Located in the northeastern portion of Kyushu (one of Japan’s largest 4 islands – the southwestern one), Mt Tsurumi overlooks the onsen town of Beppu. While Beppu is primarily known for its abundance of hot springs, especially the Beppu Hells, it is also well-placed to explore some of Kyushu’s natural areas. Mt Tsurumi is one such example and can be easily hiked within a day, even at a leisurely pace.
However, be warned! While Mt Tsurumi is only 1,375 m (4,500 ft) tall, it has a relatively narrow base, especially from where the trails start. This translates into a steep climb that will definitely be a workout. This isn’t for anyone who has not hiked before and just wants a casual stroll.
Also note that Mt Tsurumi is an active volcano. It has to be to supply Beppu with its abundance of hot springs. While it has not erupted in over 1,000 years, there is obviously still magma activity that occurs around Mt Tsurumi. Make sure to hike smartly. You can check information about the volcano and its activity here. If there is a warning or signs that it may erupt, I highly recommend NOT going.
Where to start hiking
You can begin your hiking experience in a couple of places to get to the summit of Mt Tsurumi. The main trailhead starts here. I would recommend stopping at the Honoohonome Shrine (火男火売神社中宮), which is less than 10 minutes into the trail. It is a nice sight and you can prepare yourself a bit better for the hike that is to come.
Alternatively, there is a Western Trail and an Eastern Trail that also go up the mountain. However please note that they are much more difficult. They are not marked, the terrain is more difficult to navigate, and only those who are very experienced and knowledgeable about the area should attempt them. The Western Trail comes from the picturesque town of Yufuin. The Eastern Trail is part of the “one-shot” trail. I did not do it but you can read more about the trail and one hiker’s experiences here.
Here are some images from the trailhead up to the shrine:
After Honoohonome Shrine
At the shrine, head to the back of the main building around the left side. You will see the start (or continuation) of the trail that will take you up to the summit.
This hike up the trail goes through a nice wooded area. While there is nothing specific to see on your way up, if the day is clear, you may be able to see some of the surrounding landscape through the trees. Even if you can’t, the clouds often create some breathtaking shapes and play off the landscape. Even on a cloudy day, it is worth it. Here are some images of the forest up to the summit.
the summit of mt Tsurumi
Once you read the summit, there is where the views of the surrounding area really begin. On a cloudy day, you will be higher than some of the clouds. As a result, they will hide some of the surrounding areas. This just creates a nice relief against the backdrop.
There are a couple of things of note at the summit. The first is the summit marker, which you can see below. The second is a series of shrines. It is said that 7 lucky gods live on Mt Tsurumi. They are related to the health benefits of the onsen in Beppu and the Japanese have been making pilgrimages to Mt Tsurumi for that reason for as long as Beppu has been around. Asa a result, there are now 7 shrines on top of Mt Tsurumi and many people use the Beppu Ropeway to get to the top instead of climbing.
Here are some images from the top of Mt Tsurumi.
getting to mt tsurumi
If you do not want to hike from Beppu, the easiest way to get to the trailhead is to drive. There is a parking lot there where you can park your car for free and for as long as you would like.
If you do not have a car, the next best way is the bus. If you are travelling from Beppu, I highly recommend the Beppu Wide Ticket. It comes in two varieties: the Beppu ticket and the Wide Ticket. Each comes in 1-day and 2-day variants. If you plan to take the bus to the trailhead, you will need the Wide ticket as the normal one only covers within the city. The Wide ticket for 1 day is ￥1,300 (as of the end of September 2022) and the 2-day ticket is ￥2,600. You can find current information about the tickets available and their prices on the Kamenoi bus website (the local bus operator).
With the Wide ticket you can go to Yufuin, so it is not a bad idea to get the 2-day ticket and combine it with either a trip there or around the Hells of Beppu. Note that you do not have to buy the experience tickets that are advertised as well on the website linked above. You can get these tickets at Beppu Station, the Beppu Transportation Center, the Fujiya Gallery and Beppu Ropeway. Buses also go from all of these places to the trailhead and Yufuin. For example from Beppu Train Station, take Bus 36. For the trailhead, get off at “Torii” bus stop. It will take approximately 30 minutes to get there from the station.
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