While planning last autumn’s research trip to Japan, I realized I’d need to spend a night in Osaka–not for research, but as an efficient jumping-off point for my three-day research trip to Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture. (Koya is best-accessible via electric train and ropeway from Osaka, a journey of about 2 hours.)
I hadn’t spent much time in Osaka, but while researching ways to spend the afternoon-and-evening before my departure for Mount Koya, I discovered that I’d be just in time to sample a little-known regional delicacy that’s available only in one place for a couple of months each year: momiji tempura (tempura-fried maple leaves).
As it happens, the home of momiji tempura–Minō Park (also written Minoo or Minoh Park) lies just north of Osaka, about 30 minutes from the hotel I’d booked near Osaka Esaka Station. Better still, Minō Park is also known for its lovely autumn foliage, and home to one of the top-ten waterfalls in Japan (the eponymous Minō Falls).
I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an autumn afternoon, and the park and falls did not disappoint. (Nor did the momiji tempura - and I blogged about it here.)
As soon as I left the train at Mino-o Station, I started seeing vendors selling pre-packaged boxes of momiji tempura – hint to the wise: if you wait until you reach the park itself, you can buy much fresher ones, direct from vendors. Just look for the signs, like the one hanging over the doorway below:
A map at the park entrance shows the popular features of Minō Park, including the 4 kilometer walk to the famous waterfall.
The path is fairly even, and not too steep or difficult. If you can walk 4km (and there are places to rest and get a cup of tea along the way) you shouldn’t have trouble making it to the falls. If you get thirsty, consider a local specialty: yuzu cider.
(Yuzu is a citrus native to Japan, and specifically to the northern Osaka area. The cider is non-alcoholic, and tastes a little like sparkling lemon-lime-orangeade.)
Although the foliage had just begun to show its autumn colors the day I visited, I enjoyed the search for colorful leaves.
The walk to the falls passes through old-growth forests filled with massive maples, pines, and cedars, and it parallels the Minō River (spoiler alert: the river’s source is the falls…). From the path, you can see a number of smaller waterfalls:
And several beautiful ponds – so clear that you can see the bottom and the fish that live there.
The walk to the falls took me a little over an hour–it might take longer, if you prefer to walk more slowly–and since I left quite early in the morning (and on a weekday), the park was not too crowded the day I visited.
Join me Wednesday for the next stage of the walk…the waterfall!
To reach Minō Park from Shin-Osaka Station, take the Midosuji Line to Umeda Station, transfer to the Hankyu-Takarzuka Line and take the train to Ishibashi Station, where you transfer to the Hankyu-Mino Line toward Mino-o (各停). From Mino-0 Station, walk north to Mino-o Koen (Note: koen means park in Japanese).