guest post by Louise Brown
Japan offers many beautiful hiking trails. After all, the land is full of mountains, volcanic peaks, valleys, and many other landscapes.
What’s more is that most of these places have some significant religious and cultural influence that will make your journey even richer.
#1 Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trails
Kumano Kodo is a network of pilgrimage routes in South Kansai Region, particularly in the mountainous Kii Peninsula. The trails on each course vary in difficulty level and will lead you to any of the Kumano shrines.
Though the intention is to reach these shrines, the trails in themselves are quite a religious experience.
There are five different routes: Nakahechi, Ohechi, Iseji, Kohechi, and Omine Okugake.
• Nakahechi is somewhat an easy hike that ends an extraordinary view of the shine and the torii gate. The trail goes through hills, forested landscapes, and some local villages. It starts from Tanabe and is about 35 kilometers to Hong.
• Ohechi is an entirely different view because it follows the coast of the Kii Peninsula. However, parts of the original route no longer exist because of modern roads being built. Still, it offers quite an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. It starts from Tanabe and ends in Nachi Taisha.
• The Iseji trails start from the east coast of Ki Peninsula. It connects Ise shrine to the Kumano. Like Ohechi, parts of the original trail were replaced with modern roads, but you will still encounter many scenic views. It will bring you through a bamboo forest, rice fields, and some beaches.
• Kohechi is a trail that connects Kumano with Mount Koya. This trail is 70 kilometers long and is quite challenging because of the many steep slopes. There are hardly any lodging or villages along the way, so better not do it alone.
• The Omine Okugake trail is another challenging and dangerous, even to the most experienced hikers. It connects Kumano to Mount Omine and Yoshina, which is in the Nara Prefecture. Like Kohechi, this trail barely passes any towns or villages.
#2 Mt. Fuji
One of Japan’s most famous places is an almost perfectly shaped volcano, Mt. Fuji.
It’s also the highest peak of the country, rising to 3776 meters. Many people climb this active volcano each year, especially during July and August (hiking season). Outside of these months are not a safe time to hike up the volcano, but there are some shorter trails around the area. Of course, it’s nothing like reaching the summit of Mt. Fuji, but they’re still pretty amazing trails.
The climb to the summit doesn’t require any particular skill. It has some steep and rocky points, as well as areas where there may be falling rocks and sudden gusts of wind. However, the most challenging part of the climb is that it is exhausting. Also, the air gets thinner as you get higher up, which doesn’t help with the exhaustion.
Other than that, the ascent will be relatively manageable. You may not need to hire a guide because you’ll probably be hiking with many other people. There are four different trails up to the summit and with ten different stations. Overall, it takes roughly about 5-10 hours to ascend, and about 2-6 hours to descend, depending on your route. For more information, you can go here.
Japan is full of beautiful places, but Yakushima has got to be one of the best ones. After all, it isn’t a UNESCO World Heritage site for nothing. On the coast are beautiful beaches and onsens (hot springs), while the deeper parts of the island are mountainous. With the diversity it offers, it’s got to be one of the best places to hike in Japan.
There are many trails all throughout the island. One of the most popular ones is the one that takes you to the oldest cedar tree in the Isle, Jomonsugi. It’s only 25 meters tall, but the trunk is huge – 5 meters in diameter! On your way to Jomonsugi, you will see other famous trees, including the Meotosugi, which looks like a couple embracing. Then there’s Diosugi, one of the largest ones on the island, and Wilson’s Stump, which is a hollow remains of a giant cedar.
Aside from hiking, the island also offers other activities and attractions. To name a few, there’s snorkeling, waterfalls, hot springs, and scuba diving. Around the months of June and July, you might be able to see some sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs. But you will need to make special arrangements or guided tours to see them.
Now, most of these trails are not for the faint-of-heart. It will require some levels of fitness and preparation. You will need a backpack and comfortable footwear fit for the hike and the weather. You will also need proper protective clothes, especially for rain and for the cold.
So, there you have it – three of the most beautiful places in Japan for hiking. There is so much more, but this is what we’ve got. We’d love to hear about your experiences and your favorite trails too. So, let us know by commenting below.
Louise is the founder of TheAdventureLand.com, where she and her associates blog about Outdoor experiences, tips & tricks that will help you have an exciting adventure. She is also a tour guide of travel company where she learned many things about wilderness. “Let’s pack our bags and explore the world!”. Follow me on Twitter and on Google+.