Part of the Aso-Kuju National Park, the Kuju Mountain range is home to some of the highest peaks on the island of Kyushu. For fantastic views, hiking trails covering a range of difficulty levels and plenty of flora, the Kuju Mountains will entertain daytrippers and experienced hikers alike.
The Mountain Range
Located in the western part of Oita Prefecture, the Kuju mountain range consists of about a dozen volcanoes covering a stretch of land measuring 13 km from west to east and 10 km from north to south. With nearby Kumamoto Prefecture’s Mount Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano, this area has been a hotbed of volcanic activity for thousands of years.
Visitors tend to flock to the area during hiking season which typically falls between May and October. Those heading out for the day can find several short trails around the Chojabaru Visitor Center or take a five-hour round-trip trek up to the peak of Mount Kuju or Mount Nakadake from the Makinoto Pass parking lot.
If you’re able to set aside a few days or a weekend, consider making Bogatsuru, a free camping ground, your base from which you can explore the mountain range.
Toward Kyushu’s Highest Peak
While Mount Kuju receives the honor of lending its name to the area, Mount Nakadake is the highest peak at 1,791m. Starting from Makinoto Pass which itself is at an impressive elevation of 1,333m, you’ll be able to chart a path through the range and end up at the top of its highest mountain. Although this is a challenging adventure, Mount Kutsukake, Ogigahana and Hossho will supply plenty of motivation with their beautiful nature and fresh mountain air as you travel to Nakadake.
When you reach the summit of Nakadake, you’ll be treated to a picturesque panoramic view which includes neighboring peaks, such as Kuju (1,787m), Taisen (1,786m) and Inaboshi (1,774m).
A Nature Photographer’s Dream
In addition to a good hike, the Kuju Mountains offer lots of views for amateur shutterbugs and professional photographers. Visitors in the early springtime will find wildflowers and mansaku (Japanese witch-hazel) in bloom along their trails. In contrast, those coming in the summer will find the mountains awash in the Kyushu azalea’s pinks and higotai’s (globe thistle) blues. Autumn is a popular time for Kuju as its trees transform the range into a sea of reds, oranges and golden browns.