Japan

Three Fukuoka pilgrimages to conquer

Three Fukuoka pilgrimages to conquer

Tucked away in the southwest of Japan, Fukuoka offers the best the country has to offer in one intriguing package. The largest city on Kyushu Island, Fukuoka is famous for teasing visitors with the intoxicating aromas of street food at ‘yatai’ stalls, world-class shopping, culture and nightlife.

 

 

It also has something for lovers of the outdoors—built on the shores of Hakata Bay, Fukuoka offers easy access to beaches and the stunning mountains that embrace it on three sides. Those mountains have beckoned pilgrims for centuries. Now it’s your turn. 

Whether you’re searching for enlightenment, a life partner or a demon slayer, Japan’s Fukuoka prefecture has a pilgrimage to suit. Just don’t get your mountains confused.

Love mountain 

Before Tinder, there was Mount Hōman. The mountain was known for being able to help the unlucky in love, with pilgrims praying to find their life partner as they headed up the trail. Its profile has been raised even more thanks to its starring role in a popular manga series. 

The trail through lush forest includes several small waterfalls with cascading crystal-clear waters en route to the summit, 829 metres above sea level, where you’ll enjoy sweeping views of Fukuoka City—from the coastline and city in the north, to the mountains in the south.

Tamayorihime no Mikoto, enshrined in the main hall of Houman-gu Kamado Shrine, is famous as the god of matchmaking. It is said to bring together not only romantic relationships but also all kinds of connections such as family, friends, and work.

There are two rocks on the right side of the main hall called Aikei no Iwa, or 'Charming Rocks.'

It is believed that if you walk from one rock to the other while closing your eyes and thinking of the person you love, your love will come true. Worth a crack.

Mount Hōman loop 

Distance: 5.6km 

Elevation gain: 602 metres         

Time requirement: 3 plus hours  

AllTrails rating: Challenging  

Hard Hiko  

With AllTrails rating the summit climb as 'challenging’, it’s no wonder followers of the Shungendo religious tradition—a combination of Buddhism, Shintoism and mountain worship—picked Hiko as one of their training mountains. The Shungendo pushed themselves to their physical and mental limits in their bid to achieve enlightenment. Lesser mortals may need to stop to rest at the awe-inspiring Hikosan shrine. A registered national historic site conveniently located about halfway up the mountain, Hikosan is thought to bring good luck and is just one of a number of significant temples and shines on the mountain.

 

You know you are about to enter a sacred space when you spy one of iconically Japanese ‘torii’ gates, featuring upright beams supporting lintels.  

Hiko’s summit rewards your hard work with a panoramic view of the bustling Fukuoka city against a glittering Pacific Ocean backdrop.  

Mount Hiko loop 

Distance: 7.4km 

Elevation gain: 732m     

Time requirement: 3-4 hours     

AllTrails rating: Hard  

Forest bath 

The Japanese have been the brains behind many useful, and not so useful, inventions, ranging from the Bullet Train to emojis. But it is during a leisurely stroll up the gentler slopes of Mt Kubote that you appreciate one of their more off-beat creations – ‘shinrin-yoku’ or ‘forest bathing’.  

Forest bathing is now recognised internationally for its physical and mental well-being benefits. The idea is simply to spend time in densely forested areas to let the trees soothe and heal. With Mt Kubote’s ancient forests emitting the heady smell of cedar, all your troubles, including a fear of moths destroying your clothes, simply melt away.  

Along with Mount Hiko, Kubote was a key training ground for the mountain-worshipping Shungendo, who believed Gods lived in the hills and that if followers endured severe training at altitude, they would gain superhuman powers. You can see evidence of Shungendo training grounds, temple ruins, halls, and graves strewn throughout Mount Kubote, which has been declared a national historic site. 

End your adventure with a more traditional type of bathing in the natural hot springs at Kubote Onsen (assuming you haven’t gained superhuman powers, in which case you’ve probably got more important things to do)  

Kobeotesan Daiichie Parking – Mount Kubote Loop 

Distance: 5 km   

Elevation gain: 446m     

Time requirement: 2 - 3 hours     

AllTrails rating: moderately challenging 

Get there

From Tokyo Station to Hakata Station, Fukuoka is just under five hours on the Shinkansen high speed train, with multiple services running per day.

Alternatively, you can take a two-hour flight.

Stay there

The Hotel Cultia Dazaifu, Fukuoka is part of a movement in Japan where a hotel is not one, centralized building, but is scattered throughout an area, spreading the benefits of tourism.

Stay in a refurbished property from the Meiji period (1868–1912), which may have been anything from a family’s residence to a restaurant.

FIND OUT MORE

Get Informed

Visit Fukuoka should be your go-to for any info on experiences, how to get around and more.

VISIT FUKUOKA

Words Kate Robertson

Tags: Fukuoka, hiking, japan, Kyushu, mountains

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