As you know, the area around East Nara Nabari is rich in nature and surrounded by mountains. Waterfalls and hiking routes attract many climbers every year.
Here, I would like to write about three of my favorite trekking places.
First, I will talk about Mount Miune (1,235 m) in Mitsue Village, Nara Prefecture. It's a popular mountain for climbers in the Kinki region and is famous for its rime ice or hoar frost that can be seen in the winter. Rime ice is a natural phenomenon that occurs on very cold days when ice forms on trees and other structures in high-altitude mountains.
A rime ice festival is held every year from mid-January to mid-February at the Mitsue Youth Travel Village, the trailhead for this walk. A 2-hour walk will take you to the summit, and even beginners can enjoy winter mountain climbing with crampons. You can see The Fudo Falls frozen on the way when the temperatures are low enough.
Of course, the view from the top of the mountain is also excellent, offering a panorama of Mt. Takami and the Soni Highlands.
After descending the mountain, I stopped by the Rime Ice Festival and talked with the locals over a cup of coffee. It was the best part of the trip. You can also relax and warm up your body and soul at “Himeshi-no-Yu” hot spring before returning home.
Location (Mitsue Youth Travel Village): 6330 Kozue, Mitsue Village, Uda-gun, Nara Prefecture
Related link: Snow Mountain Hike in Beginner-friendly Mt. Miune
Ushigamine Iwaya Masugata
My second favorite hike is "Ushigamine Iwaya Masugata," a megalithic site in Yamazoe Village, Nara Prefecture. There are countless huge rocks and boulders in this area. Among them are two interesting boulders, originally believed to be monolithic. One of them has a door shape cut into the 16-meter-high cliff.
The other monolithic boulder creates a cave. On its surface, a statue of Dainichi Nyorai, the Cosmic Buddha, is carved. According to legend, Kobo-Daishi Kukai carved Dainichi Nyorai and put away the tools he used inside the little door on the other boulder.
The trail is well maintained and only takes about 30 minutes one way. It can be enjoyed by families and couples. So take a packed lunch, take your time, and enjoy nature.
Location: Kitano, Yamazoe Village, Yamabe-gun, Nara Prefecture
Lastly, I would like to recommend Mt. Saburo, located in Uda City, Nara Prefecture. Uda has well-preserved old townscapes, having long flourished as an inn town on the Ise Hon-kaido. The Harayama district, near the entrance to Mt. Saburo, is a hill town with the Ishiwari Pass, the most difficult part of the highway.
I parked my car near Meikai-ji Temple and headed to Mt. Saburo. The trail is well-maintained by local people, and the directions are easy to understand. After about an hour of climbing, a precipice suddenly appears, and the mountains in the distance come into view through the trees.
I saw five Buddha statues engraved on the cliff. These Buddhas were commissioned by a man named Ishiwari Kamematsu (people call him Ishimatsu-san) in the Taisho era (1912-1926) and completed in three years. One of them is considered Ishiwari Kamematsu himself. Some of them are carved high up on the steep cliffs, making me wonder how they were carved up there.
It is a short walk from here to the summit. If the weather permits, the views of Odaigahara, the Omine mountain range, the Yamato Basin, and Mt. Nijo from the top of Mt. Saburo (879 m) are outstanding.
You could take a round-trip hike to Mt. Takagi for about one hour. The path is well maintained, and you can enjoy walking along the ridge in the komorebi (sunlight filtering through the trees). If you have the stamina and time to spare, please give it a try.
After descending the mountain, a visit to the nearby “Takai Senbon-sugi Cedar ” and Butsuryu-ji Temple is also recommended to learn more about the history of the Ise Hon-kaido Highway.
Location (Meikai-ji Temple): Murou-Shimotaguchi, Uda City, Nara Prefecture
Related link: Hiking map by Uda City (in Japanee)
It is getting warmer and a good season for outdoor activities such as hiking and visiting waterfalls. Combining trekking and sightseeing, such as visiting shrines, temples, or even cafes and hot springs, is a great idea for exploring East Nara Nabari.