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3,333 stone steps in Misato-town, Kumamoto ; Japan’s NO1!

Do you like challenges?

I have never been good at any sports and actually, I hated them since my childhood.

It seems like I lost my mind but this time, I decided to challenge myself to climb 3,333 stone steps in 美里町(Misato machi, means Misato-town). It is called “日本一の石段(Japan’s No.1 stone steps in Japan)”.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

As I introduced in the last articles, there are many beautiful stone bridges around Misato-town which is full of history.

霊台橋(REIDAIKYO BRIDGE) ~LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF STONE BRIDGES AND STONEMASONS~→  http://untappedkumamoto.com/history-culture/1361




This time, I’d like to introduce another “stone architecture”.

Let’s learn about 3,333 stone steps and see how it was to climb 3,333 stone steps!

3,333 stone steps, Misato-town, Kumamoto ; Japan’s No.1!

Learn about 3,333 stone steps, Misato-town, Kumamoto ; Japan’s No.1!

Long way to go to Shakain(釈迦院).

There is a mountain named 大行寺山(Daigyoujiyama, means Mt. Daigyouji) which is 957m high.

On top of it, there is a temple names 釈迦院(Shakain).

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

Shrines and temples have path to the main hall. For this Shakain, this 3,333 stone steps are the path to the temple.

The length of the steps is about 2km and the hight from the bottom to the top is 620m.

What was the purpose of building 3,333 stone steps?

The reason they made 3,333 steps goes back to 1985.

The governor of Kumamoto at that time was 細川護熙(Morihiro Hosokawa) who is the descendant of Hosokawa family(a family who ruled Kumamoto in Edo period) and later became the 79th Prime Minister of Japan.

Hosokawa wanted to make Kumamoto more appealing to people outside.

He proposed a campaign “日本一づくり運動(No.1 Japan campaign)” and this 3,333 stone steps was one of them.

Misato-town joined it and started to build the steps.

There already used to be a rough mountain trail to Shakain but it wasn’t paved and organized at all.

Misato-town started to build steps over the trail.

Previously, Japan’s No.1 stone steps was 2,446-step in Yamagata-prefecture.

Source : 羽黒山杉並木(Hagurosan suginamiki) in Yamagata-prefecture. https://www.tsuruokakanko.com/cate/p0061.html

Misato-town finished building 2,447 steps in 1985 and became Japan’s No.1. They  kept building and reached to 3,333 in 1988.

You might have wondered the reason of the number, “3333”.

I’ve found that in Buddhism, “3” is considered to be a good number and 3,333 is doublet so it sounds very nice!


Symbol of world peace.

Interestingly, they used stones from 7 different countries, which are China, Korea, India, Brazil, America, South Africa and Russia.

The reason they used stones from these countries is to show international friendship and to make the steps internationally valuable.

Many foreign tourists visit there and challenge themselves to complete it. This idea has succeeded to bond people around the world. 

Run up the 3,333 steps faster like white dragon! : Two competition to challenge yourself ; Sponsored by Misato-town and Red Bull.

Since 2015, Red bull has organized an event, called 白龍走(Hakuryusou) in every June. 

Source : https://www.redbull.com/jp-ja/red-bull-haku-ryu-sou-2017-limit-and-merit

白龍(Hakuryu) means “white dragon” They named it by the image of people running up the steps which looks like dragon going up to the sky.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

This is the latest record. Men’s winner finished climbing up for 24 minutes and 42 seconds and women’s winner finished for 33 minutes and 22 seconds. You’ll understand how this record is unbelievable once you try it!

Every November, there is another competition called アタック・ザ・日本一(Challenge the Japan’s No.1) which is sponsored by Misato-town and the local TV station. In this competition, you can choose 3,333 steps or 1,620(half) steps.

These competitions might lit a fire in you!      



My biggest challenge to complete 3,333 stone steps.

From here, I’d like to share my first challenge for 3,333 stone steps.

My friend and I visited there during the Golden week holiday 2019.

We had 10 continuous national holidays this year, because of our new emperor ascending the throne.

I was sure it would be very crowded so we left Kumamoto-city at 5am and arrived at 3,333 stone steps at around 6am.

