The wilderness and an amusement park — Hiking Mount Ikoma

10 Mar

Spring is ideal hiking weather in Japan. Warm, but not hot, with the colours starting to reappear in nature. A great time to get into the woods and hike up a mountain to …  a vintage amusement park?

Mountain-top amusement park -- Skyline Ikoma.

Mountain-top amusement park — Skyline Ikoma.

Ikoma-san is on the border of Osaka and Nara prefectures, just twenty minutes away from Namba station. It’s nice to have a mountain so close to the city core, even if it’s a small one. Take the Kintetsu Nara line from Namba to Ishikiri station, then meander through the neighbourhood asking obaasan where the hiking starts.

The trail starts off rough, but turns into well maintained paths.

The trail starts off rough, but turns into well maintained paths.

The hike to the peak is a short one. We got there in less than two hours with plenty of breaks. While not a long hike, it is a steep one with the path mostly consisting of very tall steps.

The views of Osaka get better the higher you climb, with a panorama stretching from North Osaka to Kansai airport at the top where the amusement park is perched. Skyline Ikoma is closed for the winter, reopening March 15, but there are no gates to the park so hikers can wander through.

Frame those views.

Frame those views.

It’s a park mainly for small children, with the classics like a horse carousel and teacups. Tracks wind through the sky, overlooking Kansai, with kawaii panda cars waiting for little riders.  It’s a charming little spot, made eerie by the fact that it was completely silent and still.

After sweating our way up the mountain, it got chilly on the top quickly. There’s a cable car that we rode down with a massive group of young children who seemed way too excited to be on a mountain with a closed amusement park. They didn’t seem to mind as they squealed with delight as the tram slowly made its way down to Ikoma station.

Save for a few maintence workers preparing for the summer crowds, it was completely empty.

Save for a few maintenance workers preparing for the summer crowds, it was completely empty.

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