Osaka is Japan’s second city, a neon-lit wonderland known for its mouth-watering food, down-to-earth residents, and vibrant subculture. As a major urban hub, it’s an exciting place to visit — from the resplendent Osaka Castle to the colorful streets of Dotonbori. However, spending a long time in any city can leave you craving some greenery and fresh air. So here are five day hikes that are perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of Osaka’s concrete jungle and getting out into nature.
1. Mount Maya
Over in the neighboring city of Kobe stands the rugged Rokko mountain range, of which Maya is one of the principal peaks. The trail up to the 2,292-foot summit first takes you past Nunobiki Falls, a series of four gorgeous cascading waterfalls. From here you continue into the woodland, with the option to take a detour to the Nunobiki Herb Garden before heading to the top.
Thanks to its reputation as having one of the top three night views in Japan, there’s also a cable car and ropeway system to take you all the way to the Kikuseidai Observation Platform. Day or night, the view from here out over Kobe and back to Osaka is breathtaking.
Getting there: The nearest station is Shin-Kobe, on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen. You can take the bullet train directly from Shin-Osaka, which takes around 12 minutes, or travel by local trains for a longer but cheaper journey. The hike begins just to the north of the station.
2. Mount Ikoma
This 2,106-foot mountain on the border of Osaka and Nara prefectures provides a hike of wonderful contradictions. Beginning with a long walk up the steps of a traditional shopping street, it first takes you through the tranquil grounds of Hozan-ji temple. This incense-shrouded haven, with its striking lantern-lined entryway and charming red pagoda peeping out from the trees, is well worth looking around before continuing up the trail.
When you finally reach the summit, however, you’ll be in a completely different world. At the top lies the quirky Ikoma Sanjo children’s amusement park, complete with vintage rides and panoramic views. For those who just want to catch the highlights, a cable car also runs up to both the temple and the park.
Getting there: The nearest station is Ikoma, which is on the Kintetsu Nara Line. Direct trains run from Osaka’s Namba Station, and the journey takes about 30 minutes. From here, head up the road next to the cable car station to reach the temple. The hiking trail continues from the back of the temple grounds.
3. Takatori Castle Ruins
This Tomb Raider-style adventure takes you through the peaceful town of Takatori and up into the forests of the mountain behind it. Atop the 1,798-foot summit you’ll find the imposing ruins of Takatori Castle. Once one of the largest mountain-top castles in Japan, it is now an atmospheric labyrinth of crumbling walls, moss-covered ramparts, and stairways leading to nowhere. Perfect for unleashing your inner Lara Croft.
The hike up only takes an hour or two, and the trail doesn’t present too much of a challenge. To extend your trip, take a detour to the nearby Sousen-ji temple or enjoy a picnic on one of the benches at the summit.
Getting there: The nearest station is Tsubosakayama, which is on the Kintetsu Yoshino Line. You can get a direct train from Osaka’s Adenobashi Station, with the journey taking around 45 minutes. After a 20-minute walk through Takatori, you’ll enter the forest where the trail begins.
4. Mount Kongo
At 3,690 feet, Kongo is the tallest mountain in Osaka Prefecture. This makes it a popular choice with hikers, and there are numerous trails of varying difficulty levels running up to the summit. And if you don’t fancy scaling the peak on foot, there’s also a cable car that can take you most of the way to the top.
Whichever route you choose, once you reach the summit there are a surprising number of attractions to explore. These include some interesting temples and shrines, a campsite, a cafe, and even a museum. Be aware that if you make the hike in the winter the route will likely be snowy, but it’s a great chance to see the beautiful frost-glazed trees known as juhyo.
Getting there: Take the Nankai Koya Line from Osaka’s Namba Station to Kawachinagano. From here, take a bus to the Kongo Tozan Guchi stop. The whole journey should take just over an hour, depending on how long you have to wait for the bus.
5. Takedao Train Tracks
If you’re looking for a more unusual hike, Takedao is a great choice. It follows an abandoned riverside railway line through a combination of natural and man-made features in an area that nature has reclaimed as its own.
The most exciting part of this hike is that the trail takes you directly through a series of pitch-black tunnels, plunging you into an inky darkness where every sound is amplified. Back out in the sunlight, you’ll also head across picturesque ravines via suspension bridges, their once-bright red paint now faded and worn. The hike itself is easy, as the railroad you’re walking on is almost perfectly flat, and can be completed in a few hours.
Getting there: The nearest station is Namaze, with JR trains running directly from Osaka Station in about 40 minutes. Head along the main road until you pass under an expressway; then turn right down to the river where the trail begins. The hike ends at Takedao Station, where you can catch a direct train back to Osaka.