Mount Kongo, Kansai’s Snowy Escape

On the border of Osaka and Nara is the 1125m tall Mount Kongo [金剛山]. Mount Kongo is one of the most popular mountains in the Kansai, especially in winter when people from all over the Kansai region come to enjoy this beautiful snowy mountain. With well maintain trails and easy accessibility everyone from hiking enthusiasts to beginners can enjoy Mount Kongo.

*Mount Kongo Ropeway is suspended since spring in 2019 and probably won’t resume operation this winter. (See Chihaya Akasaka Village Website for more information)

About Mount Kongo’s Hiking Trails

Mount Kongo has more than 10 hiking trails of various difficulties to the top of the mountain. For example there is one trail through the Mizukoshi Pass, another that starts from the Kongo Ropeway Chihaya Station in Osaka, and yet another that starts near Takaamahiko Shrine in Nara.

The most popular route starts near the Kongo-san Ropeway Chihaya Station: the Chihaya Honmichi Trail. This route is very short; just around 4 km and doesn’t require any heavy hiking gear except a pair of snow cleats in the winter.

Snow Cleats: I grew up in a place that hardly ever snows so it never occurred that we need snow cleats but let me tell you, they are really important! If you go hiking anytime during the winter, be sure to throw a pair in your bag!

The entire trail takes only two hours and is great for beginners. Also, while some of the other trails are hard to get to, the Chihaya Honmichi Trail is easy to access and has plenty of bus service near the start of the trail.frost covered branches on the mountain side of mount Kongo

If you wish to climb Mount Kongo in winter, check the Mount Kongo website first for information about the amount of snow.

Getting to Mount Kongo (Chihaya Honmichi Trail)

To get to Mt. Kongo, take the express line of Nankai Koya Line from Namba for 30 minutes and get off at Kawachinagano Station. Then at Kawachinagano Station take Nankai bus number 8 or 11 for Kongo-san Ropeway-mae.  For Chihaya Homichi, get off at Kongo-san Tozanguchi. Be careful that this is a few stops before the last bus stop.

car carrying people up the mount kongo via the Kongo-san Ropeway

If you are not much of a hiker, you can always use the ropeway to get to the mountain (750 yen). However the station is a little ways away from the actual top of the mountain—so you will have to walk another 30~40 minutes to get there from the station.

*Mount Kongo Ropeway is suspended since spring in 2019 and probably won’t resume operation this winter. (See Chihaya Akasaka Village Website for more information)

Hiking Mount Kongo

We arrived at Kawachinagano Station at 8:30 but there was a long line in front of the bus stop. It took us over 30 minutes just to get the bus. We knew that Mount Kongo is very popular in the winter but it seems it is even more popular than we imagined. If you are going to hike up the mountain I recommend that you should start early, not only so you do not have to wait long to get a bus, but also so you can have more time to enjoy the snow before it melts and the ground becomes muddy.

Once you get off the bus, everybody goes down the slope to reach the start of the Chihaya Honmichi Trail. However, there is another route that runs parallel to this one just a couple hundred feet away that is rich in history.

Chihaya Castle

start of trail leading to Chihaya Castle on Mount Kongo
Entrance: 500 steps might seem like a slightly daunting way to start your hike, but it’s worth it!

This trail will take you by the former site of Chihaya Castle [千早城] and eventually merges with the Chihaya Honmichi Trail. Since it doesn’t add a lot of of time to your hike we think it’s worth the small detour.

The brilliant war tactician and strategist Kusunoki Masashige [ 楠木正成] built Chihaya Castle sometime near the mid-14th century. The Osaksa native Kusunoki Masashige, was a key figure of the short-lived Kenmu Restoration who greatly contributed to ending the Kamakura government. Masashige’s devotion to Emperor Go-daigo is one of the most glorified examples of samurai loyalty in Japanese history.

Statue of Kusunoki Masashige at Kashin-ji Temple, Osaka, Japan.
Statue of Kusunoki Masashige at Kashin-ji Temple, Osaka, Japan.

Though all of the castle’s buildings were totally demolished, it still has a spot as one of the top hundred castles in Japan.

