Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail is an ancient road in Nara Prefecture and was once part of Shinkaido, the most ancient road in Japan, which started in Tokyo.
Today, the most popular section of the this 1,000-year-old ancient trail is the Yamanobe road. It is approximately 11km long and located between Omiwa Shrine in Sakurai City to Isonokami Shrine in Tenri City. It is is a lovely hiking trail through rural landscape connecting multiple shrines, historic temples, ancient tombs, present-day farmland and quaint towns. Plus, you can try some local food specialties including somen noodles in Miwa and tenri ramen in Tenri.
If you are planning a day trip from Kyoto or Nara, then follow my one-day itinerary and learn how you can hike Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail by yourself and enjoy a day in the rural villages of Nara Prefecture.
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What you need to know before hiking Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail
Before hiking Yamanobe-no-Michi hiking trail, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of tips on how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are some additional information that you might find useful when planning your hiking day through Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail:
- Trail length: 11km (most websites say 11km but I walked almost 25km which includes getting off parts of the main path and walking to Tenri Station)
- Duration: 6 hours (allocated a whole day so you are not rushed to get back to Nara or Kyoto)
- Ideal starting time: 10am
- Difficulty: easy to moderate (mostly flat path but long day of hiking)
- Best time to go: fall to spring; Omiwa Festival (April 8-10 & October 23-25), and Sake Brewing Festival (November 14)
- Facilities: public toilets, vending machines
- Trail condition: dirt trail, paved path and some hills
What to bring for hiking Yamanobe-no-Michi
The Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail is not very hard, so you don’t need a lot of technical equipment. The most important thing is to bring enough water for a full-day of hiking, sun protection and proper footwear.
You can follow my minimalist hiking gear list on what to bring or see my suggestions below:
- Comfortable shoes like Birkenstock or sneakers
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat, as most of the trail is exposed to the sun
- Water for a full-day of hiking. There are vending machines along the trail if you need water or other drinks.
- ICOCA card or other rechargeable IC card for taking the train to and from the trail.
- Cash for lunch at restaurants and drinks from vending machines
- Snacks if you want to have some fuel during your hike (there are cafes along the trail but no convenience stores)
Yamanobe-no-Michi hiking Trail Map
My Yamanobe-no-Michi hiking itinerary starts from Miwa Station and ends at Tenri Station. And the trail roughly looks like the dotted line in the map below.
I couldn’t pinpoint the exact trail because some of the smaller paths go through rural villages, especially between Sumo Shrine, Kushiyama Kofun and Yanagimotocho. GoogleMaps doesn’t know the smaller routes so it re-routed the path to the main road.
But don’t worry there are plenty of signs along the way.
How to get to the start of Yamanobe-no-Michi hiking trail
Getting to the start of the Yamanobe-no-Michi hiking trail is very easy from either Nara or Kyoto.
As mentioned above, the trail starts at Miwa Station and ends at Tenri Station. And the easiest way to get to the start of the trail is by taking Japan Railways to Miwa Station. Then at the end of the day, hop back on the JR train at Tenri Station and return to either Nara or Kyoto.
Nara to and from Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail
- JR Sakurai Line: from Nara Station to Miwa Station (27 minutes; ￥330)
- JR Sakurai Line: from Tenri Station to Nara Station (13 minutes; ￥210)
Kyoto to and from Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail
- JR Nara Line + JR Sakurai Line: from JR Kyoto Station to JR Nara Station to JR Miwa Station (1 hour 14 minutes; ￥1,170)
- JR Sakurai Line + JR Nara Line: from JR Tenri Station to JR Nara Station to JR Kyoto Station (1 hour 8 minutes; ￥990)
How to hike Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail: from Miwa Station to Tenri Station (South to North)
Note – As I was finishing the post, I kept finding different info about Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail.
Some websites say the trail starts at Sakurai Station (south of Miwa Station) and along the way you can see several more historic places and monuments like Byodoji Temple and Kanaya Stone Buddhas. This part of the hike will add on another 45 minutes.
Since I didn’t hike this part and not sure if it’s worth hiking, I recommend hiking from Miwa Station to Tenri Station. At least you can see the majority of the trail as it is a pretty long trail and will take up most of the day.
1. Walk from Miwa Station to Omiwa Shrine
The exit at Miwa Station is on the west side of the train tracks. All you have to do is follow the signs and walk around the station via the north side and walk towards Omiwa Shrine.
2. Eat somen noodles in Miwa
But first things first, eat a bowl of delicious somen noodle and get some energy for your hike. And Miwa is the perfect place because somen noodles originated here.
There are many somen noodle restaurants in Miwa and a few of them are near the entrance to Omiwa Shrine. Here are some options:
- Somen Noodle Morisho (10:40am—3:30pm; closed Mondays and Tuesdays) – a rustic farmhouse serving Miwa somen. I ordered hiyashi somen and 3 pieces of kakinoha-zushi. English menu available.
