The 6 Best Hikes in Japan: Amazing Routes & Top Trekking Tips – Lonely Planet Travel News | Gmx Pharm

About three quarters of Japan is mountains, so it’s no surprise that hiking is popular with locals and travelers alike. There are monumental peaks (Hello Mt. Fuji!) and rolling hills, lofty landscapes and historic trails.

Japan also has its own rich hiking culture: stay with fellow hikers in one of the country’s many sociable mountain lodges and find something good to do afterwards onsen (Thermal bath) for soaking. Hiking trails in Japan are generally well-maintained (and closed when maintenance is needed), and public transportation is available to the most popular trailheads. Here are six of Japan’s best hikes, along with some top tips to help you along the way.

Mt Fuji is the bucket list hike

15 km round trip, 10-12 hours, difficult

Mount Fuji (3776 m) is Japan’s highest mountain. Hundreds of thousands of people climb Mount Fuji each year, continuing a centuries-old tradition of pilgrimages to the sacred volcano. Many Japanese think they should climb it once in their lives. But only once – as the saying goes, it is a wise man who climbs Mount Fuji, but a fool who climbs it twice.

It’s not an easy hike – there are sections that require scrambling over boulders; not a nice one, since most of it happens above the tree line. And yet the feeling of having arrived at the top? Magical. For many, the goal is to see goraiko (the rising sun) from the summit. This means climbing all night (with headlamps) or staying halfway up the mountain in one of the basic huts that offer accommodation, toilets, food, water and wifi.

There are four trails up the mountain, but the Yoshida Trail is by far the most popular. It is the easiest to get to from Tokyo and has the most huts. Climbing season is from July 1st to September 10th.

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Hike through dense jungle in the Shiratani Unsui Gorge © Nacho Such / Shutterstock

Shiratani Unsui Gorge (Yakushima) is a scenic hike

6km return, 3-4 hours, easy

Yakushima, part of the Ōsumi Islands off the coast of Kyushu, is one of the most enchanting places in all of Japan. It is home to a variety of cedar trees, called Yakusugiwhich lives well over 1000 years, forming massive, gnarled trunks and thick, muscular roots that reach like tentacles across the rocky forest floor.

The most spectacular spot in Yakushima is Shiratani Unsui Gorge, which is said to have inspired legendary animator Miyazaki Hayao’s acclaimed film Princess Mononoke. A gentle half-day hike winds through the gorge’s tranquil, spectacular moss forest, past ancient trees and to a lookout at Taiko Rock.

Yakushima is the complete package; In addition to hiking opportunities, there are beaches and hot springs.

Kumano Kodō (Takajiri-ōji to Kumano Hongū Taisha) is Japan’s premier pilgrimage route

37.8 km, 2 days, moderate

The Kumano Kodō is a network of pilgrimage paths first mentioned by mountain ascetics about 1000 years ago Yamabushi. The trails deep within Japan’s mountainous and remote Kii Peninsula were originally used for religious training – acts of perseverance meant to bring practitioners closer to enlightenment.

Although the trails were unused for centuries, they have since been restored and the Kumano Kodō is now one of Japan’s most attractive hiking destinations. The main path is called Nakahechi and runs from Takajiri-ōji to the great (and ancient) Kumano Hongū Taisha shrine. Most modern pilgrims complete the trek, which has moderate ups and downs, in two days, with a stop at an inn in one of the settlements about halfway.

A bus runs parallel to the route, so it is possible to hike smaller parts instead of the whole way. Alternatively, you can drive two more days to Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine.

Three hikers look triumphantly at a mountain range with their arms raised
The Northern Alps are home to Mt. Yari, Japan’s top outdoor destination © Blue Planet Studio / Shutterstock

The Kamikōchi-Hotaka-Yari Circuit is Japan’s best multi-day hike

34 km round trip, 3 days, difficult

Mt Yari – or Yari-ga-take – takes its name from the Japanese word for spear (Yari), while the craggy peak rises to a dramatic point. Due to its resemblance to the famous Swiss mountain, it is also called “Japan’s Matterhorn”. At 3,180 m (10,433 ft), it is the fifth highest mountain in Japan and part of the Northern Japan Alps – the country’s top outdoor destination.

There are a few different routes to get to the top, but the holy grail for serious hikers is the route known as the Kamikochi-Hotaka-Yari Circuit. This three-day trek begins in Kamikōchi, a highland river valley surrounded by high peaks. After reaching the summit of Mt. Oku-Hotaka, the highest mountain in the Alps at 3190 m (10,466 ft), hikers continue above the clouds over the infamous and frankly a bit scary Daikiretto, a (very) narrow ridge line, to Mt .Yari.

If all this sounds like too much, Kamikōchi—one of the most scenically stunning locations in the entire country—offers numerous hiking opportunities for all levels.

Mt Takao is the best city hike from Tokyo

9 km round trip, 3-4 hours, easy

Mt. Takao (599 m/1965 ft) is Tokyo’s signature mountain – actually in the capital itself, although it’s an hour’s train ride from the nearest major urban hub. This train goes straight to the base of the mountain, and this easy access means that Takao is extremely popular with everyone from families with children to active seniors.

There are six trails to the top, ranging from more woody to more trodden, plus points of interest along the way, including an 8th-century Buddhist temple. From the summit you look back over Tokyo in one direction and the magnificent Mt. Fuji in the other on a clear day.

Mt Takao is a year-round destination that’s doable in winter but especially popular in summer, when a beer garden opens up on a terrace two-thirds of the way to the top, and in fall when the leaves change color.

A solo hiker on the Nakasendo Trail through a traditional Japanese village.  The path is lined with wooden flat houses
The Nakasendo Trail connects the historic cities of Magome and Tsumago © imageBROKER / Moritz Wolf / Getty Images

Magome to Tsumago is a great hike through the history of Japan

7.8 km, 3-4 hours, easy

Magome and Tsumago are two towns on the Nakasendo, an ancient pedestrian street that connected Edo (today’s Tokyo) to the former imperial capital of Kyoto. During the Edo period (1603-1868), it was one of five roads designated for use by the shogun and other powerful feudal lords known as daimyo. Cities like Magome and Tsumago acted as rest stops and provided amenities for the long retainers and messengers who traveled these routes.

Only a few sections of these roads are still open today, including the stretch between Magome and Tsumago. The trail – part cobblestone, part dirt – leads through the densely forested Kiso Valley, past small rural settlements and teahouses. Both cities have well-preserved traditional structures from the Nakasendō heyday—characterized by dark wood, lattice work, and slate roofs. They still house inns and pasta shops.

The Kiso Valley stretches across the border of Nagano and Gifu Prefectures and borders the Central Japan Alps.

6 things you should know before embarking on a trek in Japan

  • Camping in Japan is only allowed at designated campgrounds. Many multi-day hikes instead require an overnight stay (or more) in a mountain hut or mountain hut, some of which also offer hot meals.
  • The weather in Japan, and especially in the mountains, can be unpredictable. Pay particular attention to typhoon warnings between June and October.
  • There are shops in Tokyo and also near popular hiking destinations (like Mount Fuji) that rent quality hiking gear, including hiking boots, if you don’t feel like lugging around your own.
  • Information centers and also mountain huts can provide hiking maps as well as details of closures, detours and other important information, such as e.g. B. Recent bear sightings.
  • Although bear attacks are very rare, they can happen. Most hikers in Japan wear bells to warn bears when they are approaching.
  • Falling rocks can also lead to fatal accidents. Therefore, some climbers who climb peaks like Mt. Fuji or Mt. Yari wear helmets for protection.

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