Mount Iwawaki

An easy Autumn hike at the edge of Osaka.

By Gary Luscombe    - 4 min read

Iwawaki-san is a wide, flat-topped mountain in the far south of Osaka, marking the border between Osaka and Wakayama Prefectures. It is a popular destination for family hikes throughout the year since the trails are not particularly challenging.

But the best time of year to climb Iwawaki-san is Autumn. The plateau is covered by a huge field of susuki (pampas grass) which waves gently in the wind. In November it is also an excellent spot to appreciate the Fall foliage, and when the weather is clear, its 897m summit offers an impressive view of Osaka.

The trail head begins a short distance behind the mysterious temple, Iwawaki-dera. This peaceful temple and its mossy courtyard are surrounded by huge and ancient cedar trees. The rugged looks and dark woods give the impression that this 400 year old temple is unmanned but the grounds are still well maintained. Iwawaki-dera is small, just a hall and a two storey pagoda but it also has several interesting stone monuments dotted around the edges.

Iwawaki-dera
Iwawaki-dera

Following the road for a few hundred meters passed the trail head, you can also find one of the unusual Katsuragi 28 Shuku Kyozuka; if you know where to look. 15th of the 28 stopping points along this ancient Shugendo pilgrimage trail, it stands vigil on the edge of a small, rocky outcrop overlooking the temple but the sign that marks its entrance is barely visible and the pathway hard to spot.

A mysterious yamabushi power spot
A mysterious yamabushi power spot

Back at the trailhead and the way to the summit almost immediately splits in two. The right branch is the more direct route, taking approximately one hour. The left route is a little more challenging and takes about 90 minutes as it sweeps up and around the front of the mountain. Both routes meet at a junction just before the summit.

The more challenging route starts off on a relatively wide path with the occasional wooden steps. For a short while, it follows a stream that flows down the mountain. About one third of the way up is a wooden platform with a few benches that acts as both rest stop and viewing platform. To reach the platform, one needs to scrabble a couple of meters up a slippery section of path where the stream crosses from one side to the other. Through a break in the trees, the view is quite impressive, even from this level.

View from half way up the mountain
View from half way up the mountain

From this point, the path gets a little narrower and more windy until it eventually ends at a junction. Here the path meets the Diamond Trail, a long hiking route starting from Mount Makio to the west and ending at Mount Nijo to the north. Turning left, you would eventually reach Iwawaki-san’s nearest neighbour, Mount Kongo. Turning right leads you along a wide ridge that eventually brings you to the summit.

The ridge to the summit
The ridge to the summit

As you descend down a final set up wooden steps, the dense woodland surrounding you gives way to bright sunshine. Here stands a small public toilet and a narrow path up through the susuki to the summit proper.

The view from the top of Iwawaki-san is impressive indeed. On the clearest of days, not only can you see the whole of Osaka Prefecture laid out before you, but you can also see across the bay as far as Kobe and the east coast of the island of Shikoku. You can also clearly see Mount Kongo and the next mountain in the series, Mount Katsuragi.

Mount Kongo (center) and Mount Katsuragi (left)
Mount Kongo (center) and Mount Katsuragi (left)

The path through the susuki opens out into a small clearing with several benches upon which to rest and eat lunch. There are also several maps of the area including one set into a stone plinth. Once you have rested up and had your fill of the view, you have two options. Either you can head back down to Iwawaki-dera via either of the two paths, or you can continue across the summit and head west towards Takihata Dam and Mount Makio.

Looking out over Osaka Prefecture
Looking out over Osaka Prefecture

Descending Iwawaki-san by the shorter of the two routes takes you back to Iwawaki-dera down a winding log staircase. It can get a little steep and slippery in places but overall this route is an easy and fast way down the mountain. It is a less interesting route compared to its longer counterpart though as there are few breaks in the trees and few changes in the scenery.

Stream and trail in parallel
Stream and trail in parallel

Next to the temple, at the bottom of the trail, is Iwawaki-no-Mori, a rest stop and information center with bicycle parking and public toilets. It also has a wooden terrace with benches that is a popular spot for bird watching.

Narrow path through the susuki
Narrow path through the susuki

Getting there

There is no public transport to Mount Iwawaki so the best way to reach it is by bicycle or car and there are several small car parks along the road leading up to the mountain.

A popular but longer method to reach it is to walk from Amami Station on the Nankai Koya Line or by taking a bus from Kawachinagano Station (also on the Nankai Koya Line) to Takihata Dam and walking from there.

Was this article helpful?

Suggest an edit

66
10
Gary Luscombe

Gary Luscombe @gary.luscombe

I work for a very traditional ryokan deep in the countryside of southern Osaka. I have a fascination with Japanese history and culture and am lucky that my work gets me deeply involved with both. When I am not welcoming guests or assisting in tea ceremonies, I can be found wandering the the more unknown historical sites and nature trails of southern Kansai.I am also the Japan Travel regional partner for Mie Prefecture so if you have any questions, or even suggestions for cool places to visit, feel free to drop me a message! 

Join the discussion

Alena Eckelmann 3 weeks ago
Mystery, power spot and Yamabushi are a great combination! Many of the real power spots are totally forgotten about and difficult to access these days. So, well done for seeking out some of them in your area!
Gary Luscombe Author 3 weeks ago
Two of the Katsuragi 28 Shuku Kyozuka are on (or at least very close) to Iwawaki-san. Number 14 is on the opposite side of the mountain but I haven't been able to reach it yet as its in quite an isolated section of the trail.

There are a lot of little lanes and dozens of shrines and temples just below the Wakayama side of the mountain though so that could be a good way to approach.
Kim 3 weeks ago
I love all the susuki at this time of year! :)
Kim 3 weeks ago
😂 I can imagine!
Bonson Lam 4 weeks ago
Iwawaki-dera certainly sounds mysterious. For a place so quiet, rugged and dark, yet kept immaculate by some silent, almost absent caretaker adds to the mystery. It reminds me of my accidental discovery of Yoshimine-dera, an immaculate garden with its own "hobbit" door. https://en.japantravel.com/kyoto/pilgrimage-to-yoshimine-dera/17478
Bonson Lam 3 weeks ago
It reminds me of Marion Miller, when she gazed on the patterns that tree leaves make against the sky. "I had an aching desire to possess the pattern, somehow to make it mine." Instead of drawing it, capturing it on paper, she takes it all in, "until their intricacies became part of my being".