EXPLORE OSUGIDANI WITH A MOUNTAIN HERMIT - Spend a Day in a National Park with an Expert Guide

EXPLORE OSUGIDANI WITH A MOUNTAIN HERMIT - Spend a Day in a National Park with an Expert Guide

Mie Prefecture is home to the UNESCO Eco Park Yoshino-Kumano National Park, where you can visit numerous waterfalls, hike deep into the untouched forest and enjoy the spectacular views of the Osugidani Gorge.

A local hermit with an adventurous spirit who has lived in the mountains for over 30 years will be your guide as you experience the raw beauty of waterfalls, steep rock faces and river valleys. The Explore Osugidani With a Mountain Hermit experience costs ¥8,000 (13 and older) or ¥6,000 (12 and under) per person for a 7-hour tour that starts at 9:00 AM and includes visits to many of the best spots in this spectacular area of Mie.

Written by Vern Begg
About the Author:

I grew up near the Canadian Rocky Mountains and spending time in the outdoors was a big part of my youth. When I moved to Japan, I was looking forward to hiking in the mountains and seeing this country’s many natural wonders. Every time I venture into the wilderness here, I see something new.

When I registered for the experience of spending the day in Yoshino-Kumano National Park with a mountain hermit (“sennin” in Japanese), I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Back in Canada, if someone talked about a mountain hermit, I would picture someone who hadn’t interacted with another person in a long time. Of course, this is Japan so I didn’t know what to expect when I met my guide for the day.

This day-trip experience offers many different activities that you can participate in with the hermit. Some of the activities you can choose are cycling, having a bonfire or visiting multiple waterfalls. The activities for each group tour can be tailored to the preference of the participants. What interested me most about the program was the promise of seeing many secluded spots that most tourists wouldn’t have a chance to see. 

I arrived at the meeting point (Okuise Forestpia) in the morning and it was overcast and raining lightly. I wasn’t sure if this would have any impact on our activities for the day and I hoped that we would be able to see all the places on the scheduled tour. I was prepared for the weather with a rain jacket and a towel I could use to dry off if needed. Since there was going to be some hiking involved, I also made sure to wear shoes that would be good for walking on damp stones.

Caption: We met in the parking lot at Okuise Forestpia near Odai before our day in the mountains.

My chosen activity for the day was to go on a waterfall tour. My guide would be taking me around the area of Yoshino-Kumano National Park where the Osugidani Gorge is located. There is an unbelievable amount of untouched natural splendor of the Osugidani Gorge and it has been included on a list of the 100 Unexplored Regions of Japan. 

I have always loved to explore the wilderness and the power and beauty of mountain waterfalls is something I’ve always been drawn to. I especially enjoy the chance to hear the sound of a waterfall in the distance and hike towards it, finally reaching the point where the falls are revealed, the sound fills my ears and a refreshing spray from the rushing water hits my face.

Caption: Tatsumi-san is a true mountain man.

My guide was Yukinori Tatsumi, and he arrived shortly after me at the meeting point. His thick beard was pure white and his eyes had a sparkle that told me the day would be full of adventure. He greeted me with a friendly smile and asked me to call him Tatsumi-san. He is known as a “hermit” because Tatsumi-san has been living in the mountains for over 30 years and he knows the area intimately. I was very excited to see where this Osugidani expert was going to take me.

Tatsumi-san told me to jump into his van and we were off to see our first waterfall of the day. The language barrier between us wasn’t a big deal thanks to our shared interest in nature and passion for exploring. Tatsumi-san also had a permanent smile on his face and he clearly loves showing visitors the special beauty of the mountains he calls home.

Caption:Tatsumi-san was a fearless guide for the day.

Caption: On the way to the first waterfall I could already see the beauty of the forest.

Fudo-daki was our first stop, a breathtakingly powerful 30-meter waterfall. The winding road up to the waterfall’s trailhead would be a nice hike on a sunny day, but I was glad to be in the van with Tatsumi-san in the wet weather. When we got to the end of the road, we immediately started hiking into the forest.  Due to the rain, some parts of the trail required some focus and I had to watch my step. There was even a point where I had to jump about a meter to get over a gap in the trail. With Tatsumi-san’s guidance, it was no issue and I soon found myself standing in front of Fudo-daki.

Caption: A visit to Fudo-daki was a perfect way to start the day.

There was also a small shrine near the waterfall where visitors can leave offerings or say a prayer to the appropriate god. It had been raining in the area for a couple of days before my visit, so the volume of water coming down the mountain was higher than normal. Even though it was only a short hike to the waterfall and back, it was an amazing start to the today. On the drive back to the main road, Tatsumi-san stopped so I could refill my water bottle with delicious mountain spring water.

Caption:The small shrine near Fudo-daki where visitors can make an offering.

Our next stop was an area of the gorge where you could see how humans had used engineering to gain some control over nature. I could feel the power of the water as it poured over each level of the spillway before reaching the river.

Caption: For scale, you can see Tatsumi-san on the right bank if you look closely.

We then drove down the road to a spot where we could walk along the riverside. The path from the road to the river went through a beautiful forest of tall trees and a groundcover of thick moss and ferns. When we emerged from the trees on the other side, there were many large boulders on the banks of the river that have probably been there for thousands of years.

Caption:The lush forests next to the Miyagawa were beautiful after the rain.

Climbing around and over the rocks piled up along the river made me feel like a kid again. At this point in the day, we hadn’t seen another person yet and it felt like we had the whole national park to ourselves. We jumped back in the van and headed down the empty mountain road to our next destination, a suspension bridge that crossed the Miyagawa.

Caption:There were some massive boulders on the riverbank.

The view from the suspension bridge was beautiful and the rain had completely subsided by this time. The tops of the mountains were shrouded in mist and there was a wonderful sense of calm all around. Tatsumi-san dropped me off at the bridge entrance and I walked across on my own. Since there were no other people and no vehicles, there were only the sounds of nature for me to listen to.

Caption: Itook my time and strolled across the bridge.

Caption:The views on both sides of the suspension bridge were spectacular.

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