Where is the Panoramadai Hike in Sounkyo, Japan?
The fact that we even found out about the Panoramadai hike while visiting Sounkyo was quite accidental. We had planned a day trip down to Ginsendai but after arriving in Sounkyo we quickly realised that the last buses to Ginsendai had stopped a only a week earlier.
After some mad Googling we stumbled across some brochures showing a couple of hikes in the local area that appeared to be doable in a single day; the Panoramadai and the Momijidani hikes.
(Normally I would use the Google satellite map, but if you click on the ‘Sat’ button you’ll see why I didn’t in this instance!)
The Panoramadai Hike
1. Starting in the middle of Sounkyo, to get to the start of the Panoramadai hike you’ll need to walk down the main highway to the south, until you reach the first bridge across the river. This should only take a couple of minutes.
2. Passing through the park on the opposite side of the river, there’s a very good chance that you’ll see some wild deer grazing in the area.
3. At the southern end of the park you’ll see a sign marking the start of the hiking trail.
The trail rises quickly, with some scrambling on hands and knees required to get across a washed out ravine only a hundred metres or so into the hike.
For the next 45 minutes the trail zigzags its way up the side of the Sounkyo gorge wall. In sections it is very steep, needing you to use all fours and any adjacent tree roots to get yourself up the steep slope, while in other sections it is quite flat and easy to walk at a good pace.
After an hour or so, after one final steep section, you will find the path flattening out as you reach the plateau at the top of the gorge.
4. Another 10-15 minutes will bring you to a fork in the path. We had no idea which one to take,so we decided to take the one to the right with the red arrow. Thankfully this turned out to be the right one! I’m pretty sure that the trail on the left takes you up to the top of Mt Choyozan (I’d only be guessing, but maybe another 30 minutes walk??).
5. After another 5 minutes you will exit the tree line, emerging onto a narrow rock ledge jutting out from the edge of the escarpment. The view from here is absolutely spectacular, with sweeping vistas from the north towards Kamikawa, west towards Sounkyo, the cable car and Mt Kurodake, and to the south further into the Sounkyo Gorge.
It was extremely windy up here, to the point that we were quite nervous moving around on the loose shale. Any mistake and it would result in a fall to almost certain death!
After spending some time at the lookout enjoying the view, we made our way back down the trail to Sounkyo.
We actually found the descent to be much easier than the ascent, getting to the bottom in around an hour.
In total the hike took us around two and a half hours, including photo and food breaks. While sections of this walk were very easy, other sections should only be attempted by those with a better than average fitness level. I’d hazard a guess that this walk would be impossible in, or after, wet weather.
While the Panoramadai hike isn’t very well known, I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone with half a day to spare in Sounkyo, as the views from the top are amazing!
Looking for more hikes in Japan?
We spent 6 weeks travelling the length of Japan, hiking as much as possible. Click here for all our hikes in Japan:
If you’re looking for other hikes around Sounkyo, here are two others that we highly recommend: