Popular Autumn Color Spot In the Rakan Valley
One of Hyogo’s Top 50 Forest Bathing Spots, the Rakan Valley is located in the southwestern part of the prefecture. There are also trails in the area that take hikers on scenic tours through Mt. Kanjo and Mt. Mino. One of the most popular sights is the 16 Rakan Bodhisattva stone images of Mt. Kanjo. Visitors to Rakan Village can enjoy camping or staying at a cottage.
While the Rakan Valley can be enjoyed any season of the year, I recommend coming in autumn to experience the marvelous autumn colors. Supported by the fact that it is one of Japan’s Top 100 Autumn Color Spots, its autumnal beauty is very well established.
So, come take a walk in the Rakan Valley and listen to the whisperings of the forest streams while soaking up the vibrant collage of red, yellow and orange leaves.
Located a bit further into the valley, this is the Rakan Village Education Center. It offers free parking, and is a convenient starting place for anyone heading out into the forests and mountains.
On the opposite side of the stream from the Education Center, there is a park with playground equipment such as a jungle gym for children, a space to make campfires, and a pond that is very pleasant to take a relaxing walk around.
Furthermore, the area also has tents and cottages for visitors to use. The cottages lie right next to a row of maple trees that make a fantastic tunnel of autumn colors during the peak season (mid-November to the end of November). Staying at one of the cottages and enjoying the view from the terrace is a great way of experiencing the area’s best side.
Below are some of the best autumn color spots in Rakan Village.
Picnic @ Ikoi-no-Hiroba
If you walk downstream from the Education Center, you’ll come to an arch-shaped stone monument, which marks the entrance to plaza Ikoi-no-Hiroba. The entire plaza is surrounded by maple trees, and is by far the most gorgeous of the valley’s autumn color scenery.
The plaza has benches and tables – perfect for anyone who wishes to enjoy their lunch outside in a beautiful environment. I was here right in the middle of lunchtime, so the plaza was filled with many hikers enjoying their lunches.
Speaking of the arches, I’ll show you their original motif further down, so don’t forget about them!
On one edge of the plaza there’s a small pond with a water mill. With the stunning autumn colors and the steady clattering of the water wheel turning eagerly, it is quite easy to relax here.
Next, I’d like to introduce a mysterious power spot, which also gave its name to the valley.
Mysterious Rakan Buddhist Stone Images
If you continue past the water mill and on into the forest, you will soon notice that the area grows more and more quiet and the atmosphere more and more mysterious. The hiking trail that leads to the Rakan (Japanese for Arhat) stone images starts here.
A narrow path takes you between large walls of bedrock, at the end of which huge boulders make a natural tunnel. This is the motif of the arch-shaped stone monument at the entrance to Ikoi-no-Hiroba.
Continuing through the tunnel and up the mountain path brings you to the cavern where the Rakan stone images are installed. The cavern is 7.7m wide, 4.5m high, and 4m deep. With images of the two bodhisattva Monju (Japanese for Manjushri) and Fugen (Japanese for Samanthabadra) on either side, the center stone image is of Shakyamuni. A total of 16 Rakan stone images are installed here.
In the olden days there used to be a castle at Mt. Kanjo. Memorial images to mourn the spirits of the soldiers who perished, the stone images here are estimated to have been created approximately 400 years ago during the Warring States period.
Rakan Valley is one of Japan’s Top 100 Autumn Colors Spots and one of the very best in Hyogo Prefecture. At Rakan Village, visitors can enjoy the facilities at the camp and stay the night at the lodging, and at Ikoi-no-Hiroba they can eat stone oven-baked bread and take a lesson in pottery or woodcraft. All in all, Rakan Valley is a great place to experience the best autumn colors in Hyogo!
Rakan Valley & Rakan Village
Address: 28 Rakan, Yanocho Uryu, Aioi City, Hyogo Prefecture
Closed: December 28th – January 2nd
Admission: Free-of-charge (tent & cottage rental separate)
Parking: Available (free-of-charge)
Usual autumn colors period: Mid-November to the end of the month
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Hironobu Matsuoka
Hironobu Matsuoka / Photo-writer Born in 1974 in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and currently living there, Hironobu is the president of Mediapolis Inc. "I travel around the country in Solar King, an eco-camping car that has a solar power generator, and film the beautiful scenery of Japan in high-definition. I want to move around the country as much as possible and leave behind videos of precious Japanese nature and scenery for future generations to enjoy. Although I travel all over the country, I love my home area of Setouchi." 'Healing Japan TV' - Traveling virtually around the country through 'healing videos'.
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