Originally written for the Kitakami Times: https://www.iwate-ilc.jp/eng/ktimes/more-to-mt-murone/ More to Mt. Murone The Kitakami Mountains run through Ichinoseki with a single peak, that of Mount Murone, dominating the skyline. The name might sound familiar, and that’s because this mountain overlooks the ILC candidate site, providing an excellent visual of where the ILC would run. Near the peak of the 895m tall mountain, there’s a 360-degree panoramic view extending to the Pacific Ocean. Here, the cities of Kesennuma, Oshu, and even the peak of Mt. Iwate can be seen. There's much more to this mountain than its beautiful views though; it’s a recreational wonderland!
If hiking is your thing, it’s a relatively steep 2.5 hour climb from Orikabe Station to the summit; for the majority of people, driving up by car is the best option. Here are some of the exciting facilities, activities and events that can be experienced on this mountain.
Astronomical Observation at Muronesan Kirara Observatory
It’s easy to tell Mt. Murone apart from its surroundings as there’s an observatory peeping out close to the summit! The observatory serves as a means to promote astronomical and scientific education and can be enjoyed both day and night by the utilization of its two telescopes – the most impressive being the 50cm Cassegrain reflector telescope. In the daytime (between 13:00pm~16:30pm, April to November), a filtered telescope allows you to observe our closest star, the Sun! At night (between 19:30 to 21:30, April to November) the observatory carries out shows as well as viewings of various celestial objects (my favorite is M13).
Although the opening hours may be a little restrictive (I suggest going on a Fri, Sat or Sun) the 360 degree panoramic view of Ichinoseki and its neighboring cities is accessible at any time of day.
Murone Shrine is located at the 8th climbing station of Mt. Murone and is dedicated to ‘Hongu’ and ‘Shingu’. Its history stems back more than 1290 years and it has rich ties to Wakayama Prefecture’s Kumano Taisha. Murone Shrine is the starting point of Murone Taisai (a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset) which I’ll introduce a little later on.
Camping and accommodation: Boyotai Campsite (望洋平キャンプ場): Imagine waking up to the view of a sunrise over a sea of clouds. This camping ground is found at the 8th station and at the entrance, is the Nature Center were you can get information about the campsite and sign in if you are looking to stay. Tents and other camping equipment can be rented. Different sized bungalows are available ranging from 3~8 persons. Facilities include barbecues, and a campfire area. Astro Roman Campsite (アストロ・ロマン大東): This campsite is for both children and adults. Facilities here include trail biking, barbeques, tennis courts, track and field, and slides.
Daito Furusato Bunko (大東ふるさと分校): These new bungalows provide views of lush green expanses. Facilities nearby include a Japanese restaurant and bath.
There are two restaurants on Mt. Murone. One specializes in lamb barbecue, but also has pizza! The other is a Japanese Bunko Shokudo which serves udon and soba noodles.
Horseback Riding: Michinoku Horseback Riding Club offers Western and English riding that caters to all types of riders; from beginners to pros, and casual to serious riders alike. There’s an indoor area so you can ride rain or shine!
Paragliding: Maps Paragliding School offers fun and safe experiences that give you the best views around! There are various courses including paragliding by yourself while learning the basics from an instructor, as well as ones that allow you to go 700m up in the air with an experienced instructor!
Mt. Murone has a large array of flora such as cherry blossoms, trillium, and dog-tooth violets but it's best known for its ~200,000 bright pink azaleas that blanket the mountain at the start of summer (late May to early June).
Bird Watching: Pheasants, white wagtails, Japanese white-eyes, and varied tits are among some of the species you may encounter on Mt. Murone. At the campground's entrance, there is a nature center that can introduce you to the birds and plants that can be seen on the mountain at the given season.
Murone Shrine Festival:
A spiritual Shinto festival that occurs once every few years, preserving 1300-year-old traditions and is designated as a 'significant intangible folk-cultural asset'. The roots of this festival stem from the 'bunrei' (a shinto term for dividing a god and enshrining it somewhere else, and also refers to the spirit that was divided) of a Kumano deity (from Wakayama). Murone Shrine enshrined the deity. The festival is a three day affair which starts at Murone Shrine (at the 8th station of Mt. Murone) where the spirit is transferred into Hongu and Shingu 'mikoshi' (a portable miniature shrine). From there, both of the mikoshi are carried towards the 'Matsuriba' which is located 10kms away. Throughout the night, divine helpers and their horses strive toward the Matsuriba, guided by the dim light of the lanterns and to the sound taiko drums and Japanese flutes. Drawing closer to the climax of the festival, the mikoshi's jostle and clash to get to the Matsuriba first where a 7m tall, temporary shrine awaits. Mikoshi are hoisted up the temporary shrine - it's a race to the top (this is the part I recommend you see as it’s the most exciting and least restrictive – there are some parts of this festival where women are not allowed to watch or participate in)! Once both mikoshi reach the top, the spirits are enshrined in the temporary shrine and a ceremony for a rich harvest is performed.
Access and further information:
By car: Ichinoseki IC -> Mt. Murone is about 1hr 30mins Bus: Ichinoseki Station -> Orikabe Station is 1hr 10mins
For further information, contact Ichinoseki Tourist Information or check out this webpage (jp): http://www.muronet.co.jp/