The best hiking in Kansai is found in the mountains in southern Nara Prefecture. History, culture, and tremendous vistas draw hikers from around Japan.
The highest peak is Mt. Hyakkogatake, which is 1915 meters (6,215 feet) above sea level.
Nearby Mt. Shaka is just shy of that, its peak exactly 1800 meters (5905 feet).
These peaks, and Misen (second highest in Kansai), are all linked by ancient mountain paths. Many of these routes were used for commerce and transport, most long since rendered obsolete by car and rail; many others however remain pilgrimage routes.
Both Hyakkogatake and Misen are fairly tough climbs. Mt. Shaka, however, is a pleasant walk since the most popular trail head starts at roughly 1000 meters. From there, it is an easy two-hour hike to the top.
Getting to this trail head, however, is another story.
The area is full of mountains so roads are narrow and winding. From one such rural road, Route 168, you enter a service road that hugs a lake created by a dam. After 10 kilometers, which will take almost an hour in a car, you reach the end of the road – and many other cars and a public toilet. This is the starting point.
At the peak hikers are rewarded with a panoramic view. 9 km in the distance, and a day’s hike, is Misen. What is most striking after the view is the statue of Shaka, which is the Japanese way of saying Buddha (often Japanese will say “Shaka-san” or “Shaka-sama”).
According to Japanese-language sources, the statue was carried to the top by …continue reading