最高 saikou—highest

The highest point in Osaka prefecture is on Mt Kongou (金剛山). Not at the summit (1125 m), which is in Nara prefecture, but a short distance away on the south-east slope, at a height of:

On Saturday morning we set off in our new car and drove to the mountains. It was our first time to go hillwalking since before we left Ireland, so we were impatient to get out on the hills again. Although Mt Kongou is higher than any mountain in Ireland, it is considerably less challenging and less dangerous than the Kerry mountains or the Wicklow mountains.

It was a delightful contrast to the previous evening in the shopping streets of Shinsaibashi. Two very different aspects of Japan, only a relatively short distance apart.

These mountains are lushly forested all the way to the top – the tree line here is at about 2600 m.

 

As you ascend the path you are surrounded by the sounds of the forest. There were many nightingales in the trees, filling the forest with astonishing melodies. In one area there were thousands of frogs – we could hear them but we couldn’t see them.

We didn’t see snakes either, although we did see this sign warning of poisonous snakes. Or rather, “POISONOUS SNAKES!”:

We also saw this cute sign involving firefighting monkeys and a bird, and the slogan “Let’s protect the green mountain from fire”.

I was interested to spot a carnivorous pitcher plant:

And these bright pink azaleas added a dash of colour:

There is a well-maintained forest path all the way to the summit, paved for part of the way.

Our first destination was the highest point in Osaka.

After that we continued to the true summit of Mt Kongou, about 1 km further on. On the way we passed this “welcome” god, whose halo looks a bit like he is aflame. To be honest, he didn’t look all that welcoming:

Occupying the very summit of Mt Kongou, at a height of 1,125 m, is a large shrine. So the last few meters of the ascent involve climbing some steps.

Altogether we ascended about 500 metres over a distance of 4 km each way.

Note on the word of the day:

最高 saikou literally means “highest” although it is often used figuratively to mean “that’s fantastic!” The character 最 has the meaning “superlative” and combines with other characters to give meanings like 最悪 worst, 最低 lowest, 最初 first, 最後 last, etc.

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