Summer in Japan is horribly hot, especially here in Fukuoka, and if you’re thinking about how to get away from the heat consider heading to the hills. Many hiking trails in Kyushu follow beautiful winding mountain streams, providing refreshing spots for cool dips where the shade from trees blocks the scorching sun. This month I’ll introduce an area in a little known part of northern Miyazaki Prefecture known as Mt. Okue, located about 50 minutes by car north of Nobeoka City, just south of the border with Oita Prefecture. The area is filled with lush vegetation and huge granite peaks earning the area its nickname, “Kyushu’s Yosemite”. The area boasts an abundance of wildlife including Japanese deer, monkeys, and the very rare Japanese kamoshika, or serow (goat-antelope).
Although a day trip from Fukuoka is possible if you leave first thing in the morning, consider camping, lodging in a mountain hut on the trail, or booking a room at the nearby Minshuku Hourigawa Keiryuso. I recommend the “Sanrigawara” (三里河原) trail, which begins at the Okue Mountain trailhead and follows the Houri River along the mountainside. It’s ideal because even a short walk on this trail is satisfying, yet experienced hikers can find a variety of challenging terrain amongst virtually untouched nature. Twenty-five minutes up the trail there’s a nice flat and clear area for pitching a tent or building a campfire. Located near a cliff, there’s plenty of sunlight and a beautiful view of the river. Up to this point the trail is fairly easy walking and therefore ideal for families or those without hiking boots. Another five minutes up the trail brings you to the two-story Okue Mountain Hut (大崩山山小屋), with an open hearth, fresh running river-water, and a nearby outhouse. The cost is ¥300 per person, using the honor system.
Twenty minutes beyond the hut is a fork in the trail that leads to an awesome view of the huge granite face of Kozumidaki, jutting up toward the heavens. Welcome to Kyushu’s “Yosemite”! From there, the trail becomes more challenging, with ladders, ropes, plank bridges and stream crossings. Some spots might call for a bit of bravery! As you walk down the narrow path with the mountainside on your right, be sure to pause and take in the grand view of the cliff faces and valleys below. Continuing along the trail, you will pass through the Kiheigoshi Valley and then climb up to a huge granite slab. This slab slopes down approximately 50 meters to the river on the valley floor, providing another spectacular view and a comfortable place for a break and having a quick snack. A casual hiker could probably reach this point in two hours. From here you can either turn around or continue down the path to an area with a spectacular waterfall and swimming area another hour away.
After exiting the trailhead, consider stopping off at “Bijin no Yu” onsen for a soak in their baths to soothe your aching muscles. This area is ideal for city dwellers looking for some natural therapy, exercise and an escape from the stress of daily life.
FOR SEASONED HIKERS – THE NEXT LEVEL
Those seeking more of a challenge need not worry – Okue also has some steeper trails. From the Houri River viewpoint, about 20 minutes past the hut, take the bridge across the river and follow the scenic Wakuzuka trail up to the summit of Kozumidaki. On the way back down, consider taking the Bozuone trail, featuring an adrenaline pumping rock traverse looking over an amazing view. Plan for a long hike involving use of ladders, ropes and chains to tackle some rather steep sections. An experienced hiker should be able to complete this circuit in seven hours. Get ready to put some sweat into this hike – and then be rewarded with some of the best views on the mountain.
ACCOMODATIONS & HOT SPRING
Okue Mountain Hut
About half-an-hour from the trailhead is the Okue Mountain Hut, a two-story cabin with hearth, a natural water-fountain and an outhouse. Capacity is sixty persons, and the fee is ¥300 per person, per night.
Minshuku Hourigawa Keiryuso
For a more comfortable option, try this inn near Hourigawa Gorge.
Four person and 10~20 person rooms available. ¥5,000 per person.
Kamihouri Kitagawa-machi, Nobeoka, Miyazaki
Hourigawa Onsen Bijin No Yu
Relax your joints and muscles in both indoor and outdoor baths with alkaline hot spring water. Twenty minute drive down from the trailhead.
Children: ¥300, Adults: ¥500. Cottages: ¥5,000 per unit (up to 4 adults)
10358-10 Kawachimyo, Kitagawa-machi, Nobeoka, Miyazaki
- Extra socks, shoes, rainwear
- Camp stove and lighter
- Mobile phone – (reception spotty)
- First aid kit
- Sleeping bag and mat
- Toilet paper!
- Miyazaki-ken no Yama Japanese Guide (Shin Bunken Tozan Guide 44, 新・分県登山ガイド44) ¥1,575
- Sobo Katamuki Okueyama Map (Yama to Kogen Chizu 57, 山と高原地図57) ¥840
Head south on Route 10 for about 15 minutes from the Oita Mera (大分米良) I.C. (Oita Highway). When the road splits, stay right, toward Nobeoka (延岡方面). A few minutes later, the road forks. Stay left and take Route 326 towards Nobeoka until Mie (三重), and turn left at the Ichiba Ikku (市場一区) intersection, continuing on the 326. Continue south for 30~40 minutes and cross the Oita-Miyazaki border. Ten minutes later turn right at the sign that reads “Okueyama Homen” (大崩山方面). The Okue Mountain trailhead (大崩山登山口) is about 30 minutes up this mountain road. (Tolls from Fukuoka City: Urban Expressway – ¥600, Other highways – ¥3,700)
By Train & Taxi
Train: 4 hrs 30 min/¥8,480 (one way)
Taxi: Approx. 50 mins / Approx ¥7,000 (each way)
From Hakata Sta., take the Oita-bound Sonic Express for approximately two hours to Beppu, then transfer to the Miyazaki Airport-bound train for a two-and-a-half hour ride. Disembark at Nobeoka Station and take a taxi up to the trailhead (Okueyama no tozanguchi made onegaishimasu).
Note: Information provided here is accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, be sure to carry a good map and check weather reports in advance. Inexperienced persons should never enter the trail without a knowledgeable or experienced partner. If at any point you are unsure which path to take, follow the red and yellow tape or the signs that read “三里河原”.
By John Perry, Outdoorsman/Guide
John Perry, native of Vancouver, Canada, lives on Nokonoshima and is the owner-operator of Amarok Outdoor Adventures. In addition to guided hikes and wilderness tours, John teaches kayaking, scuba diving and is an experienced rescue dog handler. John has two very cute, but hard working assistants: Takezo (Kai), a certified rescue dog, and Mana (German Shepherd), currently working on her certification. Visit the Amarok website: www.amarok-outdoors.com