Sunday 25 November 2018

Kuju Hiking Mt. Hoshisho 星生山 and Nakadake 中岳 2018.11.23

Kuju Hiking Mt. Hoshisho 星生山 and Nakadake 中岳 2018.11.23

The Kuju mountains are located in the Aso-Kuju national park. The area is home to the tallest mountains in Japan, The tallest being Kuju Nakadake at 1791 metres. At this time of year it is very cold at even at the car park below and most of the journey up was in a frozen winter wonderland. Some of the best views in Kyushu and a good mountain hike. 

Access: The hardest part of this hike is actually getting to Kuju to start the hike. There are no nearby train stations. However there may be planned coach trips so it is worth talking to a travel agent. My advice would be go by car even if that means renting one. 

Gear: Hiking boots are a must.  A hiking pole would be useful especially for decent. Gloves are essential for climbing up rocks and staying warm. Apart from that wrap up warm if climbing in the colder months. 

We arrived at the car park at around 6am but even at this time it was starting to fill up. If you want to hike over Kuju it would be best to start very early. 

The trail starts as a tarmac path that leads up to the first viewing point. It starts as steps but soon changes into a flat path.

Ice everywhere

The sun started to come up illuminating the mountains and the areas below. After the concrete path we came to another view point on a smaller peak. It was steep in places with some ladders and large rocks to climb over. 

For the most part the hike is pretty flat once you get up to this point. The ridge leads to the main mountain peaks area and the rest houses/huts that can be found on the way. 

The ground was completely frozen which made it easy to walk on. We would have a nasty surprise later on but in the cold this part was pretty easy if a little far

I decided to leave the group and head up this large peak, Mt. Hoshisho 星生山. It was steep and rocky but the view was amazing from the top. I was absolutely freezing at the top and the wind picked up intensifying the cold. 

Mt. Hoshisho 星生山

My favourite picture of the day. Kuju is a volcanic area with lots of natural hot springs. Here you can see hot steam escaping the earth. The Air smelled of sulphur from the gases.

Here is a video of the view. There where other areas where you could see the steam from the mountain but this was the most dramatic on the day. 

This was the first rest hut. The toilets however were both locked on this day. Possibly due to the cold weather and ice. From here it wasn't far to the main mountain area and the peaks of Kuju. The terrain became a lot steeper with a lot more true climbing needed. 

Miike 御池

After a short amount of climbing we came to Miike lake. This small beautiful lake can be found just before the final leg of the journey to Mt. Kuzumi and Nakadake. 

After much climbing, increasing cold, increasing wind and much effort we came to the top of Nakadake 中岳 the highest point in all of Kyushu. 
Nakadake on Kuju 中岳

Here is a video, this is what the highest point in Kyushu feels like. Fantastic views in all directions.

Time to head back. It was now we got our nasty surprise. The  long trail that was previously frozen had melted and become a thick gooey muddy track. We tried to avoid it as best we could by walking on the grass on either side of the track however in many places there was no way round. 

It was into the afternoon by the time we got back to the viewpoints at the start. The ice had started to melt bringing more colour out of the surrounding landscape. 
 After getting to the bottom we found a boots washing area near the toilets. Also the gift store had opened which had a number of souvenirs for sale. 

After sorting ourselves out we took a short drive to Kurokawa. This area has lots of great onsen and hotels. The onsen are natural from the surrounding mountains and are the best way to sooth weary aches and pains. 
お宿 野の花

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