Hiroshima Prefecture is a region of contrasts. To the south, magical islands rise up through the tranquil waters of the Seto Inland Sea. To the north and west, the stark majesty of the Chugoku Mountains.
Head to northeast Hiroshima for the Shobara region with its Hibayama Mountain Range. Easily accessible from Hiroshima Airport and Hiroshima Station, Shobara is Hiroshima’s big mountain country.
Shobara is a perfect hiking destination. It offers both easy and challenging climbs with well-maintained trails. For hiking enthusiasts and experts alike, the views from the summits over neighboring peaks are not to be missed.
Many of the mountains including Mt. Hiba are closely entwined with Japanese folklore and myth. They appear in the “Kojiki” - the ancient book of Japanese folklore. Shobara is the setting for a number of Japan’s creation myths.
Shobara has masses to offer. Its ancient towns boast beautifully preserved buildings, relaxing resort hotels, delicious restaurants and hot-spring onsens. Whatever you are looking for, Shobara has it.
Don’t forget all the places and routes we bring you in these guides are tried and tested. So take a look and see what Shobara has to offer.
Getting to Shobara
There are a number of ways to get to Shobara and Mt. Hiba, but the most convenient option is by car. It takes about one and a half hours from Hiroshima Station or Hiroshima Airport.
If you would prefer public transport, a number of highway buses leave Hiroshima Station and Hiroshima Airport for Shobara. The train line is still under repair at the time of writing following typhoon damage. If you are travelling on a Japan Rail Pass, please check the JR West website for current rail information.
The Hiking Trails
The Hibayama Mountain Range and other neighboring peaks are designated national parks, protecting them from development and deforestation. The region is the perfect place to experience pristine natural Japanese landscapes.
The Hibayama Mountain Range consists of the following mountains:
Mt. Hiba, Mt. Eboshi, Mt. Kenashi, Mt. Iradani, Mt. Ushibiki, Mt. Tateieboshi.
A popular trekking route is the Hibayama Hiking Trail. This sets off from the Kenmin-no-Mori, and winds through Mt. Tateieboshi, Ikenodan, Mt. Hiba, Mt. Eboshi before finally turning back to return to Kenmin-no-Mori.
For a shorter and easier hike, try parking at Mt. Tateieboshi and trekking up to Mt. Hiba and back again.
Things to take to Mt. Hiba
The hiking trail up Mt. Hiba is well maintained. Aside from a good pair of trekking shoes, you shouldn't need to take any climbing equipment. However, we recommend you take the following as a precaution:
A map, compass, rain wear, a torch, a bell (to ward off bears), rubbish bags (in Japan its customary to take home your rubbish when trekking), water, snacks, small first-aid kit (this can be purchased in convenience stores), a mobile phone (dial 110 for Japanese police and 119 for the fire brigade). Plus, you should check your travel insurance covers mountain climbing.
Things to watch out for when trekking in Japan
Make sure you check maps and weather reports before you start climbing.
Make sure you do not stray from the route specified on the map. Mt. Hiba has signposts dotted along the trail to help you.
Being a national park, gathering native plants and flowers on the mountain is strictly forbidden. Open fires are also strictly prohibited.
Beware of poisonous snakes and wasps (hornets??).
If you need emergency medical attention or an ambulance in Japan, please call the fire brigade on 119.
Legend has it, Mt. Hiba is the last resting place of the Japanese god Izanagi-no-Mikoto who created the Japanese archipelago with his wife Izanami. At the summit of Mt. Hiba, a rock formation called Goryo is believed to be the entrance to Izanagi-no-Mikoto's tomb. To many Japanese, the area around Goryo is sacred, possessing special spiritual energy.
Mt. Hiba is also known as the most southerly point where Japanese beech trees grow in abundance. You will see thousands growing on the mountain, including some giant beeches. This forest is a designated natural national treasure. The route to the summit passes through a complete section of beech forest, as well as plants and flowers only found in mountain areas.
What to See on the Hibayama Hiking Trail.
Hibayama Hiking Trail is known for its spectacular views. On a clear day at Ikenodan, you can look over a sea of mountain peaks stretching to Mt Daisen in Tottori Prefecture - the tallest mountain in the Chugoku Mountain Range. If you set off from the Mt. Tateieboshi parking area, the climb to Ikenodan should only take 30 minutes (roughly an hour for children). This is the perfect mini excursion if you want to enjoy a brief hike.
