Hyakumeizan: Climbing Japan's 100 Famous Mountains

By Ginger Vaughn

#23 Kuju-san


The peak of Mt. Kuju, reaching skyward from Aso-Kuju National Park, is the highest point on Kyushu Island and is the largest active volcano in Japan. You can enjoy camping and hot springs, as well as alpine plants and flowers in the area, while Mt. Kuji is an easy-going hike in late autumn.

I got off the ferry in Kitakyushu groggy after 35 hours of sea travel from Tokyo. Coffee and a few sandwiches later, I was re-charged and ready to get on the road for Kuju.

Standing on the main highway with my thumb out, I am picked up in no time. The driver offers to take me halfway there, but two hours of conversation and a few hot dogs later, he drops me off at the trailhead to Mt. Kuju. Leaving my pack at the onsen-lodge, I grab just the essentials and head out.

It takes only a few minutes to get out of the forest. Immediately the world in front of me changes with color. The burnt orange ranges and blue sky are overwhelming, and the powerful white jets of steam pumping out of the mountain make for a sight to behold.

Trail Tips: From Makinoto Toge trail entrance, Mt. Kuju is an easy-going hike with a clearly marked trail. In the autumn it can get a little dusty when the wind picks up, as the area is volcanic and consists of much dry rock, so it’s a good idea to bring sunglasses to protect your eyes. On a clear day, you can enjoy 360-degree views of Mt. Sobo and Mt. Aso in the distance. End your hike with an open-air bath at Akagawa Onsen. With a reservation, you can enjoy dinner and an overnight stay.

Mountain: Kuju-san (九重山)
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
Location: Kyushu, Oita-ken (九州・大分県)
Peak: 1,791 meters
Duration: Day hike(日帰りハイキング)
When to go: June-November
How to get there: Fly from Haneda Airport to Fukuoka. Transfer to local subway and Hakata is a five-minute ride. From there take the JR to Bungo Nakamura Town. Makinoto Toge Pass is an hour bus ride from there.

Getting There
Haneda Airport ⇒ Fukuoka ⇒ Hakata City ⇒ Bungo Nakamura⇒ Makinoto Toge
(90 minutes, ¥24,400) ⇒ (5 mins. 250yen) ⇒ (2 hrs. ¥4.290) ⇒ (1 hr. ¥950)

Things to bring
Raingear, flashlight, map, camera, sunscreen, water, camera, gloves, sunglasses, warm hat.

Contact Information
Hida Bus Company: (09737) 2-0528
Kuju Town Tourist Information: (09737) 6-2111
Kuju-kogen Lodge: (0974) 76-1211
Akagawa Onsen Lodge: (0974) 76-0081
Kuju Flower Park: (0974 )76-1422

Things not to miss:
Open-air bath near Mt. Kuju at Akagawa Onsen and Mt. Kuju flower park in the summer to late autumn seasons. Try the gelato made of fresh herbs and flowers.

Recommended Hiking Schedule
Day 1: 4 hours, 30 minutes.