Nosoko Maapee (野底マーペー)
Mt. Nosoko is a volcanic, helmet-shaped mountain situated in the northeastern part of Ishigaki Island. The views from the rocky summit are some of the best on the entire island.
The hike: From Shimoji (下地) bus stop, head past the elementary school and turn right when you get to a paved road with a small white sign reading “野底マーペ登山道”. The road passes by some sugarcane fields with a head-on view of Mt. Nosoko before reaching a junction. Turn right, following the “マーペー” around the bend and over the river. The trailhead is on your left, just after you cross the bridge. It should take about 10 minutes to reach this point. Look for the sign that reads “野底マーペー登山道入口”. Turn left at the sign to enter the jungle. You’ll soon cross an area with a leaning chain link fence on your right and will cross a stream using a series of cinder blocks. Just past here, the trail makes a sharp right turn (don’t cross over the white chain) and starts climbing towards the peak. The trail is pretty easy to follow, and you can always look for the red tape on the trees if you’re unsure. After a few minutes of climbing you’ll find a downed tree draping across the path. Slide under the tree and continue advancing on the root-infested trail. Soon you’ll run into areas with red clay that becomes quite slippery when damp. Use the ropes to help you if you’re unsure of your footing. After 15 minutes or so, the trail will cut towards the right, where you can follow the white “登山” signs painted with red arrows. After a bit more climbing the trail will start to traverse to the other side of the peak, past some incredibly large boulders. Don’t try to climb the rocks to get a view because you’ll get plenty of views at the top. After a few more minutes, you’ll reach a junction. This is the turnoff towards the paved road where lazy hikers park for a shortcut to the top. The path is marked as “林道”, but ignore it and head straight on the “山頂” path. From here the climbing gets much steeper but it will also start to open up a bit. You should reach the rocks at the summit plateau in about 10 minutes or so. Scramble up to the rocks and you’ll have an unobstructed panoramic view of the entire island. After taking in the views, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
When to go: This hike can easily be done year round, but watch out for mud during or just after the rain. Also, make sure you wear long pants to keep the ticks (and leeches) away. Hiking shoes are a must as well, since your toes will likely turn into a bloody mess if using sandals because of all the exposed tree roots.
Access: From Ishigaki Bus Terminal, take the 10:45am 西方面 bus (11:25am bus from Kabira) bound for Ibaruma (伊原間) and ask the driver to let you off at “Nosoko Maapee tozanguchi no chikaku” (near Mt. Nosoko trailhead). If the driver doesn’t know, the turnoff is between Shimoji and Kanegusuku bus stops. You can get off at Shimoji (下地) and walk from there if you’re not sure. The bus arrives at Shimoji at 12:00 noon, and the only bus back into town leaves at 1pm, which means you won’t have enough time to make it up and back before that bus. Never fear, because it’s incredibly easy to hitch on the island. Catch a ride to Yonehara and you can catch a bus from there back into town, or call an expensive cab if you don’t feel comfortable riding with someone you don’t know.
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~250m)
Distance: 4km (1-1/2 to 3 hours)