If a noisy restaurant dinner pales in comparison to the thought of you and your date sweating it out climbing a mountain together, then this Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to a fitness adventure. A change of scenery could be the best gift you give this month, so why not pack a bottle of wine or a thermos of hot cocoa and take those fancy Valentine’s chocolates on the road. (Don’t forget to dress warmly and bring a blanket or tarp to sit on!).
Running north to south, the Ikoma mountain range, is definitely the best place to get nice views of Osaka city from the east. Nothing beats the sunset illuminating all those skyscraper shillouhettes and showing that despite being gritty, Osaka can be gorgeous too. Not to mention the romance of twinkling city lights once the sun has gone down.
The only question remaining then is how to get up there. It’s possible to just walk toward the mountains and find a path up, or, follow one of the three trails below. All are reachable from one of the Kintetsu train stations, and they offer a few historical treats as well.
Ishikiri – Kouhouji Temple Route
Starting from Ishikiri Station, this route provides good hiking, temples and shrines, an odd but beautiful waterwheel, and best of all, a chance to jump in a local onsen (hot spring). The hike is a moderate level of difficulty and includes stairs in parts. Leave the station on the mountain side, and walk three streets south (check your phone map and look for the road that leads furthest up into the mountain). Once you are on the right track, start up the slope and continue past numerous mountainside shrines and temples, all good places for a peaceful break. Perhaps the best place to stop, however, is on the sofa provided next to Sushidani Waterwheel, an outdoor memorial dedicated to all the former waterwheels that used to dot the mountains here.
After a break, continue upward and you will come to the end of the road, breaking into the calm mountainside. Keeping to the left will bring you to the main set of stairs up to the temple Kouhouji.
From here, hike onward another 30 minutes to the Skyline Trail, or if a two-hour hike is all you are looking for, turn back around and head for Ishikiri Hot Spring, just a little south of the station and directly adjacent to the Kintetsu line, and treat your tired bones to a piping-hot Japanese bath.
Shionjiyama Burial Mound – Mizunomi-Jizoson Temple Route
If you would rather bike up the slope than walk 2km, there is the option of starting this journey at Yamamoto Station and taking advantage of the rental bicycles available. If you choose to do this, head straight east to Shionji. If you are walking, leave Hattorigawa Station and head north on the main road just south of the station. You will already be on the mountain side with a decent view of the city below, but there is a better view up ahead. The walk is quite a long one, but the path is straight and takes you through tranquil farmland.
You will know when you hit Shionjiyama Burial Mound by the green hill to your left. Enjoy this unique place as, unlike most closed-off and overgrown burial mounds, since excavation, you are able to walk around and really see what it may have looked like 1,600 years ago. After a stroll (and picking up a map), start your hike up the road.
There will be a number of right and left turns at dead ends on your way up to the beginning of the hiking path. Once onto the mountain path, you will follow a river most of the way up, dotted with Jizo statues. Pass by your stone friends and after a not-too-strenuous 30-minute hike, you will come to Mizunomi-Jizoson Temple.
The first thing to do, as the name suggests, is grab a drink of the clean mountain water. Take some back in a bottle, as most visitors do. Second, is to catch, what might be the greatest view of Osaka. If you are well-timed enough to catch a sunset, this will certainly become one of those memories that define your time in Japan… but if the sun has set, make sure you have a flashlight for your climb back down.
The Onji Station – Onji Shrine – Shigisan Nodokamura Route
Head out of Onji Station and up the sloped road for a day of history and nature. After 15 minutes, you will reach Onji Shrine. As with some shrines, the stairway may be the most beautiful thing here, or so you think until you hit the top and turn around to see the view. One of so many great mountainside shrines, feel free to pray for a safe hike and enjoy the grounds before hitting the mountain path behind the shrine’s exit.
From here, you have about a 45-minute hike up to the top of the mountain. When you reach the top, you will have passed into Nara, and will come straight out of the woods and into the entrance to Nodokamura. This agricultural park offers fruit picking, beautiful gardens, or ready-to-use BBQs. Nodokamura also acts as the gateway to the temple of Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji, famous for its massive paper tiger guardian and which is often described as a far less busy version of Kiyomizudera. The night view from here is also spectacular. This grand complex can keep you occupied for quite a while, and if you have the time to spare, book into one of the traditional temple rooms for the night.
Shigisan Temple Lodgings