Kamil Spychalski and Oscar Boyd are residents of Fukuoka and hiking fanatics. Since last year they’ve been exploring many of the great hiking trails near and not so near to Fukuoka. Here they share their favourite hiking trails alongside tips to make your adventures as fun as possible.
About the guide
While Fukuoka may not be home to rugged alpine terrains such as those found in central Japan, there are plenty of destinations to keep hikers interested. In fact, the close proximity of many trails and the availability of public transport make Fukuoka a perfect destination for those who want try this popular pastime for themselves. Unlike many parts of the country the Kyushu climate also means that hiking in Fukuoka can be enjoyed year-round, so those hoping to tackle Mt. Fuji can start training well before the snow starts melting on Japan’s iconic mountain.
Despite the variety of convenient day trips from the Fukuoka City area, limited English-language information may prevent foreigners from taking advantage of these getaways. While the majority of signage and maps are in Japanese, the going gets easy once you know what to look for.
This guide offers transport and trail information (see “Hikes in Fukuoka” below for detailed information) to help get you started in discovering a different side of Fukuoka! Finally, please leave some comments on this page or under the specific courses with your questions or your own experiences – we can all learn from each other!
When to Hike
While Fukuoka’s mountains are accessible throughout the year, the best times to hike are spring and autumn. Aside from stable, pleasant weather conditions, the mountain scenery (flowers in spring, changing leaves in autumn) during these seasons makes the trip even more worthwhile. Keep in mind that springtime comes a little later to the mountains, and don’t be surprised to see bare trees on the trails even though the cherry blossoms are in full bloom in the city.
In the warmer months, head for places with mountain streams or waterfalls, which are cool and refreshing even in the heat of summer. However, be prepared to encounter a lively array of flying insects, spider webs on less-frequented trails and even the occasional snake.
In winter and early spring, the trails in higher areas may be covered in snow even if there hasn’t been any sign of it in the city below. Be prepared with appropriate footwear and snow spikes (crampons) if necessary, as well as cold weather gear for the lower temperatures.
At all times during the year, be aware that weather can be more fickle in the mountains and pack accordingly, including layers to keep out the rain or cold. Layering clothing is the key to comfortable hiking in the mountains, and spring or autumn are generally good times to experiment and find what works for you.
View Hiking in Fukuoka in a larger map
What you need to take on a hike will vary greatly depending on the time of year and weather conditions. Below is a general list of things you might need, including some things I found particularly handy.
• Running: while not made for hiking, standard running shoes may be fine on some trails if you want to try it out before buying expensive boots.
• Trail: similar to running shoes, but with a sole made for tackling tougher terrains
• Trekking: boots that cover the ankle, providing warmth and dryness for longer hikes
Poles: a single pole is great for helping with balance, or two can help ease the strain on your knees and ankles, particularly if you’re carrying a heavy pack.
• Waterproof (outer): a light outer shell to protect you from wind and water that can be used for most of the year when layered with other items.
• Warm (inner): a light down or fleece jacket to add warmth underneath the outer layer.
Gloves: not just for keeping warm, gloves will prevent your hands from getting cut up when you have to use ropes or get over rocks and trees.
Hat: apart from keeping you warm in winter and preventing sunburn in summer, a hat will protect your head from getting scratched by branches and other obstacles on the trail.
Plastic bags: whether storing rubbish, keeping things separated and dry, or even a cheap way of waterproofing your backpack, always bring a few when heading out.
Hand towel: no matter the time of year, you are likely to work up a sweat while climbing. A small towel around the neck can help keep you dry, which is vital for staying warm when resting.
First aid: particularly when trying new routes or using new equipment, take an ample supply of bandaids as well as tape and tissues/wipes. A pocket knife is also handy.
Headlamp: if you get caught in the dark climbing down, a headlamp is better than a torch as it keeps your hands free.
Mobile phone: the GPS on smart phones can be very useful for navigating from public transport to the trailhead. On the trail itself, however, it shouldn’t be relied upon for navigation even on the rare chance that reception is available. Turn it to flight mode while you’re in the woods to prevent it roaming for signals and draining battery.
Buying gear in Fukuoka
Thanks to the recent popularity of hiking in Japan there is no shortage of stores dealing in both international and local brands. Below is a map of retailers found in Fukuoka.
View Hiking Gear in Fukuoka in a larger map
The following are a few stores that I have found useful:
• A&F Country (Daimyo): Selection of international brands, information about local events as well as the free English-language magazine, Outdoor Japan.
• IBS/ICI Sports (Daimyo): Good selection of international and local brands with a range of prices.
• MontBell (all locations): Japanese brand with wide range of quality gear at reasonable prices.
• Sports Depo. (Marinoa City): While the quality doesn’t compare well with specialist stores, there’s a decent selection of cheaper brands for those on a budget.
Please leave comments below if you have had a good experience with a given brand or store in Fukuoka, particularly any that can provide English assistance.
Since almost all signage on the hikes is in Japanese, try to memorize or keep a list of the kanji (Chinese characters) for places on your route and in the nearby area. That way, if you start coming across signs with names you’ve never seen, it’s a good indication that you’ve gone astray!
Below are some terms that you may see frequently on the trails.
キャンプ場 (きゃんぷじょう / kyanpujou) : Campsite
現在地 (げんざいち / genzaichi) : Current Location
森 (もり / mori) : Forest
分岐 (ぶんき / bunki) : Junction
展望台 (てんぼうだい / tenboudai) : Lookout
山 (やま / yama) : Mountain
峠 (とうげ / touge) Pass
尾根 (おね / one) : Ridge
川 (かわ / kawa) : River
岩 (いわ / iwa) : Rock
頂上 (ちょうじょう / choujou) or 山頂 (さんちょう/sanchou) : Summit
登山道 (とざんどう / tozandou) : Trail
登山道入り口 (とざんどういりぐち / tozandou iriguchi) or 登山口 (とざんぐち/tozanguchi) : Trailhead
谷 (たに / tani) : Valley
水場 (みずば / mizuba) : Water Source
滝 (たき / taki) : Waterfall
► Always take rubbish home with you
► Give way to those climbing when you’re coming down
► No campfires – use a small gas stove instead
While most mountains have a variety of trails and access points, all hikes in this guide depart from Fukuoka City and use public transport. The following resources are useful for getting to and from the hikes:
Tachibana-yama 立花山 and Mikazuki-yama 三日月山
Homanzan 宝満山 and Sangunsan 三郡山
Iimori Yama 飯盛山
Dazaifu Historical Trail 太宰府 (walking route)
Ibarayama 井原山 and Raizan 雷山
Text and photos by Kamil Spychalski (Perth, Western Australia, JET CIR) for Fukuoka Now.