Hiking Oeyama, home to demons
The Oeyama mountains are home to the most notorious demons in Japanese mythology: Shuten-Doji. There is quite a lot of lore in Japan about the history of this demon which can be found in art museums throughout Japan, these include texts, picture scrolls, and woodblock prints (some of them hundreds of years old).
Upon arrival at the foothills of the Oeyama range in Fukuchiyama, you will be greeted by friendly oni, which have the appearance of ogres rather than demons (but the two words are often used synonymously). Here you will find The Green Lodge and the Oni Museum. The Green Lodge are accommodations that have rooms that can accommodate groups as well as individual travelers. There is a restaurant that also prepares oni-giri bento lunch boxes (onigiri also being the word for rice ball in Japanese). The Oni Museum is easily identifiable by its incredibly large outdoor oni sculpture that towers over visitors. Inside, you can find a variety of demon/ogre paraphernalia, including an impressive collection of carved masks. If you continue up the road into the mountains, you will pass friendly oni statues that guide your way. As you pass small parking areas by waterfalls and riverbends you will encounter more of these friendly creatures. Further up the road you will pass Café Florista, a seasonal coffee shop iconic because of its log cabin architecture.
At this point the road splits. Taking a right before Café Florista will take you up a mountain road to a parking area and trail head of one of Oeyama’s peaks awaits. Continuing straight will take you to the Demon Shrine, Demon Cave, and the trailhead for Oeyama’s highest peak.
In the fall the Demon Shrine is a popular place to watch the sea of clouds, a phenomenon where there mountains rise above the mist during sunrise. There is not actual parking lot here so hikers park on the side of the wide road. The trail to the left past the shrine leads downhill and take you to the Demon Cave. The trail to the right (near the bathrooms) takes you up the trail steps and towards Oeyama’s highest peak (832m).
One of the great things about the Oeyama mountain range is how easy it is to connect different peaks and still get back to where you started. The range continues uninterrupted into nearby cities as well, allowing for some great long hikes or even multi-day adventures. Some of these peaks offer incredible views of the Japanese Sea as well. This is the Kyoto by the Sea region after all.
The easiest hike to access would be starting at Onitake “Demon-peak” Inari Shrine, hiking to the top of Oeyama’s 832m peak and back.
For a longer version, you could park at Café Florista and then walk up the road to the trailhead leading to Oeyama’s 832m peak. From there, instead of turning around, continue on to the next peak (736m), continue following that trail downhill as it leads to the parking lot mentioned earlier. From this parking lot, walk down the road to where the road junctions at Café Florista.
For some more epic adventure’s, there are hiking maps that show how to connect the trail systems throughout the region. Some of the areas have accommodations nearby as well so you can continue the adventure.