Chihaya Castle: after about 15 minutes, we arrived at the site of the castle. It snowed a lot here, so we put on our snow cleats here.

Memorial of Chihaya Castle: It is said that many of Kusunoki Masashige’s soldiers were just local farmers with no proper weapons or military training.

Kusunoki Masashige completion of Chihaya Castle attracted the Kamakura government’s attention. As the Kamakura government spent a great deal effort in battling Masashige, meanwhile another crown loyalist in the Kanto region, Nitta Yoshisada, laid siege the headquarters of the Kamakura government.

Shrine for Chihaya Castle
Chihaya Shrine, former site of Chihaya Castle.

With the Kamakura government dealt a lethal blow by the combined efforts of Masashige and Yoshisada, Emperor Go-daigo was able to gather enough military power to retake the government and re-establish supreme authority to the throne. It is amazing to think of all the bloodshed that once took place on Mount Kongo.

Chihaya Shrine: Chihaya Shrine, enshrines Kusunoki Masashge and stands on the original site of Chihaya Castle’s main keep.

Just after the shrine, the trail merges with Chihaya-Honmichi Trail.

trail that leads to the main Chihaya Honmichi Trail

Chihaya Honmichi Trail

After just a little while you will find yourself on the main trail.

Chihaya Honmichi Trail

The further up the trail you go, the heavier the snow gets.

Chihaya Honmichi trail on mount kongo
The snow is getting deeper and deeper

snow covered trail at mount kongo

Trees covered with frost. Pretty!

ice covered tree branches on mount kongo

snowy covered tall trees on mount kongo

Finally, we arrived the top of the mountain.  It supposedly takes hour and a half to the top, but because we aren’t use to walking with snow cleats, it took us closer to two hours to finish the trail.

Former site of Kunimi Castle, another of Kusunoki Masashige’s castles. It was probably more of a watch tower than a castle though…

Top of Mount Kongo

sign indicating the top of mount kongo in Japan
A lot of people believe this is the the top, but in fact the highest point of the mountain is behind Katsuragi Shrine.

At the top of the mountain is a clearing where people usually take a few victory selfies, enjoy snow or a quick bite.

kitty-chan snowman on the top of mount kongo

Japanese people seem to really enjoy eating some instant cup ramen up here. How do they get the hot water? They carry portable stoves with them! To me, this is especially surprising that they would bother to carry heavy cooking tools all the way up here. Just take a sandwich! Not to mention there is a small restaurant and a vending machine that sell cup noodles up here, so it’s really pointless.

snowy view from the top of mount kongo
Beautiful view from the top

It was -5C but it didn’t feel especially cold.

Tenporin-ji on top of mount kongo
Tenporin-ji: Originally built in 665 by En-no Gyojyo; the current temple building was rebuilt in 1962.
View from Tenporin-ji
Poor spider!

If you have time, walk around the top of the mountain. There are plenty of clearly marked trails that will give you plenty of opportunities to can enjoy the beautiful scenery. The mountain top is completely covered with snow.

There is a shrine on top too.

Katsuragi Shrine at mount kongo
Katsuragi Shrine

The shrine is Katsuragi Shrine, which enshrines Hitokotonushi.

Rebuilt in 1935.

The actual mountain top is behind the shrine but unfortunately, the shrine prevents people from entering.

4 thoughts on “Mount Kongo, Kansai’s Snowy Escape

  • August 21, 2019 at 4:30 am

    Nice Article . Mount kongo is Awesome Place for Hiking. Beautiful Pictures You captured .Thank you for Sharing.

  • August 23, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    We will visit Mt. Kongo in December.
    Would just like to ask if there is snow already on that month?

    Thank you.

    • August 24, 2019 at 8:24 am

      Perhaps in early December there will be little if any snow at all and by late December there should be some. However, keep in mind that the snow may melt quickly as the day goes on. Always check the Mt. Kongo website. Don’t forget your snow cleat, too!!

  • September 28, 2019 at 6:42 am

    We will be there by third week of December so we hope there would be snow already. We will go there early in the morning. I tried to check their website but it is written in Japanese and I don’t understand everything.

    Thank you so much for your reply! 😊

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