Mount Hiko-San

So I haven’t posted anything in ages, I know I’m rubbish! I’m going to try and get back into it with some posts on my favourite season autumn!! I know it will be soon coming to an end with December right around the corner but December’s weather has known to be okayish (well compared to the dreaded chill that January and February bring anyway!!) And recently I’ve been getting very into hiking, it’s a wonderful autumn activity if you wrap up warm and bring the appropriate gear, as the scenery can be very dramatic at this time of year! And Japan is known to have a lot of mountains!! Kyushu especially has some beautiful areas for hiking.

I may have mentioned in a previous post that me and some friends tried to climb Mount Fugen Dake in Unzen national park during the summer, but being woefully unprepared made probably the best possible decision and gave up! Well I honestly learnt my lesson and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again!!

Anyway moving on, so me, my boyfriend and his father went on a little expedition to Hiko-San ( 英彦山) a mountain that lies on the border of both Fukuoka and Oita prefectures.  If you are able to rent a car it takes around 90 minutes to drive there from Fukuoka city centre (I will list information about getting there via public transport at the bottom of this post). Hiko-san is considered one of Japan’s most spiritual mountains and the path follows an old pilgrim trail still used to this day by mountain priests or yamabushi ( 山伏). And on our drive up the mountain we saw a group of them wearing traditional clothing jogging up the mountain in training. We parked the car at Seinen no Ie (青年の家) and from here got a free shuttle to the start of our trail ,the shrine, Takasumi Jinja ( 高住神社), where we stopped for a chat with a couple more yamabushi before hitting the trail.

Our new yamabushi pals
Our new yamabushi pals

The route up the mountain is easy to follow but is pretty steep, you definitely need gloves to help with gripping onto the ropes or chains you sometimes need to use to pull yourself over large rocks in the path.  Getting to the top took us around 1 hour and 20 minutes, the view from the top is fantastic! At the North summit it is a fairly easy stroll to the central summit, when we got there it was very busy with a lot of people eating lunch!! The North summit was a lot less crowded and more sheltered from the wind!! But the central summit does have a toilet and a covered viewpoint that you could sit inside if it was raining.

On the hike up!
On the hike up!
At the summit!
At the summit!
Lunch!
Lunch!

We had a good lunch cooked on a mini gas stove we’d carried up, it felt wonderful to have something hot as it got extremely windy and cold! At the top is also a very old shrine you can go inside and make an offering. On the way down the first part of the path was very easy to follow, going down an old stone staircase, obviously part of the original pilgrim trail, the scenery here was very autumnal. The route we had chosen branched off a little way down. It took us a bit of humming and haring to figure out which way we were meant to go, the map and compass we brought with us proved very useful!

Scenery on the climb down

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A lucky catch!
A lucky catch!
Lost in the woods!
Lost in the woods!

We ended up taking the bird sightseeing trail, which thankfully was the right way, during our descent we didn’t see any birds, but we did spot three deer! Finally we emerged into a gorgeous field of pampas grass which used to be an old ski slope. From here it was a very short walk to where we parked the car lucky!!!

This used to be a ski slope!
This used to be a ski slope!

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It was a challenging hike for me, a beginner, and the mountain was beautiful it did feel like a really spiritual place. Although a bit tricky to get to without a car, I would recommend it for anyone in the Fukuoka area who enjoys the great outdoors!

Some additional information, this link (see below) has some basic maps with different routes, we did route A on the 2nd page. It says this route takes 3.5-4 hours, it took us more like 6 hours, we stopped for around an hour for lunch and it took us a while to find our bearings on the descent.

http://www.fsg.pref.fukuoka.jp/hikosan/pdf/5-2tozan_sansaku_map.pdf

This hike is also listed in the Lonely Planet “Hiking in Japan” book, I found out about this after doing the hike, the route in the book is different to the one we took.

If using public transportation, you can get a train to Hiko-san station from Kokura station and it takes 1 hr 45mins. From here you can get buses to Hiko-san Bessho, and start your hike from there doing a different route to the one we chose.  Happy Hiking!

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