I go trail running around Mt. Ponpon on the weekends. Try the course I always take and its wonderful view spots!
Start here at Hayao Shrine. There are small white stones placed in front of the stone monument of Emperor Kammu, and if you take one back it might grant you a wish (you can return it when its granted). One of my wishes was granted here. Aside from answering your prayers, there’s a bench offering a great view of Kyoto and Muko city for you to take a breather. It’s about a 2.5km walk from Minami Kasugacho bus stop. There’s a sign board just before the steep road that branches on the way up, and it’s not far from there.
Leave from the Shrine gate at Hayao and take a left. The trail up the mountain is surrounded by Japanese maple and paved with stone steps; it will bring you to Sankoji Temple after a 1km walk. It’s quite steep, but when you reach the top, look over your shoulder. Your efforts are rewarded with a superb view stretching out below you, making you feel like you could walk out on the air in front of you. Sankoji was built in 1074, and it also known as Tenku no Tera (the Temple of the Heavens). The chief priest here is also a trail running buddy of mine.
Take a right after you leave the gate at Sankoji, it will bring you to the Tōkai Nature Trail, and the Sugitani trailhead (about 1km). It’s about 2km to the summit, which is at 678m above sea level. The reason the mountain is called Ponpon is because that’s apparently the sound you make as you walk over it; maybe it’s because I’m running and out of breath but I haven’t heard it yet. On my trips up here it’s been really nice to run through the morning mist and see the sunlight filtering through the trees. The summit offers views of Mt. Hiei (North Kyoto), Kyoto’s Uji area (South Kyoto), and even the Umeda area (Osaka city central). If you go early in the morning you can even occasionally glimpse a sea of clouds.
There are many highlights and things to see on the route like the Tengusugi (cedar, top photo below), so I won’t introduce them all. From Oharano I recommend either the Shakadake → viewing platform (photo below) → Osawatoge → Kippoji Temple course (approx 5km), or from Higashione → Oharano Forest Park → Mt. Oshio → Konzoji Temple course (approx 9km). You can always reverse direction too. At the trailhead of the Tōkai Nature Trail, a right turn will take you to Kippoji Temple, and a left turn will take you over the Oosaka pass to Konzouji Temple.
San no Taki Waterfall
A beautiful waterfall in the vicinity of Konzoji Temple. Imagine the sound of the cold spray of water and the waterdrops falling on the moss covered rocks. When you’re here, the quiet starts to seep in, drawing you away from your busy life unawares. Shut your eyes and take a deep breath. A weight will lift from your heart, and you can start your journey again. Konzouji Temple itself has a quaint history and a charm about it; it’s a good place to visit.
The spots mentioned here are usually guided by information boards on the trails; please follow them. Distances are also only estimates. If you’re walking, be prepared; plan ahead and narrow down your destinations to allow for leeway.
After graduating from university, worked as a rickshaw puller, tofu artisan and toured Tibet before becoming the editor he is today. Moved to Oharano in April, 2020. Loves the scenery in Oharano (Japan’s Tibet), and spending time beside his wood stove listening to Jazz LPs.