You won’t find lions, tigers and bears (well, maybe bears) at Ono Wildlife Sanctuary [おおのの自然観察の森 oono no shizen kansatsu no mori] in the mountains high above Hatsukaichi, but it is a lovely spot to go take a walk and a must for birders and lovers of plants, flowers, insects and tree frogs. If you have use of a car or like to bike hills on your bicycle (and have strong legs and powerful lungs), this nature preserve is a nearby countryside getaway.
The park is centered on a lake, at one end of which stands the Nature Center from where you can observe the lake through a telescope. The Nature Center also has lots of specimens of wildlife that can be found in the park. It’s possible to walk down to the lakeside below the Nature Center and you can feed the fish (take your won food). There are a network of easy, well-maintained trails around the lake with some bird-watching hides set up.
From mid may through to the end of June you can see the somewhat surreal foamy egg sacks of the Moriao Tree Frog (moriao-gaeru) hanging from trees in an area with specially constructed boardwalks to allow you to view them. Also from mid May and through to the end of August, you can see, at 15mm in length, Japan’s smallest dragonfly, the scarlet red haccho tombo in large numbers, as well as many other varieties of dragonflies and butterflies too. Kingfishers are among the many birds that can be seen here. The preserve is also a popular place to go to enjoy the autumn colors in late October when the heart-shaped leaves of the many benimansaku turn red.
Pick up a seasonal nature booklet from the Nature Center; the text is all in Japanese, but there are lots of photographs of the birds, plants and animals that you might be able to catch sight of on your visit.
Those in search of more strenuous exercise can take the beautiful wooded and mossy trail up to Omusubi-iwa (“rice ball rock”) at 651m. Look for the sign pointing to おむすび岩. The rock really does look like a rice ball, precariously perched on a slightly sloping outcrop it looks like it could roll off at any moment. The views from up here are great and it’s the perfect place to enjoy your own rice balls. The sign posted (in Japanese) turn to the trail is about 10 minutes long the path from the Nature Center and it takes about 20 minutes to get to Omusubi-iwa. From here you can retrace your steps or continue on to the 699m Ono-gongen-dake [小野権現岳] which will take between 45mins and an hour. From here you can return the way you came, or return to the lake via a trail to the Kabuto-mushi (Rhinoceros Beetle viewing area) [カブトムシの森] and Benimansaku Area [ベニマンサク群落].
A word about access. With no buses running up here, by car is the easiest way to get to Ono Wildlife Sanctuary. However, the road is very narrow, winding and steep in parts. You should be comfortable driving on this kind of road and be prepared to back up if you meet oncoming traffic. Also, make sure your brakes are in good working order for the trip back.
Closed: Mondays (unless National Holiday when closed following day)
Year end holiday: December 28-January 4
Address: 2723 Yakusa, Ono, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima-ken
Address in Japanese: 「おおのの自然観察の森」広島県廿日市市大野矢草2723
URL: http://www.21-taiken-kankou.com/?cn=100159 [ja]