Takachiho, Miyazaki → ⛰ Mount Sobo → Taketa, Ōita

Map of Northeast Kyushu with author’s route across Mount Sobo highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS →

A very high and long bridge spans a valley.

A Buddhist roadside statue wears a red bandanna and a white hard hat. 📍 Great Upper Iwato Bridge, Miyazaki

A man fly-fishes in the pool of a high waterfall directly across from him.

The fisherman, who isn’t aware of the camera, from a higher vantage point. 📍 Jōkōji Falls, Miyazaki

There are probably worse ways to start the day than to tenkara fish the cold waters of Jōkōji Falls, on the southern approach to Mount Sobo. During a break, he opened an ice box in his truck and showed me the previous day’s catch: eight beautiful mountain trout, gutted and frozen in a plastic bag.

A pink flowering tree called an akebono azalea in front of a very large, steep, green valley.

Another azalea tree.

A hiker walks between bare trees, and some of the pink azalea trees.

Yet another of the pink azalea trees. 📍 Mount Sobo, Miyazaki

It’s barely spring on the high ridges of Mount Sobo, the forest grey and brown after a long winter, and then, between 1,100 and 1,300 meters above sea level, akebono azaleas bloom like an oversaturated dream, above a vast valley which opens to the east. They look like the fragile conclusion of centuries of horticultural tinkering but they aren’t: they’re as wild as the mountain. Further up the ridgeline, into ever cooler air, they disappear like the dream they are, giving way to bamboo grass and shrubs.

The roots of a large tree cling to the thin mountain soil.

Bare branches of trees in a forest.

A number of fallen trees in a clearing.

A steep rock wall visible through branches.

A ladder leads up in a cleft between two rocks.

Fresh green leaves line a path on a mountain in an otherwise grey-brown landscape.

A small tree grows from what appears to be bare rock against an enormous valley.

Two men scramble up some rock in the same valley. 📍 Mount Sobo, Miyazaki

A small Buddhist statue stands in the distance in a clearing, the only color in a brown-grey mountain landscape.

Portrait of the statue, who wears a red knit cap and a red scarf. 📍 Mount Sobo, Ōita

Closer to Shikoku, as the land gets more Buddhist by the step, statues start dotting the roads and the mountains. On the borderlands of Miyazaki and Ōita, they are dressed invariably as grandmothers, in red knit caps and jumpers. This one stood alone on a forlorn clearing below the summit of Mount Sobo, braving the harsh conditions at 1,600 meters above sea level, and all she needed was a warm cup of tea, which I did not have and could not give her.

The roots of a tree hug a boulder.

A stream runs down a mountain valley in a forest with fresh green leaves.

Trees in white and pink bloom in a forest.

Closeup of fresh green maple leaves.

Closeup of bright red azalea flowers. 📍 Mount Sobo, Ōita

A stream, its banks columns of basalt, flows by a road. 📍 Taketa, Ōita

These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.