As I huffed and puffed my way up the forested path, the petty self within wondered suspiciously if the seemingly endless stairs in Japan are some sort of a crafty scheme to make people feel less guilty about indulging in the great food that the land of the rising sun has to offer.
At the rate that I am ‘exercising’, I reckon that I should eat twice of what I usually do. This is one of those times when I feel exactly like Karl Pilkington, commonly known as “The Idiot Abroad”.
Enveloped in greenery, I was trekking in Minoh Park – a nature reserve that offers a breath of fresh air from Japan’s second busiest city, Osaka. Located about 30 minutes away from the city centre, Minoh Park boosts different trails and several sightseeing spots that include an insect museum, temples, hotspring facilities and a waterfall.
Upon exiting the Hankyu Minoo Station, there are helpful signages that will lead one towards the park. If you are unsure, just follow the crowd or ask for directions. Old shops line alongside the paved path, selling interesting souvenirs and food products.
One of the main features of Minoh Park lies in its abundance of maple trees. You may find it hard to believe but basically, this is a place whereby maples leaves can engage one’s five senses. As the wind blows, the rustling maple leaves create gentle music that brings cool relief on a humid summer afternoon. Be it looking up at the tall trees or down at the leaf litter, the soothing greenery is a sight for sore eyes!
At random spots within the prefecture park, you may get hunger pangs from the delicious smell of deep-fried battered maple leaves. Yes, you can touch and taste maple leaves! Commonly known as momiji tempura, these yummy snacks are sprinkled with sesame seeds to make it extra fragrant. Go ahead and try some. If you like it, you may also purchase it as souvenirs but do remember to check the expiry date.
As I strolled on happily amidst the beautiful nature, I came upon a signage that promises a seaview from the observation deck. I hesitated for a moment before I threw away all inhibitions and began my climb. Halfway through, I started having doubts, as I struggled breathlessly up the steep steps alone. My overly imaginative mind started to play out extreme scenarios, all of which were not very positive. Why does 300 meters seem so far? Nonetheless, there are encouraging signboards along the way that state the nearing distance of the observation deck.
No pain, no gain. I finally reached the observation deck that overlooks the park and beyond. It was definitely worth it! Before long, I was joined by another group of trekkers who huffed and puffed their way up.
For those who prefer a less strenuous trek, the Minoh Waterfall would be a great alternative. The paved path is gently sloped, which makes it wheelchair-friendly. I was most amazed to see ladies in heels and platform shoes but that kind of gives you the idea of how easy it is to walk along this path. Note that comfortable walking shoes are still recommended!
Being one of the main attractions of the park, the 33-meter tall Minoh Waterfall is about 45 minutes walk from the entrance of the park. Along the way, there are shops, vending machines and restrooms.
Benches in front of the waterfall allow one to appreciate the beauty of nature with the occasional sprinkle from the falls. This is also a great spot for picnic. In case you are worrying about carrying a bulky food basket along your way, there are several food stalls and restaurants nearby.
To me, Minoh Park represents beautiful nature, a great workout and good food. There is no other way that I would like to spend my day.