A gorgeous natural getaway right in Osaka’s backyard.
Mino is a tranquil and traditional town located just north of Osaka City. Sparsely populated and surrounded by abundant nature, it’s the ideal escape from the crowded, gray metropolis. Known for a quasi-national park, peaceful onsen resort, and award-winning craft beer, Mino has something for every kind of traveler.
Exploring Mino Park
Mino Park may not be a full-blown national park, but it definitely delivers. It’s overflowing with activities — hiking trails, ancient temples, and diverse wildlife abound. Thanks to its compact size, you can enjoy all the park has to offer in one day.
The main hiking trail, Mino Taki Michi, stretches about three kilometers (1.8 mi) and follows the Mino River through a forested valley to the area’s namesake waterfall. The trail is paved, making it an easy hike, but there are more physically demanding routes as well if that’s more your thing. There are plenty of vending machines and food stalls to keep you fed and hydrated along the way, and you may even catch a glimpse of a wild monkey or two.
Fall is the best time to visit, when the maple leaves decorate every backdrop in a red and yellow kaleidoscope.
The scenery shifts with the seasons. Cherry blossoms flower on the temple grounds in spring. During summer, dining verandas serving Japanese cuisine are erected over the river — the cool air wafting up from below chases away the sweltering heat. Winter often brings blankets of snow, painting the quiet landscape in white splendor.
Fall is the best time to visit, however, when the maple leaves decorate every backdrop in a red and yellow kaleidoscope. Fall is also the time to sample Mino’s famous delicacy — momiji tempura (deep-fried maple leaves). It’s a lot tastier than it sounds!
Mino Park’s principal attractions are all located along the Mino Taki Michi trail. Be sure to check out the following as you hike your way through:
- Mino Falls: The 33-meter (108-foot) tall waterfall wreathed with greenery makes for a glorious sight, and is well worth the hike. The name Mino comes from the fall’s resemblance to a traditional farming technique called winnowing. The Japanese word for “winnow basket” is minō.
- Ryuan-ji Temple: A venerated and historic Buddhist temple founded by legendary mystic En no Gyoja. The grounds are breathtaking and include one of only four statues of the goddess Benzaiten in all of Japan.
- Mino Park Insectarium: An informative museum filled with bug specimens both living and dead (including fossils). Don’t miss the butterfly garden!
- Ichijunisai Ueno: A Michelin-starred restaurant serving traditional Japanese cuisine based on the seasons.
Rooftop onsen with a view
What better way to relax after a hike than with a dip in a hot spring bath? Located at the entrance to Mino Park is the towering Mino Kanko Hotel & Spa Garden.
Multiple baths are available to the public for a fee. The highlight is the open-air Sky Bath which offers panoramic views of the valley as far as Osaka City. The resort features Japanese and Western-style rooms, one of the largest buffets in Japan, and a pool in the summer.
Treat yourself to a Minoh Beer
Minoh Beer is an internationally acclaimed craft beer served all over the world but brewed right here in Osaka Prefecture.
Masaji Oshita, the “godfather” of Japanese beer, founded the brewery in 1997. It’s run by his three daughters, who use local produce to create the famous brews, including their most lauded creation — Yuzu White, a white ale made with the yuzu citrus fruit.
Minoh Beer is for sale all over the town — the moment you leave Mino Station it’s peddled at almost every street stall both in and outside of the park.
You can also sample brews at the Minoh Beer Warehouse, a restaurant and shop where a variety of draft and bottled beers — some exclusive and limited edition — can be enjoyed straight from the source. Those willing to trek a little further can visit the company’s office and the brewery itself, which houses a small bar. You might even get a tour of the microbrewery, which truly is tiny. There’s nothing small about the Oshita family’s hospitality though, which is a quality shared by just about everyone in this lovely town.
Other Mino attractions include Japan’s first Mister Donut and the beautiful and unique Katsuo-ji Temple.