Hiking to the top of Osaka's highest mountain.
At the top of its 1,125 meters, Mount Kongo has a surprising number of activities including a nature and astronomy museum, a sprinkling of interesting shrines and temples and even a campsite and a cafe. On a clear day, the summit, which is Osaka’s tallest, gives you a spectacular view over the whole of Osaka Prefecture and even as far as Awaji Island and the city of Kobe.
Mount Kongo forms part of the Kongo-Ikoma-Kisen Quasi National Park which incorporates parts of Osaka, Nara and Wakayama Prefectures. It is also a prominent part of the Diamond Trail, a long hiking route that runs along the borders of these same prefectures.
Kongo is a popular peak for hiking all year round with trails running up both the Nara and Osaka sides of the mountain. Very few of the trails are especially difficult, making it good for families, and there is also a rope-way which can take you most of the way to the top.
It is also good for people looking for a bit of winter snow without traveling too far from central Osaka and in February it is well known for Juhyo, trees glazed with ice — a natural phenomenon of beauty, but is most usually attributed to places farther north.
A hidden castle
One of the lesser known sites on the slopes of Mount Kongo is the location of Chihaya Castle (Map). While nothing remains of this 13th-century castle except for a small and very quiet shrine, it is still counted among Japan’s “Top 100 Castles,” placing it in the same company as much more famous places like Himeji Castle or Matsumoto Castle.
Its inclusion in the list is thanks to a historic battle at the castle between the famous 13th-century samurai Kusunoki Masashige (whose head is buried at nearby Kanshin-ji Temple) and the Hojo Clan, one of the most powerful of the times.
Despite being outnumbered more than 10 to one, Kusunoki won a great victory through clever use of the terrain that would help bring an end to the Kamakura Shogunate.
Mount Kongo is fun excursion away from the hustle of Osaka’s well-known city life.