Kuragari Pass - Atlas Obscura

Kuragari Pass

Ikoma, Japan

This quaint mountain pass with centuries-old cobblestones is known as Japan's steepest slope. 


The Kuragari Pass is a historic road that cuts through the mountains of Ikoma, crossing the border between Nara and Osaka. It’s quite quaint, with a number of temples, stone Buddhas, and teahouses dotting the cobbled passage, but you must expect a tough hike to complete the trek. It is, after all, the steepest slope in Japan.

In everyday Japanese, kuragari is a word meaning “shade” or “darkness.” In the case of this pass, it seems to have been named after the thick woods that surround some believe that it was originally either kura-gari “saddle-borrowing” or kura-gaeri “saddle-flipping” in reference to its steepness that threatened the passing riders and their horses.

The pass was considered an important point of the road by the early Edo period, when the Kōriyama domain of Yamato Province paved the way with cobblestones and established a post station for daimyō lords traveling through Ikoma.

The stone pavement has survived the test of time and continues to run along the narrow concrete road to this day, an extremely rare example of a (partially) cobbled national highway as it is part of National Route 308.

Naturally, inexperienced drivers are encouraged to keep clear of this route, as it snakes up and down with the steepest point angled at 31 degrees, often narrowing just enough for one vehicle to barely pass. For travelers on foot, on the other hand, it is sure to make you feel like a pilgrim of the olden days.

Community Contributors

November 1, 2023

Make an Edit Add Photos
In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web