Exploring Hiroshima

Vol.15 Mikuradake - Otake City -
Mikuradake - Hiking and Climbing in Otake.

Scaling the three peaks of Mikuradake on the western edge of Hiroshima.

Before the Climb

In the mountains of Otake in southwest Hiroshima, the famous three peaks of Mikuradake are a beacon for mountain-lovers. With its steep inclines and giant rock faces, scaling Mikuradake feels like a proper climb and perfect for anyone who wants more than a simple walk up a mountain trail.

My first stop on the way to Mikuradake is the Maron-no-Sato, a local produce market located 3km away from the mountain. Next to the market is the restaurant Mikura where you can enjoy a hearty meal before setting out on the climb. All the meals are prepared by local ladies using locally sourced ingredients. All the vegetables and rice come straight from the farmers market next door.

The Maron-no-Sato selling fresh vegetables grown by local farmers.

The Maron-no-Sato selling fresh vegetables grown by local farmers.

The furusato set meal at the Mikura restaurant in Maron-no-Sato is prepared with locally grown vegetables and rice.

The furusato set meal at the Mikura restaurant in Maron-no-Sato is prepared with locally grown vegetables and rice.

Before you set out to conquer Mikuradake, all climbers are requested to check in at the wooden information lodge. You’ll find a box to leave your details and emergency contact numbers. Good to be safe than sorry (there are occasions when bears roam the hills, so always be vigilant on the mountain). There’s also an English map you need to take with you detailing the different routes to the top. For first-timers, the recommended route is course B on the way up and course A on the way down, but double-check with the person at the counter. I was told to pay particular attention and “take the path to the left” when course A splits in two halfway down the mountain.

The wooden information lodge at the foot of Mikuradake.

The wooden information lodge at the foot of Mikuradake.

Follow the sign posts for route B to the top.

Follow the sign posts for route B to the top.

Setting off

Step outside the lodge and you’ll have a fantastic view of Mikuradake with its three rocky outcrops jutting out into the sky. The mountains appear close enough to touch, but keep in mind an average trek up and back will take over three hours. Make sure you set off early, pack enough water and provisions and wear the right gear. The lodge closes at 5pm and you might receive a call to check your whereabouts if you’re not back by then.

The boulders on Mikuradake attract rock climbers from across the region

The boulders on Mikuradake attract rock climbers from across the region

The route starts off gently winding through the woods at the foot of the mountain, but soon begins to taper upwards. Halfway up, it’ll feel like a real climb and at times you’ll need to grip trees and rocks to lift yourself up.

Walking through woodland in the first section of the climb.

Walking through woodland in the first section of the climb.

Near the summit, the volcanic rocks begin to emerge out of the topsoil. In sections, the route takes you over large rock faces and crevasses, with only a steel chain for support. Make sure you don’t slip!

Once you break through the tree cover at the summit, the view will take your breath away. On a clear day, the panorama extends to the horizon, with the mountains of Miyajima, Shikoku, Kyushu, and the blue of the Seto Inland Sea all within sight.

Things suddenly become steeper.

Things suddenly become steeper.

There were icicles even in the middle of spring.

There were icicles even in the middle of spring.

The view opens up once you’re above the trees.

The view opens up once you’re above the trees.

You can access all three peaks by following the B course. On ‘Yuhidake’ or ‘Sunset Mountain’, the largest of the three peaks, I met Nishimura-san from Hikari City in Yamaguchi Prefecture. An avid climber and photographer, Nishimura scales mountains across this region every weekend.

Nishimura climbs mountains across this region every weekend.

Nishimura climbs mountains across this region every weekend.

“I love climbing Mikuradake, especially in spring and autumn. In spring, the mountain flowers are wonderful,” says Nishimura. “It’s a great place to come and it’s best to go with an experienced climber and wear the right equipment.”

I carefully made my way off the peaks. When I arrived back at the lodge, the evening glow lit up the rocky heights of Mikuradake. It was a tough climb, but well worth the effort.

On a good day, you can see the distant mountains of Shikoku and Kyushu from the summit.

On a good day, you can see the distant mountains of Shikoku and Kyushu from the summit.

It’s a long way down, so please watch your footing on or near the summit. This mountain is not suitable for children.

It’s a long way down, so please watch your footing on or near the summit. This mountain is not suitable for children.

If you don’t have a car, you can catch a bus or taxi from Kuba Station on the Sanyo Main Line. A taxi to Mikuradake will cost roughly 4,500 yen one way.

If you don’t have a car, you can catch a bus or taxi from Kuba Station on the Sanyo Main Line. A taxi to Mikuradake will cost roughly 4,500 yen one way.

Words and Photography by Tom Miyagawa Coulton. (Visited in February 2018)

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