Kirishima National Park

Fascinating moon-scape

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

If you like hiking and trekking in wide-open space, then Kirishima National Park is for you.

The landscape here is volcanic and at times you might feel like you are on the moon. Established in 1934, this is Japan’s oldest National Park. There are no less than 23 volcanic peaks and 15 volcanic craters, most of which are now filled with water.

There are many hiking trails and most of them start from either Ebino-kogen or from Takachiho-gawara. From Ebino-kogen hiking base a trail leads up a steep slope to the top of Karakuni-dake which is with 1,700m the highest peak in the range.

From there the route continues southeast from one volcanic peak to the next, including Shishiko-dake (1,428m), Shinmoe-dake (1,421m) and Naka-dake (1,345m), and eventually the trail leads down-hill to Takachiho-gawara, the other hiking base at Kirishima National Park. From there you can hike up Takachiho-dake (1,574m).

From the top of Karakuni-dake there is an excellent 360-degree view over the surrounding area and you will also see Onami-no-ike, Japan’s largest crater-lake. In fact, there a great views from all the other peaks too.

I found hiking up Takachiho-dake quite tough but making it to the top is rewarding. There you will find an allegedly sacred rock with a large metal sword ramped into the soil. This is said to mark the place where a god descended from heaven.

According to legend, Sun Goddess Amaterasu sent her grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto to earth and he descended here where, on top of Takachiho-dake, and the first thing he apparently did was raising the Japanese lands from the sea. Hence, he is now considered the legendary founder of Japan’s Imperial line. Legend also holds it that he brought with him the three celestial symbols that signify the Japanese Emperor-the sword, the mirror and the jewel.

Takachiho-dake’s bare rocky slopes which rise at 45 degrees and shine in multiple shades of red, brown and black are an unusual sight but wait until you have seen another crater lake nearby that is filled with a metal-greenish color. Nature’s play with colors is intense and quite different from our usual colorful sights.

Spring (March to mid May) and autumn (especially October) are the best seasons for hiking in Kirishima National Park as you will have a chance to admire the mountain flora, but summer is equally ok. Just bear in mind that there are no trees and hence not shade whatsoever on these volcanic peaks.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Founder of Kii Monogatari, my story and the story of the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Originally from East Germany, I came to Tokyo, via Berlin and London, in 2005. In summer 2011 I moved by choice to remote Kumano in the south of the Kii Peninsula where I live, work and play now, and explore every day.The whole of the Kii Peninsula is a Healing Hub for me with its abundance of forest, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, the ocean, friendly rural communities and sacred places. This is where nature meets spirituality, and tradition meets sustainability, the new paradigm for travel post-pandemic. My deep interest is in Japanese nature & spirituality. I love being in nature, in the forest and in the mountains, and I love spending time at temples and shrines.  I am building my life and my work around these two passions. I am a Licensed Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy) Guide and a Licensed Kumano Kodo and Koyasan Guide. I am also a Licensed Retreat Facilitator and I am planning retreats on the Kii Peninsula. Last but not least, I have been the Japan Travel Partner for Wakayama and Yamagata since the conception of the platform in 2011! These two prefectures are close to my heart because they are the centers of Shugendo, a spiritual tradition of mountain ascetism. I am a Shugendo Practitioner for over ten years now and received Tokudo in 2016 at a Shugendo temple on Yoshinoyama. Please kindly connect via my Facebook Page Kii Monogatari. Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

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Geraldine Buergel a year ago
Sounds like a pretty magical place.
Elizabeth S a year ago
Wow, that is an impressive view. There's something primordial about it, fitting for a place where the gods got things started.
JapanTravel Guest
JapanTravel Guest 9 years ago
I remember being blown away by the scenery here when I first visited, far removed from any preconceived image I had of Japan. I would love to get back there sometime soon.