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Difficulty: 3/5

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Hiking Distance: 4 - 10 km

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Time: 2 - 6 hrs

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Elevation Gain: 750 m

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Prefecture: Kagoshima

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韓国岳

A complete guide to hiking in Kirishima

Elevation: 1700m

Prefecture

Kagoshima

Distance

4 - 10 km

Elevation Gain

200 - 750 m

Time

2 - 6 Hours

Difficulty

3/5

Accomodation

Hotels & Campsites

Overview

The Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, located near Kagoshima city, is one of the most spectacular hiking destinations in Japan. The Kirishima mountains feature an incredible collection of active volcanic peaks, stunning crater lakes, and beautiful natural forests. The park is abundant in natural hot springs, and has many accomodation options ranging from campgrounds to luxurious onsen hotels. One of the volcanic peaks, Shinmoedake, experiences regular eruptions and is often closed from hiking due to the volcanic activity. 

Mt. Karakuni is the highest mountain in the park, there are a few trail options for reaching the peak, the most visually striking option includes the stunning Onami crater lake. The views from Mt. Karakuni are quite incredible, on clear days you can see the entire Kirishima volcanic range and all the way to Sakurajima.

 

The Kirishima mountains are the perfect example of how incredible the hiking in Kyushu can be, along with Mt. Aso and Mt. Kuju, the landscape and terrain found here is unbelievably beautiful. If you're lucky, the volcanic activity will be low enough for you to traverse the entire range, but due to eruptions the Shinmoedake peak has been closed for a couple of years and the trail needs to be repaired - make sure to check the current activity status before planning your trip.

This article will summarise three hikes in Kirishima: the main Karakuni hike, the leisurely Ebino Plateau hike, and the interesting Takachiho hike.

Access

Car

The best way to access Kirishima and Mt. Karakuni is with a car, you can park at either, although the Onami Lake trailhead might be full on weekends & public holidays.

Onami Lake Trailhead: Google Maps

Ebino Kogen Trailhead: Google Maps

Public Transport

Some planning is needed if you're using public transport. First you will catch a bus to the Kirishima Onsen area, there are direct busses from Kagoshima Airpot (¥700) and you can find the times on google maps.

At Kirishima Onsen you catch another bus from the Maruo bus stop, there are 3 busses per day, starting from 8:30am, double check the current schedule here. It only takes about 20 minutes to reach the trailheads by bus.

From Osaka/Kyoto and Tokyo: 

Flights to Kagoshima can vary a lot depending on the day, ranging from $100 to $200 USD one-way, check Skyscanner for the best options.

 

The overnight ferry from Osaka to Beppu is possibly the best way to travel to Kyushu - however, for Kagoshima, the ferry arrives at a distant port which requires an additional shuttle bus which takes 1hr 50mins to get into Kagoshima. Prices start from around ¥8000 and increase if you want a nicer room. The ferry is very nice and is an experience in itself. There is also a ferry from Tokyo to Fukuoka. Click here for Osaka, or here for Tokyo.

 

The overnight bus is the cheapest option, running from Kyoto and Osaka to Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Beppu, it takes 10 to 12 hours and the price varies from ¥4000 to ¥10,000, with Fukuoka being the cheapest option. Click here for the bus to Fukuoka, here for the bus to Kumamoto, or here for the bus to Beppu.

Maps

Useful links

Weather  and  Seasons

The summer months including June, July, August, and September are the best time for hiking in Kirishima, the summer will give you a lush green landscape ideal for photos. It can get pretty warm with temperatures averaging around 32°C. Keep an eye on the forecast for possible typhoons, which peak in August and September. There is quite a bit of rain during summer, with June and July receiving the most rainfall. 

 

Autumn provides the most comfortable temperature for hiking, and less rainfall, with the autumn colours reaching their peak around the end of October. Winter hiking is also possible, with snowfall occurring from December to March. 

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Mt. Karakuni

韓国岳

Elevation: 1700m

Trail Description

Ebino Kogen Trailhead

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 5-6 hrs

Distance: 10.5 km

Elevation change:  720m gain  ➘ 720m loss

Tr​ailhead ➝ Karakuni Peak: 1hr 40mins

The Ebino Kogen trailhead provides the fastest ascent to the peak of Karakuni, so it's a popular option if you want to catch the sunrise. From the peak, it will take about 50 mins to reach the intersection for Onami Lake. Even if you want to skip hiking around the lake, it's highly recommended to at least check out the nearest viewpoint. For the viewpoint, head left (south) and after about 10 minutes of hiking you'll reach some paths detouring off the trail for a view of the beautiful crater. Note that the thorn bushes on this section can become a little overgrown in summer. The full loop around the crater will take about 1.5hrs, and from the Onami lake intersection it will take another hour to get back to Ebino Kogen.

 

Onami Lake Trailhead

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 5-6 hrs

Distance: 8.5 km

Elevation change:  760m gain  ➘ 760m loss

Tr​ailhead ➝ Karakuni Peak: 2hr 30mins

If you're starting from the Onami Lake trailhead it will take about 40 mins to reach the first viewpoint at the lake, from here it's another hour and 40 mins to reach the peak of Karakuni. You can either head left or right to hike around the lake, the easiest path is to the left, which might be a good idea if you're trying to catch the sunrise.

Map

Elevation Profile

Onami Lake Trailhead

mt karakuni elevation

Ebino Kogen Trailhead

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Gallery

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Mt. Shiratori

白鳥山

Elevation: 1700m

Trail Description

 

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 1.5 hrs

Distance: 4.5 km

Elevation change:  200m gain  ➘ 200m loss

Mt. Shiratori is a leisurely hike around two lakes with some nice views, it makes for the perfect end to a day of hiking Karakuni and even has an observation deck a few minutes from the trailhead, so it's an easy choice for watching the sunset or sunrise. 

Elevation Profile

Map

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Gallery

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Mt. Takachiho

白鳥山

Elevation: 1700m

Trail Description

 

GPS Hiking Map: outdooractive.com

Time: 3.5 hrs

Distance: 5.5 km

Elevation change:  600m gain  ➘ 600m loss

Mt. Takachiho is a magnificent volcano that rises above the Miike lake and campground, it features numerous trails, the shortest and most popular is accessed from the Takachiho Visitor Center. The views are amazing and the trail is very interesting with a variety of volcanic terrain. The mountain also features in an old folklore tail about a young deity who descended from the sky and drove his spear into the peak. Once you reach the peak, you will find an old bronze spear, sometimes claimed to be as old as the legend itself.

Map

Elevation Profile

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Gallery

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