Known as the ‘land of the rising sun’, Japan balances tradition with high-tech modern technologies. Japan is truly a country of contrasts – from the natural spectacle of Mount Fuji and idyllic islands and beaches in the south, to the cosmopolitan energy of Tokyo and Osaka and the ancient temples, shrines and wooden houses of Kyoto. Japan is unlike anywhere else in Asia and is a truly enthralling holiday destination.
Walking in Japan
With its stunning and varied landscapes, Japan is a walker’s paradise. From a self-guided trek along the Nakasendo Highway to tackling the imposing peak of Mount Fuji, there are endless opportunities to get out and about on foot. Here are a few of our favourites...
Nakasendo Walking Trail
Walk back in time through ancient Japan on the fabled Nakasendo Trail, an old postal service route between Kyoto and Tokyo. While it is now frequented by keen hikers rather than the samurais who once walked its paths, it is easy to imagine the trail in its heyday. Stopping off at traditional Japanese inns, or ryokans, to rest weary legs en route adds to the authenticity of the experience. We recommend a three-day self-guided journey along this scenic highway, from the picturesque town of Magome to the more bustling town of Narai, characterised by the endless quaint houses that line this stretch of road. We think this is arguably the prettiest section of the trail, passing through many of the route’s most charming postal towns and taking in numerous beautiful Shinto shrines which have existed since the Edo period. Stroll past waterfalls, bamboo forests and cherry blossom trees, all home to a myriad of birds and wildlife.
In Hakone, Mount Fuji dominates the landscape, and one of the best ways to see its majesty (both from afar and up close) is on foot. Take a scenic hike to the base of the mountain for spectacular views of Lake Kawaguchi and the famous snow-capped peak amid miles of uninterrupted wilderness. Spend a few days hiking around the trails of Lake Ahinoko and Lake Ashi, or, between the months of July and August, climb Mount Fuji itself. Its snowy splendour is matched only by the Shinto shrine upon its summit, and the enormous crater which measures 600 metres in diameter. Watch the sunrise and send a postcard from the top (home to Japan’s highest post office) for the ultimate Mount Fuji memento.
Located an hour south of Osaka by train, the Kumano Kodo trail is one of only two UNESCO-listed pilgrimage routes in the world, along with the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Much lesser-known than its Spanish counterpart, Kumano Kodo provides utterly mesmerising views of rural Japan, and very few visitors. The paths are dotted with small shrines, from ancient trees to large rocks, which have been worshipped since time immemorial. Whether you come here to soak up the area’s deep spirituality or simply to explore the stunning scenery, the trails of Kumano Kodo provide some of the best walking in Japan. There are seven different routes in total, as well as a bus service which connects the main points, so it’s possible to tailor the hiking to suit you.
Located less than an hour by train from Tokyo, Mount Takao is one of Japan’s most accessible hiking areas. This is the perfect option for those wanting to squeeze some spectacular scenery into a city break in Tokyo, as it can easily be done as a day trip. Offering a network of seven beautiful walking trails, there are various ways to explore this sacred mountain. The hike from the base to the summit takes about 90 minutes, but there’s also the option to take a cable car to the halfway point, before completing the ascent on foot. The pièce de résistance is the breathtaking vista of Tokyo from the very top; the mind-boggling size of this sprawling city is a true sight to behold, and on a clear day, views even stretch as far as Mount Fuji.
Mount Misen on Miyajima Island is a brilliant walking spot. There are three different trails up the mountain, our favourite being the Daisho-in Course, thanks to its spectacular views and manageable gradient. The journey from the base to the summit takes a little under two hours, but there is also the option to take the cable car, which drops visitors out 100 metres from the peak. From here, a relatively leisurely one-kilometre walk brings you to the top of the mountain, and on a clear day, views can stretch as far as Hiroshima city. A number of intricate temple structures sit close to the summit, all of which belong to the Daisho-in temple at the foot of the mountain.
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