There are some 駐車場(Chushajou, means parking lot) near the steps.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

The sign says it costs 200 yen(Some parking is100 yen and 200 yen for weekend and holidays.).

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

Don’t forget to put your money into the box before leaving!(I didn’t know when to put money so I did before leaving the parking.)

As you walked forward, you’ll see this 狛犬(Komainu, means guardian dogs which are placed at the gate of a shrine or a temple).

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

As I explained, 3,333 stone steps is the path to the Shakain temple up there so the guardian dogs show this is the entrance to the temple.

At 6:30, we started our challenge.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

There is one thing you should remember, which is walking right side when you go up and down.

At first, we were talking and climbing but very soon after I found myself out of breath already.

I have to tell you that the first 100 steps were the most difficult part because we don’t usually climb steps even for 100!

I was thinking why I decided to do that and wanted to go home right away…

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

We met this 70-year-old gentleman with his stick.

He said he had climbed Mt.Fuji at the age of 50 and 60 and he was preparing for another try this year.

I was picking up the pace but got tired and out of breath so easily. The gentleman advised me to slow down a little bit because it’s long way to go(sounds like a life!?).

My friend is very active and she knows how to climb(she has also climbed Mt. Fuji before!). She gave me an advice not to drink water a lot at once. She said that it’s better to drink a bit of water enough to hydrate my mouth.

Thanks to their advice, I gradually adopted and got the nice pace.

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel much pain or fatigue for my feet. The problem was how to manage my breath.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

There are these small mile stones at each 100 steps.They are written in old Chinese character so you may find it difficult to understand.

I show you what they mean.

壱(1), 弐(2), 参(3), 四(4), 五(5),

六(6), 七(7), 八(8), 九(9), 十(10), 百(100), 千(1,000)

For example, “六百段目” means 600th step.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

“二千段目” means 2,000th step.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto


I hope it’ll be useful for you to count the number.

It’s a good motivation to know how many steps you climbed.

Even though it was around 7-8am, we met a few people who were already running down the steps. I was wondering what time they came. How active they are!

What I enjoyed while climbing was greeting.

Every time we meet someone, they gave us pleasant greeting each other. 

Usually on the street, people just pass through and only care about themselves but on the 3,333 steps, they greeted each other and care about others, which I found it really nice.  

The other good thing is the nature.

If you keep looking at endless stairs, you may get despaired.

Just enjoy the amazing view and listen birds singing.

You’ll be able to relax and it will ease your fatigue.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

After 800 steps, we met this lovely young deers!

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

In between, there are some parts with stepping-stones. I was so grateful to walk on the flat street!

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

There are many resting points.

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

Sometimes I looked back the steps I had climbed.

I know its’s too early to feel the sense of achievement but it’s nice to give myself just a little pat on the back, isn’t it?

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

After 3,200 steps, you’ll see the stone monuments along the steps which shows where these stones are from.

As I explained, they used stones from 7 different countries.

These two steps are from different countries but can you tell the difference?

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

Finally, we reached to the top!!!

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

On this stone monument, it says this 3,333 stone stair is like white dragon climbing up and this is Japan’s No.1 stone stair.

We started to climb at 6:30 and arrived at the top at around 8:00.

Now you understand how fast the participants of the competitions were!

Challenge yourself to complete 3,333 stone steps, Misato-town Kumamoto!

It was a big challenge for me but I got the great sense of accomplishment.

Don’t forget that this 3333 stone steps is the path to Shakain temple and this stone monument just shows you finished stone steps!

Sadly, you can’t see a nice view from the point of 3,333th step at all!

Walking about 1km more, then you’ll reach to Shakain temple. On the way to it, you can enjoy amazing view.

But don’t worry, there is no more steps to Shakain!

The beautiful scenery and peaceful Shakain is another treat for you after completing 3,333 stone steps.          

I’m going to write about Shakain later so check it out.

釈迦院(Shakain) ~Temple standing up to the 3,333 stone steps~ →  http://untappedkumamoto.com/history-culture/1570

Try 3333 stone steps. Don’t be afraid to try because even I could complete it.

There are many rewards waiting for you!

Photo credit : Chieko @untappedkumamoto

【Information and links】

日本一の石段 (Japan’s Number One Stone Steps)


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