Omine Pilgrimage Route, Japan

11:53 a.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Here are pictures of a 5-day, 50 mile trek I did back in early August on a historic pilgrimage route in south-western Japan. Although the trail is mostly used by backpackers now, you can still see adherents to an ascetic Buddhist sect called Shugendo out walking the trail in white robes, with staffs and blowing conch-shell horns. I think the entire route (80+ miles?) can take up to 9 days, but I just did the scenic central part of the trail.

Shot of some of the traditional clothing worn by the Buddhist pilgrims. I don't think they actually haul the big shell up the mountain.


Trailhead sign showing the length of the route through the park.


Interesting sign a little further up the trail. The first mountain the trail crosses is considered one of the main holy places of this religion, and there's a large temple complex near the summit. It's also one of the few places (anywhere?) that is off limits to female hikers. Antiquated, I know, but luckily there are other connector trails up to the trek route that avoid this particular mountain.

Followed the stone steps as the route started to steepen.


The trail actually passes right through a way-station--a shabby old hut, but a good place for a rest.


Good views as the canopy opens up.


Religious relics are ever-present along this part of the trail.


Another covered part of the trail--vendors are set up here during the peak tourist weeks selling refreshments and religious trinkets.


Nice view from an overlook at about 1600m.


Not exactly sure who this is, but the lions suggest guardians. Some type of Buddhist mystic who trekked through hundreds of years ago I'm sure.


Nice section of trail near the summit.


Part of the temple complex off in the distance. These buildings actually serve as huts and hikers can stay for a fee.


Another nice section of trail.


My stop for the night, a tiny little hut just beyond the summit (sorry no pics from the top!). I was going to camp, but the hut was empty so I just crashed there. This is one of many stopover points for the pilgrims/hikers along the trail. Many of these are historic in that they've been used for many centuries.

Sunset from near the hut. Great way to end the day.


A look around the hut in the morning and it's time to head out.

The trail passed through some old-growth forest here.



The trail was up-and-down all afternoon, but the great weather was more than enough encouragement to keep moving.


Looking back at the high point of the day, about 1720m.


An amazingly green hollow near the end of the day.

Home for the night. A nice, newly rebuilt hut--one of the best I've stayed in and I had it all to myself!

Surrounding forest at sunset.


On the trail for Day 3, great weather once again. 


This hut has seen better days. That tree has been leaning on the roof since the first time I hiked through here back in 2005.


Huge hut complex at the summit, my high point for the trip at 1895m. Looks like a decent place, but the generator is noisy an there's a better place to camp about a hour ahead. Thunder started to rumble in the distance, so I decided to high-tail it down to camp. Ended up getting caught in a downpour with some, well, interesting lightening despite my best efforts.

Quick shot of the highest peak in the park (1915m) as I'm jogging down to lower ground.

Bridge over the creek to my camp for the night. The hut was packed with people trying to escape the rain.

Day 4 starts with clearing skies and lots of wet branches in the face...

Nice spruce forest along the way.


Great ridgeline hiking in this part of the trail.
Prayer plaques at the base of a tree. Nice spot for a quick rest.


Near camp for the evening, one more peak to climb in the distance.



A couple shots at dusk from near my campsite. Another solitary camp--three out of four nights alone is pretty good for August!

Heading down on Day 5, about a 6-hour walk to the nearest bus stop. I paused a this rock outcropping for a photo.

Huge waterfall on the way down. The river flows into a reservoir not too far below the falls. From here it was another couple of hours to the bus stop. There are two buses a day heading back to civilization, so timing is important! Once on the bus it's about a 2 hour ride to the nearest terminal, then a bus change there, and another hour's ride to the nearest train station. A highly recommended hike with a vibe like no other place I've been. The thousand year history of trekking in the region plus the scenery really make this a special place.




2:06 p.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Awesome report bigup! Thanks much

3:02 p.m. on October 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Yours are some of my favourite TR's on this site for the simple fact that they are so different. Thanks for sharing! Keep me coming...;)

2:17 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for sharing this trip, Bigup. I would love to hike in Japan someday.

Back in the '90s, my brother spent a year as a Watson Fellow hiking/walking Japan's five Gokaido roads:

I sent him a link to your trip report.

I'm very intrigued by historic walking routes like the one you shared.

7:16 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Woah!  Japan!  Amazing trip report!

8:56 p.m. on October 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Thank you for sharing!

5:58 a.m. on November 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the comments everyone! I'll keep posting hikes from Japan. 

If interested, CNN did a story on this area back in the summer (although not the hiking trail I was on):

December 1, 2015
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