Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. It is known for its diverse landscapes and various volcanoes. The Mount Aso hiking area, Kuju, and the Kirishima-KinkowanNational Park are places everyone should get to enjoy at least once!
The main cities of the island; Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Kita-Kyushu are all located in the north of Kyushu. The rest of the island is abundant in scenic nature; however, it can be hard to access without a car.
From volcanoes to waterfalls, to coastlines and mountains, there is something scenic for everyone to enjoy. Hiking routes in Kyushu can be closed off depending on the conditions, so it’s important to check out any information on the official hiking area websites beforehand, particularly with volcanoes!
Because of the volcanic activity, there are so many hot springs scattered around the island, so be sure to check these out to relax after a long hike!
1. Otobaru Falls
A short and sweet walk to the Otobaru Falls makes a great mini-hike if you’re spending some time in Beppu. The hike will take you out of the onsen town and into the jungle where you can find the spectacular Otobaru waterfall.
The hike is only around 2km return so it’s a great place to start for any inexperienced hikers or anyone short on time!
2. Mount Aso
Kumamoto prefecture is home to one of the best hiking spots in Japan – Mount Aso. Mount Aso is the most famous hiking area in Kyushu.
The whole Aso region is a wonderful hiking area. In the middle of Mount Aso caldera, there is the central crater group, which is where you’ll find some of the best hiking spots in Japan. There are five peaks here; Takadake, Nakadake, Eboshidake, Nekodake, and Kijimadake (Mt. Taka, Mt. Naka, Mt. Eboshi., Mt. Neko, and Mt. Kijima respectively). On Mount Aso, there are a variety of different hiking trails for all levels of experience.
Nakadake is a very active crater, making it a very exciting hiking area where you can look down to an active volcano crater, it feels as though you are on another planet. The Takadake and Nakadake trails are the most exciting hiking routes for this reason, however, due to the volcanic activity, they are often closed.
The Nakadake and Takadake route will take you around a ridge from which you can look down towards the crater. You then go on to walk towards the summit of Takadake, which is the highest peak. This route can get tough, with steep inclines and a loose and uneven trail, so it’s best for fit and experienced hikers up for the challenge!
When Takadake and Nakadake are closed, try out Eboshidake, which unlike the other two is usually open. It’s slightly further away from the active crater but it still feels like another planet in the Eboshi hiking area. You will get great views of the crater spewing out ash too! Mt. Eboshi is the easiest peak to climb, it takes just over an hour to get up and down.
3. Kuju Mountains
Adventurous hikers might enjoy walking in the Kuju Mountains in Oita Prefecture. Part of the Aso-Kuju National Park and located along the Yamanami Highway. The hiking area is a dramatic volcanic landscape. It’s one of the best hiking spots in Japan and it’s particularly popular from late May to early June when the Miyamakirishima are in bloom.
A series of hiking trails connect the mountain range, which means that you have a bit more freedom over the duration of your route. The Kuju hiking area is one of the best places to catch the autumn foliage colors, usually between late October and mid-November.
The Kuju peak is the second highest peak after Nakadake (at 1786 meters). The climb up to the ridge is steep and the whole trail is quite rocky. Continuing along the ridge you will pass various ladders; it will also involve quite a bit of scrambling.
Alternatively, for an easier walk in the Kuju area, you can enjoy the network of boardwalks across the wetlands near the Chojabaru Visitor Center. It’s a 2.5-kilometer loop with views of the mountain range.
4. Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park
The mountain range in Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park runs between the border of Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures. Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park is one of the best hiking spots in Japan.
There are various inactive volcanoes in the Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park hiking area. It includes Mt. Shinmoe, which is very active. The area around the Mt.Shinmoe crater is closed-off with no access.
Mount Karakuni, the highest peak in Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, has a large volcanic crater. The hike is fairly steep but it’s also quite short, and once you’re at the top you’ll be rewarded with breath-taking views of the active crater.
5. Kaimon-Dake (Satsuma Fuji)
On the southern edge of Kagoshima is another active volcano, and another one of the best hikes in Japan. The mountain is known for its conical shape, and it is considered the ‘Mt Fuji of Kagoshima Prefecture’.
It is another hike that can be challenging at times; with quite the incline, rocky paths, plenty of ladders, and boulders to scramble over too!
Throughout the route, you can enjoy being surrounded by the forest greenery, and once you get to the top, you’re greeted by a Tori gate and a magnificent view of the coastline – making it all worth it!
As long as you have a car, these places are relatively easy to access. Travel across Kyushu into the more rural areas can be difficult without a car – some tours are offered to the most popular hiking routes, such as in the Mount Aso hiking area.
Please make sure to be prepared for your hikes with suitable climbing equipment – a lot of these trails involve rocky surfaces so proper hiking boots will make a big difference. It can get cold on the bigger mountains too, so please bring layers!
Kyushu is full of so many places where you can enjoy hiking, so please make the most of it!