Kuragari Pass: Japan’s Steepest Road!

After leaving Hiraoka Shrine, the Ise Honkaido crosses the Kuragari Pass on Mt. Ikoma, before going into Nara Prefecture. This part, commonly called Nara Kaido, was particularly popular for many people as it was the shortest route to move between Nara and Osaka. Today, with public transportation available, the road is not so popular anymore however part of this road, particularly between Hiraoka Station to Minami Ikoma Statio is popular hiking course.

Note: this post is the 2nd part of the Ise Honkaido Series

Kuragari Pass

Hiraoka – Kurgari Pass

After we got off at Kintetsu Hiraoka Station, we prepared ourselves to start the trail. From this shrine, our path will go all the way up to the mountain, then cross the border between Nara and Osaka at the Kuragai Pass, and then finally we will head down to our goal for the day: the Kintetsy Minami Ikoma Station.

It is surprising that the entire route of this part from Hiraoka to Minami Ikoma Station is National Route 308.  It may appear as a big road if you check any map app, but that’s not true at all. This road is so small that it barely looks like a national route. I saw many cyclists and motorcycles, but this road is waaay too narrow for cars.

Hiraoka Shrine


Hiraoka Shrine is already on the side of the mountain, so you can enjoy the great view of Osaka. However, this is still the starting point of the trail that will ultimately reach a height of 455m.

starting up the Kuragari Pass
Up and up we go!
The grat view of Osaka city

Our endless steep slope nightmare starts here. The steepest point of this slope is 31 degrees, meaning if you proceed 100m, you climb up 31m. Considering that even an average incline angle of an expert-level ski slope is 25-30 degrees, there were times I wondered if we bit off more than we could chew.

Trail to the Kuragari Pass
The famous poet Matsuo Basho walked this same path in 1694
Inari Shrine on the trail to the Kuragari Pass
An Inari Shrine(?) I think?

What bothered us most was that there was no good place we could stop to take a break. There are almost no even spots at all and the trail just goes up and up and up.  It is probably not a good idea to sit on the road because bikes may suddenly come out of nowhere!

Otsuka Inari on the way to the Kuragari Pass
Otsuka of Inari: Mt. Ikoma is a pilgrimage site for a lot of folk religions!
steep slope towards the Kuragari Pass
You’ve got to be kidding me…
A fresh spring on the right. Sadly, it doesn’t seem the water is drinkable though…maybe bring your own filter.

After hiking up an hour from Hiraoka Shrine, we intersected the Ikoma Nature Trail (part of the Osaka Circuit Nature Trail). The Ikoma Nature Trail is a 45km long trail that spans the entire Ikoma Mountain Chain from Mt. Kunimi to Mt. Takayasu. If you are interested in Ikoma Nature Trails, see our post about it! From this junction, it is another 15 minutes to the Kuragari Pass!

Kuragari Pass on left, Osaka Circuit Nature Trail on right
Kuragari Pass on left, Osaka Circuit Nature Trail on right
Susuki (Chinese silver grass) is very pretty up here! Almost to the top….

The Kuragari Pass

Just past the little jizo standing on the side of the road, and we will have at last reached the pass!

WOw somebody drove to here….!!Maybe they came from Nara side

After starting hiking up from Hiraoka Shrine for an hour, we finally arrived at Kuragari Pass at 455m high right next to the top of Mt. Ikoma (642m)!  It is quite surprising that this cobblestone road was one of the most popular roads to go to Nara from Osaka as this was the shortest. Though it may be the shortest, it is definitely the most tiring! 

Kuragari Pass
There is a small restaurant on the pass like used to be (on right)

It is unfortunate that there is no observation deck on the top of the pass. However, if you still have energy, it is highly recommended to visit Bokura no Hiroba. It is only a 15 minutes detour up the small alley right next to a small nearby restaurant. The scenery from Bokura no Hiroba has by far the best view of Osaka. It is probably prettiest at night with the lights of all those buildings are lit up.

From Bokurano Hiroba. It is breathtakingly pretty.


Kuragari Pass – Minami Ikoma Station

After hiking up the Kuragari Pass,  the trail starts to descend to the Kintetsu Minami Ikoma Station. I saw several people hiking up the hill, but I think hiking up from the Nara side is much easier than from the Osaka side to the pass. It is still steep, but not as steep and the road is much wider too. If you are burned out, you can take a bus to Minami Ikoma Station (though be warned: service is quite limited). 

Can see Nara!
Terraced ricefield in Nishihata
stone Buddha carved in 1284
Coming down Mt. Ikoma via the Kuragari Pass
Coming down from Mt. Ikoma. It was a big mountain!

Here we are at last at Minami Ikoma Station. It was quite steep and considering that we walked all the way from Osaka City this day, we got quite tired. 

If you wish to keep walking to Nara City, you have to climb another mountain chain called the Yata Mountain Chain. That being said, it is much smaller than Ikoma Mountain Chain. It takes another 4 hours to reach Nara City from Minami Ikoma Station.

Minami Ikoma Station


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