The Lowest Alps In Japan
Did you know that the lowest Alps in Japan are located in Hyogo Prefecture? Known as the Ono Alps, the mountain range is only 100-200m above sea level, but there’s a ‘delightful’ 15km hiking course that snakes through it. For this article, I ventured onto the popular Mt. Beniyama trail.
Located in the northwestern part of the Ono Alps, this is Lake Kamoike. On the shoreline there’s a free parking area that serves as the starting point of the trail. From the parking area it takes approximately 50 minutes to reach the summit of Mt. Beniyama on foot.
And off we go!
I followed signs that led me to a path towards the south, where the 183m high Mt. Beniyama was visible in the distance. Following the route, I soon arrived at Kisumi-no-Misubarashi-no-Mori forest.
I continued on through the delightful forest for a while before arriving at a branching point in the trail.
The branching point of destiny!
Both paths lead to the summit of Mt. Beniyama; the right branch takes you via the northern trail, and the left via the southern trail. I wanted to experience the greatest trail Mt. Beniyama has to offer, so I went left towards the south.
Marching on, after some time I arrived at the entrance of the trail up Mt. Beniyama. This is where the real ‘fun’ begins!
A Solid Rock Trail
After a short while ascending the mountainside, the view soon opened up.
The trail had turned into solid bedrock that continued all the way to the top! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Was I supposed to climb this?
I started climbing, and sure enough, there was a large, white arrow pointing the way up towards the summit. Yep, this was the right way. I was at a loss; the bedrock was much larger than I expected, and much more awe-inspiring.
Nevertheless, I did not give up. However, the further I got, the steeper the trail became until I was eventually climbing on all fours. The steepest parts must have been 40-50 degrees!
After a while, the incline got the better of me and I stopped in my tracks.
Turning around and looking back down the trail revealed a stunning view. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but it would’ve been nearly impossible to descend the trail and return the way I came.
I said earlier that I made the right choice in choosing the southern trail. Had I chosen the northern, I would have had to descend this way, which is a serious challenge for beginners (I suppose I could’ve gone back via the northern trail, which would’ve been easier as the slopes are less steep).
I took a break in the middle of the mountainside. Would I be able to arrive safely at the summit?
A Trail Popular Among Girls
I looked down the trail and saw a few girls approaching behind me.
I couldn’t very well let them catch me up; that would have been too embarrassing. So, I swiftly decided to continue on!
If you try to climb in the middle of the trail, you will find that it is quite steep and difficult. Instead, you should take your time and look for cracks in the rock in which to place your feet. Use the entire breadth of the trail and zigzag your way up, and step in the cracks to make the ascent easier!
Before I knew it, I had arrived at the summit! The panoramic view let’s you see as far as the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Awaji Island, and many other Seto Inland Sea islands.
The girls arrived soon after. To my surprise, they didn’t zigzag up the trail, but went straight up the middle! It seemed like they didn’t even break a sweat. Impressive!
We chatted and they told me, “If you experience this thrill once, you will definitely get hooked!” I completely agree; the trail is short, but in beating the mountain the sense of accomplishment is immense.
A few moments later, another group of girls joined us. The thrilling climb seems to be pretty popular among girls!
The compact Ono Alps offer a variety of places to go for for a stroll or hike including the shores of Lake Kamoike, untouched woodland areas, a beautiful forest, and mountains. You can even go rock climbing here! In short, there’s something for everyone to enjoy!
Please come and experience Japan’s lowest Alps for yourself.
Ono Alps’ Mt. Beniyama Trail
Address: 1224 Kishicho, Ono City, Hyogo Prefecture (shore of Lake Kamoike)
Tel: 0794-63-1929 (Ono City Tourism Association)
Parking: Available (on the shore of Lake Kamoike)
Autumn colors period: End of November – beginning of December
(Hiking map available on the website)
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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