Odaigahara Plateau is one of 100 mountains in Japan chosen for their beautiful views, and spiritual and historical importance. With spectacular vistas and other-worldly landscapes, a trip to Odaigahara is unforgettable.
Odaigahara is fairly easy to reach from Nara City by a combination of train and bus travel. Take the Kintetsu Yoshino Line bound for Yoshino and alight at Yamato-Kamiichi Station. From there take the bus bound for Odaigahara. The end of the route is Odaigahara Visitor Centre, where you can pick up a hiking map. Expect the total journey to take a little over 3 hours.
Note that the bus only runs between April and November with 2 buses on weekends and just one on weekdays, which drops off in the morning and picks up in the late afternoon. Make sure to check the timetable and the weather forecast when planning your hike. While it’s not impossible to visit the area as a day trip from Nara City, an overnight stay nearby will give you more time to experience the stunning scenery and more flexibility with transport options.
- Odaigahara Visitor Centre
- Pick up local walking maps and plan your trip. Outside the centre there are a couple of vending machines where you can buy drinks.
The Odaigahara Visitor Centre is at one end of the car park, with the bus stop at the other. At the centre, you can pick up trail maps and experience interactive exhibitions explaining the flora and fauna you will see on your hike. Near the centre there are shops, restaurants, public toilets and lodgings.
Various courses of differing lengths start from the visitor centre, but the Hidegatake-Daijagura course takes in many of the best views. It takes 3.5h to cover the 8.8km course, the beginning of which leads along the Uemichi path.
- Following the Uemichi takes you along shady forest paths and past moss gardens.
Roughly 2km along the Uemichi path is Hidegatake, a peak standing at an altitude of 1,695m. From the observatory here, hikers are rewarded with views of the surrounding mountains, and early in the morning on a clear day it is even possible to see Mt. Fuji.
- This lookout at the highest point offers views to the Kumano sea and as far as Mt. Fuji on a good day.
From Hidegatake, the course takes you over the Masakitoge mountain pass and through Masakigahara, a large expanse of bamboo grass and weathered trees. 60 years ago, this was lush forest covered in moss. A combination of typhoons, a rising deer population and the spread of bamboo grass has reduced it to the eery landscape that can be seen today.
- Masakitoge & Masakigahara
- This part of the hike features vast plains of blighted spruce and cypress trees.
Walking through the open expanse of Ushiishigahara, a kilometre from Masakigahara, you will notice a statute of Emperor Jimmu, Japan's first emperor who as legend has it was guided to Nara by a mythical 3-legged crow.
- Ushiishigahara & Emperor Jimmu Statue
- There’s a good chance to see deer and other wild animals around the grassy plains of Ushiishigahara.
The highlight of the hike is Daijagura, a rocky plateau with vistas out across the surrounding valleys and mountains. It is well known for its spectacular autumn scenery.
- Spectacular in all seasons, especially autumn; the outcrop is almost surreal.
After taking a break at Daijagura, you can double back a little and take the Nakamichi path back to the visitor centre. More experienced hikers may opt to take the Takimione mountain ridge path. Both routes are a similar length, but the latter is more challenging.
Next to the visitors centre you can stay at Kokoro Tojikan Odaigahara, with hearty meals and hot springs. At night, don’t miss the views of the clear, starry skies.
Reaching Odaigahara takes approximately 3h 30 min by train and bus. It is important to note that the bus service from Yamato-Kamiichi Station is infrequent and only operates between April and November.