Known as the “nation’s kitchen”, Osaka is a beautiful port city in Japan, and is home to some of the most iconic food the country has exported.
Osaka’s vibrant urban cityscape naturally draws in travellers from all over the world, looking to experience some of the best culinary and cultural experiences Japan has to offer.
Whether it is the foremost eating street of Dotonburi or the shopping district of Shinsaibashi, the central area of Osaka is vibrant and happening, and one that never seems to dull down.
It can all get quite a bit overwhelming, so we wouldn’t blame you for wanting some peace and quiet in between. If you need a respite from the incredible bustle that goes on in Osaka’s city centre, here are five hiking trails that could prove to be the perfect tonic.
1. Mt. Koya
Mount Koya is one of Japan’s most sacred mountains, and has been a pilgrimage destination for generations since serving as the center of Shingon Buddhism, or Esoteric Buddhism, which was founded by Kobo Daishi in 805.
Through the many pilgrimage trails that link Koyasan with the outside world, the mountain has become the central hub of spirituality, peace, and refuge. Of course, with advancements in technology, it is now possible to ascend the Koyasan with relatively ease by way of cable car but we urge you to hike up through the traditional trails as many have done before.
Soak in the historic and ethereal atmosphere as you walk the grounds of the Konpon Daito Pagoda and the Okunoin Cemetery whilst immersing yourself in Koyasan’s forest with towering, centuries-old cedar trees.
You can even stay overnight at the top in a Buddhist temple where you’ll get to experience firsthand the life of a Buddhist monk, from practices to food, truly a unique travel experience.
2. Mt. Yoshino
Mount Yoshino lays claim to one of the most beautiful spots to catch the cherry blossoms in all of Japan. When the sakura flowers bloom throughout the forest, it creates a magical pink canopy that is nothing short of mesmerising.
The Sakura trees are said to have been first planted some 1300 years ago, and there are over 30,000 cherry trees today. Late March and early April would be the best time to ascend Mount Yoshino as you can take in the cherry blossoms which are in full bloom.
Mount Yoshino is split into four tiers — Shimo Senbon (lower 1000 trees) at the base of the mountain, Naka Senbon (middle 1000 trees), Kami Senbon (upper 1000 trees), and Oku Senbon (inner 1000 trees). No matter which area of Yoshinosan, its natural beauty that surrounds you is reason enough to take a hike up Mount Yoshino.
3. Fukuchiyama Abandoned Railway Hike
Here’s one that is for the more adventurous. The Fukuchiyama Railway is an abandoned train network that was once formed as part of the JR Fukuchiyama line. With trains being diverted to new routes and stops, the original railway tracks has since been decommissioned and not in use.
What is left are gorges and tracks that have been overtaken by tenacious moss. The hike isn’t demanding per se, as it’s mostly flat ground although we do recommend having a handy torchlight with you as the tunnels can get close to pitch black.
Persist through the many tunnels however, and you’ll be greeted with a tranquil scenery of mountains and rivers, it’s a beautiful hike indeed. Remember to snap photos with the iconic red steel tracks!
4. Nunobiki Hiking Trail
One of the less visited trails on the list, the Nunobiki Falls hiking trail is conveniently found near the Shin-Kobe Station. From the station, there is a cable car that ascends up a ropeway bringing you up to the Southern slope of Mount Rokko, itself another popular hiking spot.
But we’re here for Nunobiki Falls and the Nunobiki Herb Garden, so give the cable car a miss. Instead, hike your way on foot to get to the Falls and the Garden. (Incidentally, if you take the cable car up to Mount Rokko, you’ll see both Nunobiki Falls and Nunobiki Gardens passing by below you.)
The Nunobiki Falls actually consists of four different waterfalls with each being further in than the last. The second of the four, Tsusumigadaki, proves to be the most popular as the way the water rushes down makes it the most aesthetically pleasing. Push on further up and you’ll reach the Nunobiki Herb Garden which boasts one of Japan’s largest herb gardens with hundreds of herb species and seasonal flowers.
5. Minoo Park
If Autumn foliage is what you’re chasing, then Minoo Park during the Fall is one of the best places you can escape to.
While many know of Minoo Park as the go-to place to catch the Autumn leaves, not many are aware that it was established back in 1967 (along with Takao Park in Tokyo) as part of the centennial celebration to commemorate Emperor Meiji’s ascension to the throne.
It’s truly a breathtaking sight when the Autumn colours bloom at Minoo Park. The forest turns into a bright red and yellow hue, with vibrant colours popping all around you. Hike through the park and you’ll soon arrive at Minoo Waterfall, the park’s famous natural attraction. Sit down on one of the many benches at the viewing platform and immerse yourself in the serenity that washes over you.