the height marker at Raizan, a path runs down the north face of the mountain (solid salmon-pink on the map). The descent starts off very steeply – hiking poles can be useful to take off some of the strain. After 20 minutes, you will reach a shrine (雷神社上宮) dedicated to the thunder god the mountain is named after.
From the shrine, follow the sign to the nature path entrance (自然歩道入口 – 2,248m). The path flattens out considerably and after half an hour you will reach the Kiyoshiga waterfall (清賀の滝), a large, two-stage waterfall that stretches back up into the mountain. There are two picnic benches here if you’ve not yet eaten lunch.
The path now follows the river for its remainder – keep following signs pointing to the nature trail (歩道入口). The trail will cross a winding mountain road, but the path is always easy to pick up again on the other side, and well signposted. If in doubt, stick close to the river. Eventually the path merges with a concreted track that runs around a few houses before eventually merging with the road from which you started the hike. Follow the main road down and you’ll reach the bus stop and the end of the hike.
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 July 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.