The southernmost mountain of the Hibayama Mountain Range, Mt Ryuo is easily accessible by car and affords some breathtaking views from its summit. Similar to Ikenodan, you can see Mt Daisen in the distance, Mt Sanbe in Shimane Prefecture and Mt. Hiba. Why not leave your car at the bottom and climb Mt. Ryuo? Remember Mt. Ryuo is part of the "Kojiki Trail" to the summit of Mt. Hiba - popular among Japanese hikers making their pilgrimage to Goryo and Izanagi's tomb.
Refreshing Energy Spots - Kumano Shrine & Cho-no-Taki
Kumano Shrine was built to worship the god Izanagi-no-Mikoto. The traditional Japanese architecture is beautiful, but the most striking thing about Kumano Shrine is the more than 100 enormous cedar trees growing in the grounds. Eleven of the giant cedars are designated historical natural monuments by Hiroshima Prefecture.
A trekking route leading to Mt. Hiba starts from the edge of Kumano Shrine and a 40-minute walk will take you to the Cho-no-Taki waterfall. From the 80-meter waterfall at the foot of Mount Ryuo you can continue climbing towards Mt. Hiba or return to the parking area at Kumano Shrine. Walking from Kumano Shrine to the waterfall and back again takes roughly one and a half hours.
Kenmin-no-Mori Koen Center
Hiba beef hitsumabushi gozen
Price: 5,000 yen (before tax)
Booking necessary (minimum of two)
With a restaurant and a hotel, the Kenmin-no-Mori Koen Center facility is a luxurious base camp for people hiking Mt. Hiba.
In Shobara, Hiba beef is the popular brand of locally produced beef and appears on menus at many local restaurants. Hiba beef is relatively lean and perfect for people who enjoy red meat without the marbling of fat you find in most Japanese beef.
The Kenmin-no-Mori restaurant offers a popular dish called the "Hiba beef hitsumabushi gozen." First, they serve Hiba beef and foie gras on a bed of rice to accentuate delicate flavors of the meat and the rice. Then you add selected Japanese vegetables and spices to the meat and rice for a different culinary experience. Finally, you top it off with a delicious soup stock turning it into a casserole. This dish lets customers enjoy Hiba beef in three distinct ways.
The roast Hiba beef bowl Price: 1800 yen (tax not included)
Mt. Azuma next to Mt. Hiba has a gentle incline and the Azumayama Lodge is located at its base. They have hot spring baths and lunch menus featuring Hiba beef. We recommend you try the roast Hiba beef bowl - slices of delicious roast beef layered thick over a bowl of rice.
Green Field Saijo
A single ice cream cup starts at 270 yen
Shobara also has dairy farms producing delicious local dairy products. Green Field Saijo is an ice cream shop run by the dairy farm's daughter and grandmother. They offer ice creams in a variety of flavors including some seasonal variations. Along with the classic flavors like vanilla, berries and cream cheese, they also offer unusual flavors like the wild mountain vegetable fukinoto.
This restaurant is inside a lovingly renovated 130-year-old traditional Japanese house. The inside of Yamasemi is decorated with old traditional Japanese tools and vintage toys. The vegetables served at Yamasemi are grown in the field outside. You should order the "omakase menu" (omakase means leaving the choice to the chef) for 1,200 yen. You won't be disappointed. Also, make sure you leave enough room to taste their popular buckwheat soba noodles.
There are not many places where you can enjoy wonderful food inside a traditional Japanese house while gazing out at the Chugoku Mountains. This is restaurant is a must for anyone exploring Shobara.
This delightful old Japanese town in Shobara flourished during the Edo period (1603 - 1868) when it was a vital point in the distribution chain for steel and charcoal. You can find sake breweries and traditional shops still open for business. A wonderful place to wander back in time.
In addition to several B&B hotels in Shobara, you can also find larger accommodation facilities such as the Kanpo-no-Sato Shobara. At some of the larger hotels, you can also drop in for a quick dip in their hot spring onsens. You can do this at the Kanpo-no-Sato Shobara for just ¥650 (although only guests can access the baths at night). In addition to Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats, The Kanpo-no-Sato Shobara also offer western single and twin rooms.
Shopping for Gifts - Roadside Station Yumesakura
If you want souvenirs, go to Yumesakura. Here you will find everything from Hiba beef to locally grown vegetables. The bakery is famous for its curry bread - curry cocooned inside a crispy bread exterior. They only make 20 every day, so you need to be quick if you want to taste one before they sell out. The reason for its fame? They use plenty of Hiba beef in the curry sauce. Yum. Yumesakura also operate a rental bicycle service. Here you can rent an electric "e-bike" for three hours for 2,000 yen. The motor kicks in to help you with any steep climbs, making it a great way to enjoy the countryside around Shobara without overexerting yourself. Contact Shobara Tourist Association for details.