- Miwanosato Ikegawa (10am-4pm; closed Thursdays & Fridays) – another somen restaurant nearby. This was my back-up restaurant if the first one was not available. They have lots of somen noodle and traditional sweets on the menu. Use Google Translate to read menu or look at the photos.
- Fukujindo (10am-4:30pm) – this was my back-up back-up option. They serve somen noodle, kakinoha-zushi, udon, donburi set and kakigori. English menu available.
3. Wander around Omiwa Shrine
First on the Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail is Omiwa Shrine. It is Japan’s oldest shrine and is dedicated to Mount Miwa behind it.
In ancient times, the sacred mountain is worshipped as the god of sake. During Jozo Anne Kigan-sai, an annual sake brewing festival on November 14, sake brewers from all over Japan come to Omiwa Shrine to pray for successful production of their own sake. There are also performances and sake tasting.
After you see the beautiful Omiwa Shrine Haiden or main hall, go to the Ritual Hall and find Nade Usagi, a rabbit statue. It it believed that when you rub the area of the bronze rabbit where you want to be healed, the rabbit will heal you. I rubbed the entire rabbit just to cover my bases. Ha!
Address: 1422 Miwa, Sakurai City | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
4. See Ichikishimahime Shrine
As you continue along the path, you will see small shrines and tea houses dotted along the path.
But the one you want to see is Ichikishimahime Shrine, a small shrine in the middle of the pond. First, you’ll see a big red Torii gate. Then you will see a small red shrine in the pond. This is where the deity of water is enshrined.
Address: Miwa, Sakurai City | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
5. Drink sacred water from the Medicine Well at Saijinja Shrine
Saijinja Shrine is also a part of Omiwa Shrine and is a smaller shrine tucked away in the cedar forest. The shrine is dedicated to medicine and healing and has a Medicine well at the back. It is said that the sacred (natural spring) water has healing powers. Take a cup and try some. Or you can even buy a bottle to take home.
To the right of Saijinja Shrine, there is an entrance to climb Mt Miwa. FYI – this is not part of the Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail.
But if you do decide to climb Mt Miwa, it takes about 2-3 hours to climb the steep mountain and to reach the peak at 467m. You’ll have to register between 9am-12pm. Plus, if you are not fluent in Japanese, you must be accompanied by a Japanese guide or someone who is fluent in Japanese.
Address: 1422 Miwa, Sakurai City | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
6. Visit Hibara Shrine
As you keep walking along the Yamanobe-no-Michi path, you will see food stalls selling fruits and vegetables. There are price tags for each produce so you know exactly what to pay. So make sure to bring some coins.
I also saw a cute cafe called 花もり (translation: Hanamori). They serve kakigori, warabi mochi, other sweet treats and savoury food. If you need a rest of a quick snack, this is a good place.
The next temple is Genpinan. However, there was a sign that says you can’t go in (or at least I wasn’t able to).
But the one you really want to check out is the next one on the trail: Hibara Shrine, which is another auxiliary shrines of Omiwa Shrine.
What is unique about Hibara Shrine is the triple torii gates which is an ancient style and is rarely seen anywhere else.
Plus, Hibara Shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu Omikami, the goddess of sun. The sun actually sets between the Torii gate and Mt Nijo. You can see it when you stand east of the Torii gate. It may be possible to catch the sunset if you hike Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail in the reverse direction. Apparently it is quite magical.
Address: 1422 Miwa, Sakurai City | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
7. See the rice fields of Nara Basin and Sumo Statue
Follow the signs for the Sumo Shrine, which is 200m off the main path. Even though it is off the main Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail, I think the area is worth checking out.
First, you will see a historical landmark with a signboard in Japanese. This is a signage about the Makimuku Hishiro no Miya palace, which belonged to Emperor Keiko. I can’t seem to find much info about this historical site. But this is the best spot to see the Nara Basin (valley area of Nara Prefecture) and Mount Ikoma in the distance.
When I was there, I saw a cute sumo statue in an area that looks abandoned. I was looking for a building and didn’t see any. I realized afterwards that the Sumo Shrine is actually a small shrine, like the one at Ichikishimahime Shrine. So keep your eyes peeled. Even if you only see the statue, it is worth visiting. It is believed that this is where sumo originated.
And on the way back there is a nice view of the Nara Basin through a giant Torii gate.
Address: Anashi, Sakurai City | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
8. Walk around the Tomb of Emperor Sujin
The Mausoleum of Emperor Keiko is first ancient tomb when you get back on the main trail. Since I was planning to see the tomb of Emperor Sujin, I skipped Emperor Keiko’s tomb (I read that they are similar and also because I didn’t want to keep getting side tracked since I have several more hours of hiking ahead).
