Mt. Kaimon (開聞岳)

Mt. Kaimon is a perfectly conical dormant volcano rising straight from the sea on the southern point of Kagoshima prefecture, and features a unique trail devoid of a single switchback.

The summit of Mt. Kaimon

The hike: From the trailhead, follow the trail straight through a somewhat dense forest. The trail is well trodden and there’s only one way to the top, so it’s pretty difficult to get lost. You should reach the 5th stage (五合目) in about 30 to 45 minutes. From here the fun begins, as the trail follows the contour of the mountain in a full circle, without ever doing any switchbacks. There’s no other trail like it in Japan. You will have wonderful views of the surrounding coastline and the crystal clear waters. The trail is quite rocky, so make sure to wear a sturdy pair of shoes. Continue winding your way around the mountain for about 90 mintues or so until the exposed, rocky summit comes into view. In wet weather this final section can be very slippery, so take care. Once on the top, enjoy the amazing panoramic view. On a clear day you can see all the way to Yakushima! After a well deserved break, head back the way you came, and watch out for the crowds if you got an early start.

When to go: You can pretty much do this hike all year round, although it may be a little icy on top during the winter, so bring a light pair of crampons just in case.

Access: From Kagoshima station, take either a local or kaisoku train on the JR line to Yamakawa (山川)station. From there you can transfer to the IbusukiMakurazaki Line (指宿枕崎線) to Kaimon Station (開門駅). Be warned that trains are NOT frequent, so it might be better to either fork out 3000 yen for the 20 minute taxi ride or try your luck hitching. If you’re taking the train, the trailhead is a 30 minute walk due south of the station (just walk toward the towering peak in front of you).

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change: 764m)

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12 Comments on “Mt. Kaimon (開聞岳)”

  1. François Says:


    The kanji seem to be 開聞岳

  2. Dennard Says:

    You wrote it might be icy on the summit in winter. What exactly would be considered winter in these areas?

    Just curious as I might be hiking up in mid-late November.

    • wes Says:

      It’ll be free of ice in November. Usually the cold weather sweeps in from mid-December

      • Dennard Says:

        Alright. Then it would be no problem I guess. What temperature could be om the summit by the way? What gear should I bring?

      • wes Says:

        I’d say it could be anywhere from zero to 10 degrees Celsius on the summit, so I’d bring warm clothes. Dressing in layers is recommended any season outside of summer in Japan. Bring a warm base layer (I usually use Merino wool) and then a fleece in your bag to use if needed. Gloves and a wool hat are good things to bring as well. The summit is only 900 meters high but it sits right on the shores and tends to be prone to strong winds

  3. Dennard Says:

    Have you hiked yourself in the end of November, or know someone else who has? All blogs I found were in summer months.

    Is it strong winds in the summer also by the way? I read something the temperature drops some degrees for each 1000 feet crossed.

    Does the trail goes through forest a lot of the way up or does it become “naked mountain” like mt Fuji past 5th station?

    Maybe I should reconsider visiting another time of the year?

    I thought November would be warmer in the south as well as autumn colors and hopefully better weather.

    I was lucky last year having perfect weather in Kagoshima but I had not time enough to visit Kaimon itself…

    • wes Says:

      Well, I hiked in late December which is why I know about the ice!

      The trail is pretty much a lll in the forest until the final rock scramble to the summit. So much different from Mt. Fuji and so much better in my opinion.

      The rumors about Kagoshima having a mild climate are just not true. I don’t know who came up with that. Yes, in the summer it is blazing hot, but in the winter Kagoshima (and Kyushu in general) is actually colder than Kyoto. It does snow in Kyushu, but not in November. The fall colors will probably be finished by late November, however. Late October/early November is usually the peak (though it does vary from year to year).

      If I had a choice between climbing Kaimon in August or November I’d definitely choose November. The summer humidity in Japan does not make for fun hiking conditions.

      • Dennard Says:

        Not sure what to define as cold and mild really. When I went to Kansai in early October some years ago it was rather hot until a typhoon crossed then it went a bit colder.

        I have the choice of going to Kyushu in either late October or late November.

        Looking at Japan Guide page on autumn leave leaves it says late November to early December for autumn leaves in the South, so I dont know what to believe really…

  4. lucbabe Says:

    Hi, I am planning a trip to Kyushu area and wanted to hike at Mt Kaimon. Was wondering whether it’s safe due to the unfortunate earth quake. I will be travelling in Mid-May.

    • wes Says:

      The Kyushu shinkansen has resumed operation, so barring any strong aftershocks, you should be ok to go. There isn’t any damage in Kagoshima, so that won’t be an issue. Just getting there might prove challenging in the event of additional earthquakes in the region

  5. James Russell Says:

    Just did this hike (early May, 2016). It was great! Very fun trail through thick forest and a great view from the top. Quite warm and humid in the forest; totally different from the cold wind at the top of Mt. Karakuni just one day later.

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