Mt. Kirishima is a generic name for the volcanoes in the border of Kirishima City in Kagoshima Prefecture and Ebino City and Kobayashi City in Miyazaki Prefecture. It is selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains. It is presumed to be a post-caldera volcano formed in the southern rim of Kakuto caldera basin.
Mt. Kirishima is composed of many peaks including the highest peak of Karakuni-dake (1,700 m), Takachiho-no-mine, Naka-dake, Ohata-yama, and Ohachi. There are a lot of crater lakes such as Onami-ike, Ohata-ike, and Rokukannon-ike. The mountain area is a part of Kirishima- Yaku National Park. The communities of Kyushu azalea can be seen in the highlands.
Mt. Kirishima is the land of Japanese mythology concerning its creation. “Amano Sakahoko,” the three teeth fork-shaped weapon is staked upside down at the top of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, which is believed to be where the Heavenly Descendant Ninigi no Mikoto descended from Takamagahara Field (Heavenly Hill Field).
Onami-no-ike is the highest crater lake in Japan. It is located to the southwest of Mt. Karakuni-dake in the Kirishima mountain range. Of 10 lakes in the Kirishima mountain range, this is the second largest lake and one of a few lakes where fish inhabit. The lake fills the deep caldera (1412 m above sea level) that was formed by the eruption of Mt. Kirishima about 40,000 years ago.
During the seasons of tender green and crimson foliage, the area around the lake is crowded with tourists. In winter, beautiful hard rime and migrating bird such as mallards and spot-billed ducks can be seen. Seen from the observatory on the lakeside, the reflected image of Mt. Karakuni-dake in the lake is exquisite itself. As it is a part of Kirishima-Yaku National Park, there are a lot of other sightseeing spots around the lake.
Kunimigaoka located in Takachiho Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a hill, the summit of which is at 513 meters above sea level. It commands a panoramic view of Mt. Sobo in the north, Mt. Amanokaguyama, Takamagahara, Mt. Shikojimine and Takachiho Basin in the east, Mt. Aso in the west and the Gokase River below.
The name of the hill derives from a mythology. When Tateiwatatsu no Mikoto, a grandson of Emperor Jinmu, pacified Kyushu, he stood at the top of this hill at the sunrise and the sunset and performed the Kunimi ritual, which is an early Japanese ritual of “gazing down upon the land” performed by emperors or chieftains to pray for a rich harvest in autumn.
On cold autumn mornings from late October to early November, the villages in the basin below are folded in dense fog and the dramatic “cloud ocean” can be seen.
The Manai Waterfall in Takachiho Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is an impressive waterfall, which symbolizes Takachiho, the land of myths and legends. It is selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls.
Takachiho, a small mountain town situated in the center of Kyushu, in northern Miyazaki is one of the most sacred places in Japan, where the grandchild of Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, descended from the High Plain of Heaven. Takachiho is full of fascination for tourists, such as the sea of clouds floating over mountain villages, Takachiho Gorge with mystic atmosphere, simple and old-fashioned farm houses with chigi (ornamental crossbeams on the gable, mostly seen in a Shinto shrine) on the roofs and glorious mountains covered with tender green in spring and crimson foliage in fall.
The Manai Waterfall flows down the 17-meter perpendicular cliff made of columnar basalt in Takachiho Gorge. The waterfall gently flows down into the deep green water between the towering cliffs lit by the gentle sunlight. It is a breathtakingly beautiful landscape. The boats are available for rent and visitors can get right close to the waterfall.
Mt. Rakkodake (1,471 m) is the main peak of the southern Hidaka Mountain Range. It is counted as one of 100 Fine Mountains in Hokkaido. “Rakko” means “a sea otter” in the Ainu language, but why this mountain was named so is unknown. Having a beautiful conical shape, the mountain is easily identified among other mountains in the Hidaka Mountain Range.
Climbers had to take the steep climbing trail along the Menashunbetsu River to get to the ridge until Rakko Sanso (mountain hut) was constructed at the starting point of the trail up the mountain in 1996. As the road to the mountain hut from the national road was set up, you can now get to the summit in a short time without so much difficulty, while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the mountain streams.
The summit is bold but covered with cute flowers of Miyamakinbai (Potentilla matsumurae Th. Wolf) in summer. You can command a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean can be enjoyed on a fine day.
Mt. Ashibetsudake (1,727 m) is the highest mountain in the center of the Yubari mountain range in the south central part of Hokkaido. It has steep outline and is known as the finest rocky mountain in Hokkaido. Some associate its lofty shape with Matterhorn in Switzerland and many climbers are fascinated by this steep rocky mountain.
Trekking to Mt. Ashibetsudake takes two routes; Kyu-do, in which you go up to the north ridge and get to the summit, and Shin-do, in which you take the relatively gentle trail along the west ridge. If you try this mountain for the first time or want to save your time, Shin-do is recommended. Kyu-do has many ups and downs going over the ridges and streams and it takes much longer. Nevertheless, if you want to enjoy the charm of this mountain to your heart’s content, you must take the Kyu-do route. The exquisite view from the north ridge will make you forget all the hardship you have experienced on the way and encourage your steps up to the summit.
Mt. Yubaridake (1,668 m) is located at the south end of the Yubari mountains in the central part of Hokkaido. Although it takes a lot of time and effort to get to the summit, it is a very popular mountain, for it is full of attractive features and places of interest. One of such sources of interest is a variety of flowers blooming in this mountain. Species specific to this mountain such as Yubariso (Lagotis takedana) and Yubarikozakura (Primula yuparensis) and other alpine plants of 280 species in total can be seen, which is equivalent to the total number of plant species found in Hokkaido. As the habitat of such precious wildlife, the mountain as a whole is nationally designated as a Natural Monument, and it is also selected as one of 100 Fine Mountains of Flower. Mt. Yubaridake is composed of iron-rich rocks, from which only the plants that could be well adapted to this distinctive geological condition have made evolutional advances; thereby there are so many species of plants that are peculiar to this mountain. Contrary to such harsh natural conditions, flowers will always welcome the climbers with their refreshing life energy.
Lake Mashu in Akan National Park in the eastern part of Hokkaido is a caldera lake formed by an eruption about 7,000 years ago. The lake is famous for its beautiful water, which is one of the clearest in the world, and the fog that envelopes its surface as is sung in a popular ballad “Misty Lake Mashu” of 1960s.
Of all the peaks that are forming the outer rim of this caldera, the highest one is Mt. Mashudake (858 m), also known as Kamuinupri (god’s mountain). Mt. Mashudake presents its imposing view right in front of the first observatory of Lake Mashu. The walking trail is built from the first observatory to the summit. Walking along the ridge of the outer rim, you will go under the tunnel of dense foliage and enjoy viewing pretty alpine plants as well as mirror-like surface of Lake Mashu, which repeatedly come into and go out of sight. As there is very often a thick fog on the surface of the lake, you may not be able to see it. If the fog is not very thick, you may have a chance to enjoy the mystic atmosphere of the lake with the mysterious island of Kamuisshu in its center.