Key information: Basho Tour
- Follow part of the route taken by Japan's greatest haikuer on his journey which spawned the famous Narrow Road to the North.
- Walk on country lanes, forest trails and mountain paths. Some superb scenery and endless inspiration. And divine food.
- Walkopedia rating86
- Natural interest13
- Human interest16
- Negative points2
- Total rating86
- Note: Neg: popular in places
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: N/A
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
This is the first time that a walk firm's walk has been so good that we have created a walk page just for it - and also the first time that an artificially constructed walk involving many sections needing linking transfers is so good that its totality deserves its own Walkopedia page, rather than separate pages for its best paths. Well done Walk Japan!
Walk Japan says:
"Basho's most famous poetic travelogue, The Narrow Road to the North, is one of the great works of Japanese literature. This fully guided tour takes us on a unique, authentic experience following in the footsteps of 17th Century Japanese poet. Beginning in the great city of Tokyo, our travels take us to the famous temple (and walking) area of Nikko, then through the beautiful and iconic scenery of the Tohoku region, along the rugged Sea of Japan coast to Sado-ga-shima island and Kanazawa before reaching the cultured old capital of Kyoto. The walking is along quiet country lanes, forest trails and mountain footpaths; all easily enjoyed by regular walkers. Like Basho, we take delight and inspiration from some of the greatest scenery to be found in Japan including Matsushima, one of the classic Three Views of Japan, and the beautiful gardens found at Hiraizumi and Kenroku-en.
Besides the beauty of the countryside we travel through and the haiku poetry of Basho, we also learn of the tumultuous history that wreaked destruction but also nurtured the tough spirit and culture of the people of Japan's northerly regions. The Basho Tour also features visits to onsen thermal hot spring resorts, stays in Japanese inns and sumptuous Japanese cuisine.
We meet in Tokyo and travel through Nikko, Matsushima, Hiraizumi, Sado-ga-shima and Kanazawa before finishing our journey in Kyoto."
It is work pointing out that this is a mixed walking and cultural expedition, a marvelous experience but perhaps not for you if you want hard-core walking. Have a look at Walk Japan's itinerary here.
Best months: April to end October.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Find these and other books on Amazon, using our handy search box:
Books on this walk
The Narrow Road to Oku – Matsuo Basho. The great haikuer’s classic account of his travels in C17 Japan
Japan – Lonely Planet
Hyakumeizan! Japan’s 100 Mountain Challenge by Craig McLachlan and Travis Taiaroa – account of their record-setting climb of Japan’s 100 Famous Peaks.
A History of Japan- Conrad Totman. Maybe because it was so isolated, but Japanese history seems to be periods of stability interspersed with centuries of factional fighting between incomprehensible cliques, with little reference to events in the outside world – but producing sublime art and artefacts…
Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence – Andrew Juniper. Fascinating subject and insights into Japanese aesthetics and their influence by Zen Buddhism, occasionally irritatingly written.
In Praise of Shadows – Janichiro Tanizaki, written in the 1920s. Very idiosyncratic but fascinating insights.
Bending Adversity – Japan and the Art of Survival – David Pilling, much admired overview of modern Japan
Looking for the Lost (Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan) - by Alan Booth - “The best travel writer in Japan”(Ian Buruma)
The Roads to Sata (A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan) – by Alan Booth -“The best travel writer in Japan”(Ian Buruma)
The Wages of Guilt– Ian Buruma
Walk Japan will provide maps.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Spring and early Summer for flowers, including the famous cherry blossom in mid Spring. June and July are rainy season. Summer is hot and humid. Bright mid-autumnal colours.
Fly in to Tokyo , fly out from Osaka (or Tokyo).
See Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
· Heat, strong sun and humidity in summer. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
· A wet rainy season in June/July.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Excellent and varied, organized by Walk Japan.
Other information and tips
Make sure you have lots of cash when away from the cities – machines can be hard to find.
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
· www.Japan-guide.com is excellent for general travel information.
· www.wikipedia.org. Has starter information.
· Try www.flickr.com for pictures of this walk.
· Have a look at the dreaded TripAdvisor – you should get current views on this walk and area.
Other things to do
Japan, being largely mountainous, has a huge variety of great walks. There is likely to be a good walk within range wherever you may be.
Endless cultural fascination, and a lot of other fun and interest.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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