Reizanji Temple located in Shimizu Ouchi, Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Pref. is a temple of the Kogi Shingon (old Shingon) sect. The temple is said to have been established by Priest Gyoki in 749. The main hall houses the principal image, the standing statue of Senju Kannon (Kannon with 1,000 arms), which is said to have been carved by Priest Gyoki. It has been worshipped by people as one of the Seven Kannon in Suruga province (present-day Shizuoka Pref.) and friendlily called “Kannon-san at Ouchi.”
The temple used to be located on the eastern side of the mountain but it was relocated to the present place during the Shogyo era (1332-1334). Going up the winding mountain path called “Thirty-three Curves,” you will get to Nio-mon Gate at the entrance, which is supposed to have been built at the end of the Muromachi period (the 16th century). It is one of the oldest structures in the prefecture and nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property.
The best time to see this temple is early spring, when the mountain path to the temple is lined with cherry trees in full bloom. After visiting Reizanji Temple, it is worth hiking thirty minutes further to Ipponmatsu Park at the summit.
Odaigahara Plateau is located in Kamikitayama Village, Nara Pref. The annual precipitation of this area is 5000 mm, which ranks the heaviest in the world. The wet climate has created a primitive forest that is comparable to the one in Yakushima Island. The forest with its floor covered with green moss as well as magnificent and powerful waterfalls is the figurative art that nature has created. The primitive forest is also the home to wild life such as antelope, Japanese deer and rare plants of the season. If you are lucky, you might come across a group of lovely deer on your way. For walking, “Higashi Odai” walking trail extending about 9 km is recommendable. At the top of Daijyagura Cliff with a height of 1,000 m, you can command a 360-degree panoramic view including Ominesan mountains. Pure forest of Tohi (medicine plant) in Masakigahara is known as the south bounds in Japan. While walking along the trail, you will enjoy the twittering of Japanese robins and other wild birds.
Mt. Rokushosan is a 611-meter mountain located near Matsudaira Town, the birthplace of the Tokugawa clan, in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. It is counted as one of the three holy mountains in the Mikawa region. The mountain is covered with dense primary forest of conifer including huge cedar trees at the higher altitude and evergreen broad-leaved trees and deciduous trees at the lower altitude. Having an atmosphere of “Satoyama (nearby woodland),” the mountain is loved by local hikers as the place to contact with nature.
Mt. Rokushosan used to be a training ground for mountain practitioners of a temple founded in Mt. Ochizan by the priest Taicho Daishi. At the times when the temple was prosperous, the mountain trail with stone statues of Buddha was set out in this mountain.
At the foot of Mt. Rokushosan is Toyota City Outdoor Activity Center, which is equipped with a camping site, a picnic field and hiking courses for citizens.
Kaore Gorge is a 0.5 km gorge along the Kaore Kaido road and the Otogawa River in the northern part of Sakuragata Town in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture. It is a scenic spot where you can enjoy seasonal changes in the scenery including cherry blossoms in early spring, Koinobori (carp streamers) in May, tender green in summer and crimson foliage in fall.
Especially beautiful is the cherry blossom season, when the entire gorge is colored pale pink by about 80 Somei Yoshino cherry trees. From April through May, about 200 carp streamers are set out over the upstream of the river, which create a wonderful landscape. In summer, you can enjoy forest bathing in brilliant fresh green together with refreshing sound of clear water and fresh air. The best hiking season is from the middle of November to early December, when the gorge is surrounded with beautiful autumn leaves.
Mt. Nebisodake (1,112 m) in the eastern end of Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, is the highest mountain among the mountains in the Mikawa highland, which is surrounded by the mountains with an altitude of over 1,000 meters. Composed of granite in the Cretaceous Ryoke metamorphic belt, the mountain has a gentle appearance and it is easily accessible. The area is a part of Aichi-Kogen Quasi-National Park.
Blessed with bountiful nature, Mt. Nebisodake is always bustled with hikers and birdwatchers, who come with the aim of watching various wild birds including tits. Flowers of the family of Asteraceae such as asters and thistles and many other seasonal flowers come into bloom in the flower field at the top of the mountain.
The mountain top commands a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains in the Mikawa highland and the Kiso mountains in the direction of Asuke Town. On a fine day, Mt. Ontakesan can be seen in the distance.
The Tatsugaiwa Waterfall in Takachiho Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a dynamic three-staged waterfall with a total height of 80 meters. Surrounded with a virgin forest, it looks beautiful against tender green in early summer and colored leaves in early November. Especially beautiful is the whole flow of the falls seen from a distance. You can enjoy nice hiking up to the waterfall, stopping at several smaller falls on the way.
In the upstream area is Shikimibaru Camping Site, which commands a panoramic view of the mountains in the central part of Kyushu including Mt. Aso and Mt. Unzen. In fall, the forest road to the camping site via the Tatsugaiwa Waterfall is also surrounded with beautifully colored leaves.
Kawadai Gorge is a 2 km rhyolite gorge located in the down stream of Kurikoma Dam to the south of Mt. Karekidachiyama in Kurihara City in the northern end of Miyagi Prefecture. The scenery in the seasons of tender green and autumn leaves is especially beautiful.
The gorge has several legends concerning Minamoto no Yoshitsune. The statue of Gofukin Fudoson placed by Yoshitsune remains on a rock and a small hall looking like an oratory stands by the stream. Near the hall is a waterfall named “Tsukuri-daki.” Legend has it that Benkei, the retainer of Yoshitsune, rolled rocks with a light hand and created the waterfall, saying, “There must be a waterfall by the Fudo Hall.”
With several places of interest such as Saruwatari (Monkey’s Path), the gorge is suitable for pleasant hiking. From late October through early November, branches with colorful leaves protrude over the stream to form a blazing tunnel, which looks breathtakingly beautiful.
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.