Both ancient tombs were one of the earliest large keyhole-shaped mounds (kofun) that were built in the 4th century. They are about 400m long and 200m wide and surrounded by a moat. But unfortunately, the keyhole-shaped can only be viewed from above.
From a pedestrian point of view, there really isn’t much to see. I walked around the path closest to the moat, climbed up a flight of stairs on the west side to see a giant Torii behind a gated area, walked around the north side, and still can’t get inside.
I would still recommend walking around the ancient tomb of Emperor Sujin. But if you are short on time, skip this part.
Address: 1880-1 Yanagimotocho, Tenri | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
9. Wander around Chogakuji Temple
Chogakuji Temple is a Japanese Buddhist temple that was built in 824AD. At its height, the temple housed 500 monks and has an area of 30 hectares.
Today, Chogakuji Temple still has many cultural properties, including 5 Buddhist statue and 4 temples designated as National Important Cultural Properties. Plus, it has an impressive wooden gate with a bell that was built over 1,000 years ago, which makes this wooden bell tower the oldest in Japan.
You can take your time around the garden. Look for the Bell Tower, Statue of Daishi, and the Stone Buddha Miroku Nyorai on the hill.
And also look at the flowers around the garden. There are Azaleas in late April to early May, Iris in early May and Momiji Autum maple leaves during autumn.
Address: 59 Yanagimototyo, Tenri City | Hours: 9am-5pm | Admission: ￥400
10. Visit Nenbutsuji Temple
Keep walking on the pleasant trail and enjoy the rural scenery in Nara Prefecture. Occasionally you will see farmland, small villages, wild flowers, many types of fruit trees including persimmon trees. Persimmon is the fourth most produced fruit in Japan and many of them come from Nara Prefecture.
Continue forward and look for Nenbutsuji Temple. It is a Buddhist temple with a local cemetery.
I thought the local temple is beautiful and quiet (nobody was there). But what I find interesting is the whimsical statue right in front of the entrance.
Address: 401 Nakayamacho, Tenri | Hours: 9am-5pm | Admission: free
11. See Yatogi Shrine
The next stretch of the hike walk pretty far. It can take up to half an hour. But along the way, there are resting areas. Plus, you will continue to see the red direction signs indicating the direction you need to be. And they are in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese.
Once you see a giant grey torii gate, walk up up the hill and see the thatched-roof temple at Yatogi Shrine.
The Shinto Shrine enshrines four gods that are closely related to Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara City. But the shrine is famous for its thatched roof since it’s quite unusual to find this type of architecture for religious buildings in Japan.
Address: 765 Otogicho, Tenri | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
12. Wander around Isonokami Shrine
Continue the hike through a hilly village and around a lake and after about half an hour later, arrive at Isonokami Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest Shinto Shrines.
Isonokami Shrine is a quiet shrine in a dense forest that was worshipped by a power ancient Mononobe clan. There are several ancient weapons own by the clan kept in the treasure repository including the legendary seven-pronged sword. However, they are not on public display.
But you can wander around and see a bull statue, and chickens running around the premise (they are said to be messengers of the gods) and enjoy the last spot on the Yamanobe-no-Michi path.
Address: 384 Furucho, Tenri | Hours: 9am-4:30pm | Admission: free
13. Walk to Tenri Station
Keep walking west until you reach Tenri Station. It takes about 30 minutes.
Along the way, you will see Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, a massive religious building. I couldn’t believe my eyes – the building is huge! Just look at the photo below – there is a person on the left side of the photo indicating the scale of the building.
There isn’t much to see during the last bit of walk through the city of Tenri. So go straight to the Tenri Station and catch the next train back to Nara or Kyoto.
Address: 1-1 Mishimacho, Tenri | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free
Hiking Yamanobe-no-Michi the opposite way from Tenri Station to Miwa Station
It is possible to hike Yamanobe-no-Michi from Tenri to Miwa. Basically it is this itinerary but in reverse.
Consider hiking from north to south if you want to:
- End the hike with a bowl of somen noodles in Miwa
- Watch the sunset at Hibara Shrine, the shrine that is dedicated to the goddess of sun (possible depending on timing and weather)
- If you hike all the way to Sakurai City, visit Byodoji Temple and Kanaya Stone Buddhas
- Vsit sake breweries in Sakurai City including Imanishi Sake Brewery, the oldest existing brewery in the area.
Are you going to hike Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail in Nara Prefecture?
It will take up most of your day if you hike the entire Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail. But if you like a flat trail with lots of things to see along the way, then you must take a day trip and see the rural country side of Nara Prefecture.
I hope you found this itinerary useful when you plan your hike in Sakurai City and Tenri City. Let me know in the comments below if you found any other interesting spots along the trail. I’m pretty sure I missed some so let me know.
Thank you for reading my Yamanobe-no-Michi itinerary
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