Hiking in the Kirishima Mountains
Kirishima (霧島), is a city located in the Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu. There are several mountains located in Kirishima and collectively they form the Kirishima Mountains. These mountains are situated on the borders of Miyazaki and Kagoshima, so if you are planning a trip there, there is not much difference coming from either Miyazaki or Kagoshima.
Apart from the famous Mount Aso, which is currently closed to the public after an eruption recently (September 2015), the mountains of Kirishima are one of the few other volcanoes located in Kyushu. Mount Shinmoedake is a highly active volcano that erupted recently in 2011; therefore, a no-entry zone has been established. However, the view and scenery from the other neighboring mountains are not affected.
It took around us 2 to 3 hours on the road before reaching the Kirishima Mountains from Kagoshima City. We first made a stop at the Kirishima Shrine before heading onwards to the Kirishima Mountains. Though the shrine was very secluded, there were still many visitors.
There were only a few food stalls from Kirishima Shrine to Ebino Kogen (one of the entrance to the hiking trails of the Kirishima Mountains). So be prepared to pack some bento beforehand if you are thinking of a doing a hike in the mountains.
It was rather confusing to get to the start of the hiking trail. However, after many detours, we managed to get to Ebino Kogen, a small city located in the Kirishima Mountains and also an entrance to the many hiking trails. As we were inept and new at hiking, we picked the easiest route that required only 2 hours to finish. There were several hiking trails with different levels of difficulty, so you can pick based on your fitness level and time allowance. There were some that required around 6 hours to finish; and some that required 1 hour.
There were benches placed at the grass field, probably meant for a picnic setting. If you enjoy nature, I am certain that eating here would be a memorable experience (though you have to carry your rubbish along).
As the weather was good on the day we were there, we met several groups of hikers combing the trails. Most of the Japanese we met on the way were very friendly, stopping by to say “Konnichiwa (こんにちは)”. A kind uncle went a step further by initiating small talks and even introduced us to the various types of flowers and grass found along the paths.
It was not a difficult hike, perhaps because we took the easiest route. As the trails were rocky and steep, it could be slightly difficult for those with no experience. However, do not be afraid of being lost as the roads and paths are clearly defined and there are many others hiking too.
The Kirishima Mountains are one of my favorite mountains in Japan as it is still relatively unpopular and thus not many people will make a trip here, leaving the beauty of nature untouched.