Top 7 of the best hiking trails in Japan

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With over a thousand mountains, more than a hundred active volcanoes, 31 protected national parks and endless beautiful long-distance walking routes, Japan is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers alike. Japan’s low crime rate and scarce lethal wildlife make it one of the safest countries for solo tourists and backpackers. These are some of the most scenic hiking trails and areas to discover in the country!

Kumano Kodo [Wakayama Prefecture]

[caption id="attachment_3880" align="alignnone" width="814"]Credit: www.flickr.com Credit: www.flickr.com[/caption]The iconic, ancient pilgrimage route, which connects Kumano’s Three Grand Shrines through the Kii Mountain Range, shows the best of Japan—dramatic waterfalls, sumptuous temples, lush rainforests, old hot springs and lots of charming little villages scattered all over the place. Visitors can choose from a variety of routes of different complexity levels. The best choice is to walk from Takijiri-oji to Hongu. Whether you want to spend a whole week or just a couple of hours hiking, Wakayama won’t disappoint you.

Contact

Address:Takijiri-oji, Tanabe, Wakayama-ken 646-1421Access: 20 km from Kii-Tanabe (about 40 minutes)By bus: from Osaka, take a bus to Kii Tanabe Station. Switch buses at Kii-Tanabe stop number two, and get off at Takijiri bus station.By train: from Osaka, take the JR train to Kii Tanabe Station. Board the bus to Takijiri from stop number two.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Tanabe City Kumano Tourism BureauWithin Japan: 0739-26-9025

Daisetsuzan National Park [Hokkaido Prefecture]

Credit: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: Wikimedia CommonsHokkaido’s largest natural park, Daisetsuzan, is an unspoiled gem full of snow-capped peaks, rugged volcanoes and colorful alpine forests. Both day-hikes and long-distance trails can be found in this pristine wilderness paradise, which is home to brown bears and deer. The park, nicknamed “the roof of Hokkaido”, spans some 2,267.64 square kilometers, with peaks over 2,000 meters high.

Contact

Address:Kamikawa-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido 078-1701Access:By bus: get on the direct bus from Asahikawa Station to Sounkyo (about 2 hours, 2100 yen).Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Daisetsuzan National ParkWithin Japan: 01658-2-2574

Mount Takao [Tokyo Prefecture]

[caption id="attachment_3882" align="alignnone" width="815"]Credit: Wikimedia Commons Credit: Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Mount Takao is a good trekking choice for tourists not capable of or willing to leave Tokyo. Located less than an hour train ride Shinjuku, this is a prime getaway from the noise and the chaos of the metropolis. The main trail, which passes a temple, an observation deck, a monkey park, a hot spring and a museum, is fully paved and properly equipped. Several smaller routes complete the recreational area.

Contact

Address:Mount Takao, Takaomachi, Hachiōji, Tokio-ken 193-0844Access:By train: get on the Keio Railways train from Keio Shinjuku Station. Get off at Takaosan (about 50 minutes, 390 yen).Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Takao Tozan Railway Co.Within Japan: 042-661-4151

Mount Fuji [Shizuoka Prefecture]

[caption id="attachment_3884" align="alignleft" width="815"]Credit: www.flickr.com Credit: www.flickr.com[/caption]Mount Fuji is the most popular hiking destination for national and international tourists alike, especially those who enjoy climbing. The park is divided into ten different stations at different heights, with paved roads getting only to the fifth station. Despite the peak’s high altitude of 3.776 m, walking and climbing along Fuji’s hiking trails is not particularly difficult, making it a perfect expedition for the whole family.

Contact

Address:Mount Fuji, Kitayama, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka-ken 418-0112Access:By bus: from Tokyo, get on the expressway bus at Shinjuku Station, get off at Fuji-Subaru 5th Station (about 140 minutes, 2700 yen).Recommended period: Summer (off-season climbing is free, but adverse weather conditions can make it dangerous).Contact:Fuji City Tourism InformationWithin Japan: 0545-81-5555

Kamikochi [Nagano Prefecture]

[caption id="attachment_3885" align="alignnone" width="815"]Credit: Wikimedia Commons Credit: Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Kamikochi’s turquoise lakes and rugged, snow-capped mountain scenery will make you feel like you are in Canada. Open from Mid-April to Mid-November, this spectacular park and its many hiking trails offer the most incredible views of the Japanese Alps and the Azusa River. Private cars are not allowed within the park as means to preserve the environment.

Contact

Address:4468 Kamikochi, Azumi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-1516Access:By train and bus: from Nagano, take the Shinonoi Line train to Matsumoto. From Tokyo, take the JR Chuo Line at Shinjuku and get off at Matsumoto. Once there, get on a bus or taxi to Kamikochi.Recommended period: Autumn leaf season (October).Contact:Kamikochi Visitor CenterWithin Japan: 0263-95-2606

Iriomote Island [Okinawa Prefecture]

[caption id="attachment_3886" align="alignnone" width="815"]Credit: Wikimedia Commons Credit: Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Beach and ocean lovers will definitely enjoy Iriomote’s 21-kilometers long hiking trail, which traverses the island with stunning views of the East China Sea and North Pacific Ocean waters. Moreover, most of the island— the second largest in Okinawa— is covered in dense, sub-tropical jungle! Before embarking on your adventure, make sure to register as a hiker at the local police station, where you’ll get a map and emergency phone number. Iriomote makes for the least conventional and most exciting hike in the country!

Contact

Address:Uehara, Taketomi-cho, Okinawa, 907-1541Access:By ferry: from Ishigaki, hop on a high-speed ferry to Ohara Port (about 40 minutes, 1800 yen).Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Irumoteso Youth HostelWithin Japan: 0980-85-6255

Oze National Park [Gunma Prefecture]

[caption id="attachment_3887" align="alignleft" width="815"]Credit: Wikimedia Commons Credit: Wikimedia Commons[/caption]This impressive park, very rich in local flora and wildlife, stretches some 372 km² across the Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma and Niigata prefectures. The park consists of mainly flat land surrounded by lakes and mountains. Several well-maintained paths cross the park in all directions, including wooden elevated boardwalks over the Ozegahara Marshland and Ozenuma Pond. Experienced hikers will find it fairly easy to complete the main route in about seven hours.

Contact

Address:Tokura, Katashina-mura, Tone-gun, GunmaAccess:By bus: get on a bus at Shinjuku Station’s New South Exit to Kanetsu Kotsu or Oshimizu. Once there, switch buses to Hatomachitoge (about 3 hours in total).Recommended period: Fall and Summer.Contact:Oze Marsh Visitor CenterWithin Japan: 81-241-75-2247Written by Virginia González