Mt. Hakken （八経ヶ岳）
Mt. Hakken is the highest point of the Omine mountain range, and the tallest peak in the Kansai area. It’s also situated along an ancient pilgrimage route, offering some of the most unspoilt scenery in western Japan.
The hike: From the trailhead, hike straight up the side of the mountain. You’ll hit the main trail in about 45 minutes or so. This is the main pilgrimage route, so turn right to get to Mt. Hakken, or left to go to Senjo-ga-take. It’ll take the better part of a day to get reach the famous Omine shrine, so get an early start if heading in that direction. If you’re aiming for the highest peak in Kansai, however, you should be sitting on top in about 3 hours or so. The path is easy to follow, and has remained relatively untouched for thousands of years, with lots of native flora and fauna. After about an hour of ridge hiking, you’ll come across some wooden steps built into the mountainside. This is the start of the huge climb up to Mt. Misen. I didn’t count the number of steps, but I’m guessing there are several thousand. There’s a big hut and campsite near the top of Mt. Misen, so pitch your tent in front or check into the hut. The top of Mt. Hakken is about 20 minutes away, so just follow the signs. The view from the summit is spectacular, and if the air is clear enough you can see Mt. Fuji way off in the distance. Retrace your steps back to the hut. From here, you can descend back to Tenkawa on the only trail you haven’t taken yet. It should take about 4-1/2 to 5 hours of steep descending to make it back to reality. Your first landmark will be an emergency hut located about 45 minutes from Mt. Misen. This is by far one of the best huts I’ve seen in Japan. It’s in immaculate condition and absolutely free to stay in (you’ve got to bring your own sleeping gear and food, though). From here, you’ll descend down the spine of the mountain on a never-ending series of switchbacks. This is definitely bear territory, so exercise caution if hiking in late autumn. Once you get back to Tenkawa, reward yourself with a nice bath at the nearby hot spring, and consider hitchhiking back to the train station.
When to go: This hike can be done all year round, but be prepared for lots of snow in the winter. Click here to see what you can expect in January.
Access: From Abenobashi station (阿倍野橋駅）in Tennoji (天王時), take a Kintetsu train bound for Yoshino (吉野) and get off at Shimoichikuchi station (下市口). From there, take a bus bound for Dorogawa Onsen (泥川温泉) and get off at the Tenkawa-kawai (天川川合) bus stop. You have three options. Take a taxi for 30 minutes to the trailhead, hitch there, or start your hike from here. If you want to hitch, make sure you’re on route 309 and ask the driver to let you off just before you enter the tunnel. Click here for the bus schedule. The lack of buses from Shimoichiguchi make this almost impossible to do as a day trip, but it definitely can be done if you are up to the challenge.
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~900m)