Saturday 19 October 2019

Unzen 雲仙 Hiking: Myokendake 妙見岳, Kunimidake 国見岳 , Fugendake 普賢岳 and viewing Heisei-shinzan 平成新山 2019.10.13

Unzen 雲仙 Hiking: Myokendake 妙見岳, Kunimidake 国見岳 , Fugendake 普賢岳 and the view of Heisei-shinzan volcano 平成新山 2019.10.13

Mt. Unzen is in an active volcano set in Nagasaki prefecture in the Shimabara. There are many peaks that have been created by the volcanic activity in the area and due to it being active the area is often changing. The most recent significant eruption occurred in 1991 when a large eruption sent a fast flowing pyroclastic flow down the mountain into coastal Shimabara and did a great deal of damage. The site is now home to a museum where you can learn more about the volcano and its eruptions over the centuries.
Despite being an active volcano (The last eruption was in 1995) it is considered safe to climb and the surrounding area is rich in life and scenery. The area was designated as Japan’s first national park in 1934 and has been a popular place for hikers and Onsen (Hot spring) enthusiasts over the decades.

Getting there: We drove to Unzen and parked at this parking lot 池ノ原園地 which is just up from the Yatake parking lot 矢岳駐車場.  There are buses that run into the central Unzen village and coaches from around the area. There are also ferries that run from various spots to reach Unzen more quickly. To make the most of the island I would recommend coming by car or renting a car. You can find more info. on the official Unzen tourist site.

To Myokendake and Shrine 妙見岳

We set off from the parking area in the early morning with the sun having just risen about an hour before. The area was damp with morning dew and it was a little cloudy. 

The walk up to the ropeway station was straight forward and lead us through a forested area with a small shrine on the way.  

The route up to the first mountain followed the ropeway to reach the station at the top. It sort of zig zags up to the top of the mountain. The path at the bottom next to the station goes more directly to Fugendake and we used that on the return journey.

There is a sign marking Myokendake just behind the ropeway station and the shrine is just a little way behind this area.

From Myokendake 妙見岳 to Kunimidake 国見岳

It was from here on out that it became very misty with low cloud cover. The air drew damp and the wind started to really pick up. It was eerily beautiful but we also started to worry if it would impact the rest of the hike.

The hike up to Kunimidake became a lot steeper with some very rocky areas with chains. Luckily we had all brought gloves so we put them on and climbed up. The kids really love the more rock climbing like areas. 

We had read that the views were some of the best from this mountain however the thick cloud cover made it impossible to see very much past the large rock at the top and the summit sign pictured to the right. We decided to set off back to the cross road sign post and continue onwards to Fugendake the closest to the active volcano crater of Heisei-Shinzan. 

From Kunimidake 国見岳 to Fugendake 普賢岳 and back down

The clouds started to lift as we ventured on towards the main volcano and Fugendake. Although the distant views were still obscured the route was still a fantastic hike. Due to the area being volcanic there were little to no large trees and many more colonizer trees in the area. 

We passed the final crossroads and then a sign pointing to the top of Fugendaeke. The trail up was rocky with a few more chains. The rocks on the way up were obviously volcanic and maybe fairly recent. 

I decided to show these as comparison pictures. The left was what we saw first. We couldn't imagine that the volcano was so nearby! After a spot of lunch just down from here I went back up and saw this amazing site. The views were fantastic! 

Fugen dake was some truly breath-taking views. The harsh cliffs and peaks have all been carved by the volcanoes many eruptions and shifting peak. 

After taking in the wonderful views we started on the trail back to the ropeway station and were treated to a broken shrine and fantastic nature walk. 

A Mamushi snake! Malena spotted it lying across the path! 

We came out right by the bottom of the ropeway near a viewpoint for the mountain we had just been at the top of. Now it was just a matter of taking in the clear views and heading back to the car park area. 

It was a wonderful hike and well worth it. Below are some other places around Unzen which are not really hiking but worth your time to explore. 

The so called Unzen hells 雲仙地獄. Christians were tortured and executed here over the centuries and it is said to resemble the heat of well. Natural springs bubble up from the ground all around you filling the air with steam and strong odour of Sulphur. An amazing sight and I highly recommend to you visit an onsen near here as part of the trip. 

A nearby natural marsh. It was easy to find near some tennis courts. 

In the morning after breakfast I took a morning walk around the Bessho Dam 別所ダム. It provided me with some stunning views of Unzen and even had a nice shrine hidden in the forest on the other side.

Unzen Toy Museum 
The view of Mt. Unzen from Shimabara

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