Nakadake (Kuju-san)

  • Nakadake (Kuju-san)
  • 1791 m
  • Primary factor 1791 m
  • Kyushu island HP, Japan
  • Location: North 33.08598, E131.24905 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 2
  • Climbed August 6. 2016.


How to get there:
This mountain is the highest on the Japanese island Kyushu. Locate Hwy. 11. This road originate on the east coast of the island, in Beppu. This is the bay, just north of the ferry connections between this island and the island of Shikoku. Coming from the north, one may also connect with Hwy. 11 from the expressway (toll road), that serves this part of the island.
Note: The common and by far most popular trailhead is located at the local pass, the highest point on Hwy. 11. This location is roughly at N33.09603, E131.2083 with an elevation of 1320 meter.
However, this report describes a route where you fork off Hwy. 11 slightly further north, before it starts climbing. This location is N33.11821, E131.2292, locate a small road that forks left here, between some buildings.
One may drive this narrow road gently uphill until you arrive at a small parking area where there is a (closed) gate blocking the upper part of this road for traffic. This location is at N33.10977, E131.23239, elevation about 1135 meter.

Route description:
From the parking, continue along the small paved road that climbs gently uphill. Further along, as this road sort of traverses right, you will find a clearly marked trail that heads more steeply uphill. This trail is recommended, it is a short-cut on the road, as it hits the road higher up where the road again traverses more left.
Higher up, back on the road, continue to follow it until it essentially ends (big rocks on the road) near location N33.09998, E131.23647, elevation about 1370 meter. Continue along what is now more like a trail and note where a marked trail leaves the remains of the road, crosses the creek and climbs the hillside. Follow this marked trail (yellow paint) uphill to a local col with some stone buildings/structures on your right.
Descend from the col to a flat valley floor. Turn right here and head into this side valley. Gradually, this trail climbs among rocks and eventually emerges on a pretty flat, broad saddle. The trail from the most common trailhead, arrives from your right. The trail to climb the popular, but lower Kuju heads uphill from here, while the trail to Nakadake forks more left and traverses the side.
The trail crosses a small col and descends slightly to a small lake. Follow around this lake on its right side. At the far end, head more left and uphill to gain a high saddle between a smaller peak to your left and the gently rising ridge going right to Nakadake. This is the final part of the route, there are no difficulties. The summit is well defined with a small summit marker.
We had planned to visit this mountain, while driving south to Kagoshima, then catch an overnight ferry at 1800 to the island of Yakushima. In this plan, we could not aford a full day hike, so after reading a couple of trip reports, we decided that the approach via a small road would be best.
Leaving our guest house in Kitakyushu already shortly after 0500, we located the small mountain road shortly after 0800. However, the road was closed with a gate already before we were at 1150, our plan called for driving to 1400 meter or higher. This would cost us some extra time, we had planned that the hike should be completed in a 3 hour timeframe.
Leaving at 0830, the road was easy to walk and soon, a trail forked off uphill. This was clearly a short-cut, very welcome as we merged with the road substantially higher. The road did not look as if it had any maintenance recently, in fact it ended already at location N33.09998, E131.2364, elevation about 1370 meter.
No problems to find the proper trail, in fact, they have marked the path with more painted circles than they should. The hike was nice and the terrain different from our previous peaks. We arrived at the summit at 0910 and spent 15 minutes there. Descending at 0925, we arrived back at our car by 1045.
Here is a quick summary of peaks climbed in my trip to Japan.