I'm honestly not a fit person. I hated most sports, and in high school, when Gym was an elective class in 11th grade, I yeeted it out of my schedule as quick as I could. As I am getting older though, I could no longer get away just sitting and eating without gaining some pounds, and I looked for ways to get a bit more active.
One thing that's great about Japan is that you're never too far away from somewhere to have an entertaining walk, whether that's just walking to a shrine nearby, or going in and out of the city center. Even if you don't have immediate access, everything is accessible by a train or two. Back in Canada, not much exciting happens unless you have a car to drive to the exciting spot. Which makes you walk and exercise less. Either you feel less motivated to take the extra step to drive, or you end up driving up to the destination - mitigating all exercise.
Because of these things, I was unfit. And the thought of just showing up at a trail intimidated me. I didn't want to go 5 steps up and realize the trail was too steep for me.
And if you're reading this, you're probably in the same boat. So here's my two recommendations:
Minoo Park / Falls
Firstly, I have to apologize because for some reasons, even though I've been to Minoo several times, I cannot find any of my own pictures that I've taken in the past.
Perhaps if I find some in the future, I will update this post accordingly.
Anyway, I pinpointed Shoten Bridge as a guide/landmark for you to aim for from Mino-o Station at the end of this Hankyu Train Line. Once you hit the bridge (you should have past by a bunch of shops along the way selling Fried Momiji leaves - definitely give those a try!), just follow the path that's ahead of you all the way towards Minoo Falls at the end. This is a very popular trail due to its easy access, the gentle inclines through most of the trail, and its fall colors in the autumn.
It's also got an insect museum in the middle of the hike, so I've seen lots of families bring their kids along for a stroll and into the museum. There are also a few hot springs & ryokans near the beginning of the trail, presumably for people out of town visiting for autumn colors.
A foot onsen is available nearby too, so if you want to partake in it at the end of your hike, you should bring a hand towel along (also helpful to wipe off sweat as you hike).
If you are a fast walker, and don't stop too often, you can finish this in about 45 minutes one-way. This means you can finish this in 1.5 hours total!
In terms of difficulty, there are some parts of the trail that have sudden inclines and declines, but they're usually quite short. There is one curve where this shop is that has a pretty hefty incline, but most of the path is very gentle. It's also all paved, so it's easy on your feet. I've seen women on this hike in heels with their boyfriends, and they do fine (I mean, they don't seem happy but they hold their own).
The best part is, at the end of it, you can rewarded with some scenic views!
Japan Guide has a great article on Minoo Park and access, so make sure to read up on it too.
Namaze/Takedao (Old Fukuchiyama Line)
A word of caution here: if you are VERY easily spooked by dark places, this one might not be for you - and if you do want to end up trying, make sure you bring a flashlight or make sure your phone has enough battery for you to use your flashlight!
This hike run between two stations of the JR Fukuchiyama Line - Namaze Station and Takedao Station. The JR trains used to run through this section of the hike instead of through the mountains now. Since it's been unused for a few good decades, lots of hikers have claimed it for hiking and exploration.
It seems a little bit further out from Osaka, but if you can catch the right trains, it's not far at all. However, the walk to the trailhead is a bit longer than the Minoo hike, so I suppose that's added time there.
To be honest, you can also start your hike in Takedao and end in Namaze. I just chose Namaze because I had read a blog at the time that gave some very clear directions on how to find the trailhead from Namaze, and I recommend you do the same.
I mapped out above how to get yourself to the trailhead from Namaze. If you need some more text instructions, this blog has an okay text overview of how to get yourself there, even though it's a huge word vomit... If I find the blog I had used years ago, I will definitely link it!
Luckily for you, I still have my picture collection of this hike! So I'll show you what I can.
This is the walk along Route 176 to the trailhead. As the other blog suggested, stick to the left side of the route as its the only side with the walking path. Don't want to get yourself injured before the hike starts, right?
This hike one-way takes about 2 hours depending on how fast you walk. If you choose to do the return trip, instead of ending in Takedao and taking the train back, it will take about 4 hours.
I only did the one-way, because I don't find joy in walking the same path for 2 extra hours, and also because I wanted to spend some time in the onsen - which Takedao has some of!
(I actually took the train back to Nishinomiyanajio, and a loooooooooong bus ride to Arima Onsen instead... it's doable, so why not, right??)
In terms of difficulty, I say this one is probably the easier of the two due to there not being any uphills that are noteworthy. The tradeoff though, is that the further in you go, the more uneven and rocky the ground gets (so ladies on dates, you definitely don't want to be in your heels for this one!). You have to be more cautious and wary of where you step. Along with uneven paths, you get to cross these fun, highly rusted bridges:
I mean, so far it's held its own very well even though this is a fair popular hiking trail... so you're more likely safe. But it could give you a bit of anxiety during this hike.
The last fun bit, are all these pitch black tunnels you get to traverse in on foot!
The first tunnel is fairly short compared to a few of the other ones you need to traverse through to get to the end of hike, so if the first tunnel is already spooking you out, it might be a good sign for you to turn back. I actually timed myself in one of the tunnels, just to see how long it would take for me to get out on the other end. The one I timed took me about 10 minutes.
I could have sworn there was another one that was equally as long, if not longer... but this was a hike I did 3 years ago, so I could totally be talking out of my ass at this point.
Anyway, point is - if you spook easy, don't go. Or bring some friends!
(Or just do it anyway like I did and confront your fears head on.)
Absolutely make sure you can use your flashlight for a good amount of time if you're only taking your smartphone with you. One or two extra battery packs might be smart idea as well.
The above is how the path looked like a good chunk of the way. It doesn't look too uneven, but it can be easy to trip on the wood pieces if you don't watch your step.
And since you're hiking along the river, you'll be rewarded with these views many times along the way.
At the very end of this hike, you will reach Takedao Park. I noticed lot of great spots there to picnic and do lots of outdoory things here, so if you're here with friends, it definitely seems like a good place to stop, rest, have a small picnic, etc.
According to the sign, this park seems to have a good amount of sakura trees too, so I reckon it would be very nice in the spring to do the hike and end/start with some hanami party too!
And that's it. As always, thanks for reading!
If you've been on these hikes, what did you think of them yourself? If you haven't, definitely go and let me know what you think!