Photo/IllutrationA pine cone figurine fashioned after a fencer (Shinichiro Bando)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

CHIHAYA-AKASAKA, Osaka Prefecture--Perhaps unwittingly, an unknown artist has started a treasure hunt on Mount Kongosan by placing pine cone figurines along an underdeveloped hiking trail.

The figures, each around 3 centimeters long and often depicting athletes, blend into the natural surroundings and can be difficult to spot.

The number of figures, which have been dubbed “bokkuri art” (pine cone art) online, is also a mystery.

The trail on the 1,125-meter mountain straddling the border of Osaka and Nara prefectures is not safe enough for hiking, according to Chihaya-Akasaka village government officials.

However, the path remains popular among climbers who enjoy unblemished natural landscapes.

And now, word has spread about the bokkuri art.

The figures consist of several pine cones attached together. Twigs and other materials are used to create “accessories,” such as a bicycle for pine cone cyclist.

The bokkuri artworks have been found on a moss-covered stump, a fallen tree, the side surface of a rocky area, and other spots.

In early April, pine cone figurines modeled after a fencer and a canoeist were seen on the trail.

Hisayo Watanabe, 44, who lives in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, and climbs Mount Kongosan as often as once a week, said she discovered six pieces, including a tennis player, in May last year.

“I was impressed because they were so cute,” she said. “I wonder who makes them.”

Another climber said that nearly 10 pieces were found on a single hike up the mountain.

Pine cone figurines fashioned after athletes in winter sports, including a ski jumper and a curler, were apparently found during the winter months, suggesting the creator is replacing the artworks.

Bokkuri art started causing a buzz on social media in spring last year.

One Instagram user commented: “Cheers for the creativity of the artist.”

Another posted, “It’s fun because I feel like having a treasure hunting game.”

The trail starts near a bus stop on the Mizukoshi-toge pass, part of the old National Route No. 309 connecting Chihaya-Akasaka and Gose in Nara Prefecture. It takes about 30 minutes by bus to get to the bus stop from Kintetsu Railway Co.’s Tondabayashi Station.