Mount Daisen and the Hiruzen Highlands
These two areas lie near each other in the eastern section of the park, with the Hiruzen Highlands further to the east. Mount Daisen is a dormant volcano that dominates the skyline of western Tottori Prefecture. Stop and say a prayer for a safe hike at Daisenji Temple and Ogamiyama-jinja Okumiya Shrine, which have existed for over 1,000 years. The ascent from the temple and shrine to the peak takes about four hours through ancient forests of beech and dwarf Japanese yew trees. Wintertime options include skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing at places like Daisen White Resort, a ski resort with an ocean view.
At the top of the mountain, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Shimane Peninsula and the Sea of Japan. For a fast and fun descent to the shores, join a cycle tour that starts at the Goenzan Noroshi-dai Viewpoint (750 m).
Mount Daisen also has an observatory, where you can try out their powerful telescope and sign up for a night sky photography tour. The mountain’s distance from urban areas means that there is virtually no light pollution, which makes the heavenly bodies above look sharp when the weather is clear.
Hiruzen Sanzan, made up of Mount Kami-Hiruzen, Mount Naka-Hiruzen, and Mount Shimo-Hiruzen straddle the border of Tottori and Okayama prefectures. That altitude and the surrounding highlands keep the weather in summer cool and dry, making this area a wonderful place to camp, hike or go horseback riding.
Cycling tours are a great way to see the park
Mount Sanbe and the Shimane Peninsula
Mount Sanbe has several peaks with ponds dotted throughout its highlands. Head here for hikes and sweeping 360-degree views. This active volcano consists of a cluster of peaks within a large caldera. There are routes of varying difficulties to choose from that take anywhere from two to five hours to complete.
On clear days, you’ll be able to gaze from Mount Sanbe as far as the Sea of Japan. On that far shoreline, you’ll find the mysterious Kakanokukedo caves. A cruise from the port of Kaka takes you to these caverns.
Further to the east of the Shimane Peninsula lies the port town of Mihonoseki. At Miho Shrine, you can learn about the Shinto faith, make offerings to deities and take part in symbolic cleansing ceremonies. About 75 kilometers southwest from here is Izumo Grand Shrine (officially known as Izumo Oyashiro). Although this shrine’s exact age is unknown, it is at least 1,000 years old. The deity enshrined here is said to have created Japan. You can pray to him for good luck in relationships.
This archipelago of over 180 islands was created when the movement of tectonic plates pushed undersea volcanoes up out of the sea. The islands' important geological heritage was internationally recognized in 2013 when they became a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Visit the island of Dogo to explore a dense forest with a giant 800-year-old cedar tree, and explore the western island of Nishinoshima by boat or canoe to witness the grandeur of the Matengai Cliff. Its walls are some of Japan’s highest, rearing up 257 meters. The area offers excellent snorkeling and canoeing opportunities, and cruises of the area that go through coastal caverns and around Rosokujima (Candle Island)—a tower of rocks that appears to burn as the sun sets behind it.
Since the eighth century, the mountains of Daisen-Oki have been an important location for Shugendo, a Japanese folk religion that mixes animism with Shinto beliefs and Buddhist values. Until the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912), no one could climb Mount Daisen unless accompanied by a monk. Now you can walk in the footsteps of the pilgrims that headed to these mountains to fast, pray and endure hardships to strengthen their spirit.
In June, more than 2,000 locals and festival-goers parade from Ogamiyama Shrine to Bakuroza holding torches in the Mount Daisen Natsuyama Summer Festival. This ceremony is intended to ensure a safe journey for all those who climb this mountain. Visitors are encouraged to join in.
Participants parade with torches as part of the Mount Daisen Natsuyama Summer Festival