Hiking in Hyogo: Tonomine Highlands

Finally, a return to the Hiking in Hyogo series! Our previous article has enjoyed a lot of popularity, so we thought it was high time for another post on hiking in Japan.

This time I’ll take you to Tonomine Highlands, a location in central Hyogo.

Tonomine Highlands

This plateau with gently rolling hills is geographically unusual within Japan. The area itself was formed by the movement of glaciers, but the characteristic rolling hills are man-made, having been scraped down by iron-sand harvesting in the Heian Era.

Silver grass

It is also notable for its fields of Susuki, or “Japanese silver grass”. This grass is now rare, but was widely used for roof-thatching in the old days of Japan.

One stalk

This silver grass is the highlands’ claim to fame, and visitors flock here every autumn to see it in its full glory.

Silver grass

Tonomine Highlands has four faces corresponding to the four seasons: in winter the plateau is a white expanse of snow, in spring the fields have been burned black, in summer the new buds are blooming a bright green, and in autumn the grass glitters silver and gold.

Scale of grass

Tonomine is also worth visiting for its night sky full of stars, as there is absolutely no light interference on the plateau. Various events are held in Tonomine throughout the year, including taiko performances and a moon-viewing party with gigantic bonfire.

This is a great spot for hikers of all skill levels. Families can take a short stroll around the level areas of the plateau, and the energetic can hike for kilometers on mountain trails.

Barren tree

Silver grass

Path

More silver grass

Pond

To sum up, this is a rare place for those of us from more wide-open countries to experience what we call “real” nature in Japan, with no buildings or telephone wires in sight – nothing but wilderness as far as the eye can see.

Tonomine Highlands has enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years due to its use as a film location for the adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s world-famous novel Norwegian Wood. Several prominent scenes of the film were shot here, and it also served as a location for NHK’s year-long historical show, the Taiga Drama.

When you go, stop by first at the Tonomine Nature Center, a facility with maps and photos, as well as a restaurant and the ubiquitous omiyage shop. This is a good spot to get some information before you start out, or to relax and eat after your hike.

Tonomine Nature Center
Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM (closed in midwinter due to heavy snow)
Address: 801 Kamikawa, Kamikawa-cho, Kanzaki-gun, Hyogo 679-3103
Telephone: 0790-31-8100
Website: http://www.kamikawa-kankonavi.jp/archives/269/ (Japanese)

How To Get There

Tonomine Highlands
From Himeji, take the Bantan Line to Teramae (40 minutes). From there you’ll need to take a taxi (20 minutes), or you can reserve a direct shuttle bus during the peak season in autumn. Inquiries: Kamikawa Tourism Association 0790-34-1001.

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