Mt. Nanatsu (七っ岳)
Mt. Nanatsu is a series of craggy knobs situated in the middle of Fukue Island in the Goto Retto archipelago off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture. The unspoiled scenery, splendid ocean views, and relative lack of people make it a great weekend getaway for Kyushu residents and visitors alike.
The hike: The trail starts at the top of the mountain pass. There are a couple of high-tech environmentally friendly toilets at the trailhead and a small parking lot, but not much else. Pass through the shrine gate and into the forest. After passing by the box-like shrine, the path will climb up a series of stairs before turning left for the short but steep climb to the ridge. Once you hit the ridge, turn right and follow the gentle grade for about 20 minutes before the start of the climb begins. You’ll climb up sharply to the summit of a small peak before descending the other side for the final push toward the summit plateau. There are several tricky rock sections to traverse, so make sure you secure your footing and use your arms to help pull yourself up. There are no chains or ropes in place to help with the ascent, and it is a battle against gravity for most of the way. The rocky outcrops offer spectacular views toward Arakawa bay and the surrounding hills. After another 20 to 30 minutes of relentless scaling you’ll pop out on the summit of Mt. Nanatsu, marked by a small summit sign and 270-degree views all around. If short on time, you could descend back the way you came and hitch a ride back into town, but the best part of the hike is the traverse over 4 of Nanatsu’s rocky perches. Continue on the ridge on the opposite side of the Nanatsu summit post and you’ll soon work your way through a short section of knife-edge ridge with vertigo-inducing drops on your left. Once past this the route drops back into the forest and descends steeply to a saddle. The final rock formation can be tricky to descend, so if you look to your right you’ll see a safer alternative through the forest. Once at the saddle the path climbs steeply to the summit of peak #2 (no signpost), before dropping again to another saddle on the other side. Then it’s another sweat-inducing climb to the 3rd peak, where you’ll find views toward the exposed rocks of peak #4. Drop down to another saddle and brace yourself for the final push to summit #4, which has the best panoramic views of all. While there is no signpost on the summit, there is a long wooden pole with peeling red and white paint that serves as a landmark. If you look out to the sea, you can see a narrow valley in front of you. This is where the trail will spit you out if you continue along the ridge. I recommend retracing your steps all the way back to the parking lot, as it’ll be a lot less hassle trying to figure out how to get back into town. However, ff you want to try your luck, then it’s another half hour along the ridge until you reach the junction at Nanatsu pass. Turn left there and follow the signs to Nanatsu shrine. From there, you can follow the road through the valley until it connects with route 384 at the mouth of Arakawa bay. Turn left on the road and walk until you reach route 27, where you should find a bus stop back to Fukue port. If you’ve got the time and energy, I recommend you climb Mt. Tete (父ヶ岳), the highest peak on the island. When you reach the junction to head towards Nanatsu shrine, continue heading on the ridge for another 90 minutes or so until reaching the top. Supposedly there are amazing views towards the emerald green waters of Takahama from there. From Tete, retrace your steps back to the junction and then turn right for the short drop to Nanatsu shrine. Again, there’s no bus stop there, so you’ll need to walk to the coast or try to get a lift from another hiker. The scenery more than makes up for the effort it takes to get to this beautiful area of the island.
When to go: This hike can be done from March to December, when there is no snow on the peak. The rocky terrain and vertical cliff faces make it a precarious proposition during the snowy months. Spring and fall are the most comfortable times on the mountain, as the summer heat may drive you to leaping off the precipices.
Access: Your first step is to get to Fukue island. There are a couple of regular ferries per day from Nagasaki port, along with a couple of high-speed jetfoils that’ll shuttle you across the sea in about 90 minutes. There’s also an overnight ferry from Fukuoka port. This site gives an overview of all the ferry options, along with links to the timetables. Once you arrive at Fukue port, you’ll need to take a bus bound for Arakawa (荒川) and get off at Nanatsu Tozanguchi (七っ岳登山口) bus stop. There are only 4 buses per day, so it might be faster and easier to take a taxi for the 40-minute journey to the trailhead. You could also try your luck hitching. Click here for the bus schedule.
Map: Click here
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~300 meters)
Distance: 3.5km (2 to 3 hours)