The Swing of the Stars

Hoshi no Buranko suspension bridge

The Hoshi no Buranko suspension bridge in Hoshida Park, Katano, Osaka Prefecture. A fantastic autumn photowalk!

One of the locations Cathy and I had at the top of our autumn wishlist was the Hoshi no Buranko suspension bridge in Hoshida Park. The name means Swing of the Stars, the park being the Field of the Stars. This 280-meter long bridge spans a gorge whose flanks get magnificent autumn colors, and the paths up also make for an interesting photowalk full of serene nature scenes. We scheduled this for the last week of our Japan trip, but as the weather turned to rainy, we had to move our date again and again until we thought we wouldn’t be able to go at all.

Gorge below the Hoshi no Buranko; (C) Dariel and Catherine Quiogue

The gorge below the Hoshi no Buranko bridge. Even though it was quite late in autumn the colors were still gorgeous.

At last, though, both Weather Underground and Accuweather agreed that we’d have a window on the 8th of December. It was rather later in the season than I’d wanted, but we decided to gamble; if the colors were no longer good, at least we’d scouted the place and would be able to work it more efficiently next time. To reach the Hoshi no Buranko bridge in good morning light we’d have to leave Kyoto while it was still dark. Now if there’s one thing about clear weather in late autumn, the clearer it gets, the colder it gets too. A 2-degree morning may be nothing to you if you’re a Canadian or a Scandinavian, but we’re tropics-born; my wife finds anything below 20 degrees chilly, and there was a wind.

View from Hoshino Buranko bridge

The view from the bridge.

With wifey muffled up in all of six layers(!), we walked to the nearest Keihan station. Hoshida Park is quite a distance from Kyoto, being actually inside Osaka Prefecture, but is connected to Kyoto by the Keihan Line. We took the Keihan Main Line to Hirakatashi Station, where we changed to the Katano Line for Kisaichi. From Kisaichi it was a 2.5 km or so hike to the Hoshi no Buranko.

hoshi.png

The wind was cold, but the effort of ascent warmed us up to the point where we started to shed some of our layers. There are many trails through the park, many of them leading to the same places but by different routes. There were English signs indicating which path went where, with welcome advisories on difficulty. Cat and I felt energetic enough (ha!) to take one of the steeper trails to get to the bridge faster.

Our efforts paid off, as we reached the Hoshi no Buranko with only one other photographer there before us. We got some shots from the north end of the bridge, then when the bridge was opened (there are locked gates at either end), we crossed to get shots from the bridge itself and the south side. We were also delighted to find that the colors wasn’t entirely gone, late in the season as it was; the hills of Katano were still dotted with bright orange.

As we’d gone on a Saturday, families started appearing. Their kids, being kids, enjoyed running back and forth over the bridge, and coupled with the adults’ more sedate footsteps, caused the bridge to vibrate so much we could only get shots from the bridge during pauses, or if we bumped our shutter speeds way up. That was the trade-off for fair weather. All the same, I’d rather have the kids than walk those trails in the rain.

Stone ship rock at Iwafune Jinja

Iwafune Jinja. Iwafune means ‘stone ship,’ the shrine being named after the boulder on the right which looks like the bow of a ship.

We went down via the trail to Iwafune Jinja (Stone Ship Shrine), an interesting Shinto shrine that lies beneath a titanic boulder. Beside it was a sacred cave or tunnel. I would’ve wanted to go inside, but there was a Japanese tour group or study group there that looked like they’d take a long time, so instead Cathy and I hiked to the bus stop. There we caught a Keihan bus going to Hirakatashi Station, from which we returned to Kyoto.

Interesting characters at Iwafune Shrine

Interesting characters! It’s a pleasant surprise to find such touches of whimsy in Japanese temples and shrines.

As we skipped through downtown to get off at the station nearest our guesthouse, Jingu-Marutamachi, we decided to try eating at the Nishio Yatsuhashi no Sato, a restaurant run by the adjoining Yatsuhashi Nishio sweets shop. Here we had big bowls of udon, then a plate of matcha warabimochi for dessert. Warabimochi is a jelly made from bracken starch, and in Nishio no Sato it’s served with a side of black honey, kinako powder … and a sprinkle of gold leaf flakes on top! It was a golden end to a golden day.

warabi mochi

Warabi Mochi at Nishio no Sato, the restaurant of the Yatsuhashi Nishio sweets shop. The matcha-flavored jelly is topped with flakes of gold leaf!

Travel Tips

Hoshida Park is easily accessible from either Kyoto or Osaka (it’s actually in Osaka Prefecture). On weekends you can get a Keihan bus to Hoshida Park from Hirakatashi Station, but on weekdays the bus doesn’t stop there. From Hirakatashi, take the Keihan train to Kisaichi. From there just follow the signs to Hoshida Park. It’s about 2.5 km along a trail following the Amano River southward.

There is a restaurant near the rock-climbing facility. Other than this there’s no place to eat or buy drinks on the way to the Hoshi no Buranko bridge so you may want to pack snacks. Water is a must.

I also saw signs warning of Mamushi, Japanese vipers, along the trail. If you’re coming here in the warm season, specially if you’re with kids, be careful where you step and avoid stepping on places where snakes could hide such as deep piles of dry leaves.

Photography Tips

Bring a tripod and CPL; a Graduated Neutral Density filter could also be useful. The park is at its most colorful in the latter half of November, and it seems up to early December.

Surprisingly, the park is a no-fly zone for drones. This was a big disappointment for us, as it had shown up as drone-positive on the DJI geomap. Park management however bans drones.

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