Kuju-san

I’ve been off hiking again! This time me and my boyfriend’s family hiked Mount Kuju (九重山) in Oita prefecture. This trip was probably my fourth to this area, and I have to say Kuju and the Aso-Kuju National Park is beautiful! If you are not into hiking but have a valid driving license out here, it’s definitely worth a trip, the scenery in the park is spectacular.

Anyway we had rented a house, in a complex called “Forest Hills” in Yufuin, so we were based in the area so we didn’t have so far to drive. We woke up early, and the got to see Yufuin covered in a sea of morning mist, was quite a beautiful start to our day!

Morning mist in Yufuin
Morning mist in Yufuin

We drove from here to the start of our hike at the Makinoto-pass, which has a small shop to buy coffee and ice cream, but is basically just a place to leave the car while hiking the mountain. To the left side of the car park is the start of the route, and there is a box where you can fill in information about your party in case you go missing or have some accident while hiking.

Marker at the start of the hike!
Marker at the start of the hike!

From here we walked up a rather steep concrete path for around 15 minutes, before the real hike began and the concrete vanished and we were walked a dirt path with many rocks and boulders in our way. There were also ladders and wooden steps we had to climb at one point, but after the initial climb the way stayed fairly flat until we arrived just under the summit of Mount Kuju.

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We could see many other hikers on the path ahead of us

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There are good signs the whole route of this hike, something I like about this one is the road forks several times, at one point there are 2 other routes available both easily signposted. We were quite keen to try Hossho-san, as the route looked quite challenging, maybe next time!

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There it is – Mount Kuju!

The path stayed fairly flat until we got to just underneath Mount Kuju, here we had a descent that was extremely rocky and then levelled out to a nice rest stop. Here there was a toilet and many people were scattered around looking at the views over Aso and eating lunch.

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Smoke from Mount Aso rises in the distance

Then there was another very rocky ascent, this part of the way is quite tricky as you can’t see a particularly clear path. You just have to keep looking at your feet and picking the best way between the rocks. From here we managed to hike to the top fairly fast.  While climbing the rocky ascent the path forks and if you go to the right, you can climb Naka-dake instead if you wish, this is the highest peak on Kyushu island at 1791m, 5m higher than Mount Kuju.

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We did it!

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The summit – 1786m!

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We did this hike in the last weekend in November and had glorious weather, unfortunately the weather has turned and it’s much colder now. The way up from the rest stop to the summit of Kuju-san has yellow spots painted on rocks en route, in case of bad weather so you can more easily find the path. Also this hike took us about 6 hours with some stops for food, coming back to the car was very quick.

There is a apparently a bus you can take that drops you at the Makinoto pass, that goes from a number of different cities in Kyushu. It’s called the Kyushu Odan Bus, you can’t catch it from Fukuoka but you could get the train to Kumamoto or Beppu and go from there, although it’s probably easier to hire a car.

http://www.kyusanko.co.jp/sankobus_top/

I really enjoyed this hike, and as I said at the beginning of this post, even if you are not planning on hiking the area, the region is really beautiful. As the winter season is here, going for a drive through the mountains and stopping in some onsen towns is also an option.  Chains are recommended on your tyres if you are driving in the region while snow is on the ground.

Think the next hike on my list is Yakushima, not exactly that close to Fukuoka, for now I think the hiking is on hold until it gets a bit warmer!

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