Japan

Best walks, hikes and treks in Japan [View list of walks]

About Japan

An exceptional country, in its own and in others’ view, Japan has throughout history been isolated, an island nation out on the periphery of Asia. Heavily influenced by China for centuries, it withdrew from the world from the 16th to the mid 19th Centuries, its ports closed to (almost all) foreigners.

This isolation has produced a unique and fascinating culture and an idiosyncratic and much-admired aesthetic: its temples and gardens, its ceramics and art, its poetry and its cuisine are loved and venerated around the world. These can be hard to reconcile with the aggressive militarism of the early C20 and its horrendous conduct during WW2, which is still remembered around Asia.

After the gottedammerung of the atom bombs and total defeat at the end of WW2, Japan picked itself up and raced forward to become the world’s second (now third) economy. Its economic dynamism, its vast bubble then late ‘80s crash and long deflation, and its weird urban sub-cultures, are all well known modern-era phenomena.

With a population of 126m crammed into the coastal strips of what is a mainly mountainous landscape, there is a huge contrast between Japan’s image of crowded megalopolis, with the often dreary monotony of its suburbs, and the remote beauty of its mountains, its icon Mount Fuji the most famous (if not remote!) specimen of a violently shaped landscape. Japan’s Alps rival those of Europe and its islands and quiet backwaters are of a different world.  It extends for around 3,000km, from the sub-arctic north of Hokkaido to the sub-tropics of Okinawa, with a huge variety of biozones and vegetation and animal life as a result, from bear to various species of deer to the endemic serow to more than 500 species of bird.

Japan’s geology, and indeed its existence, result from its sitting astride the junctions between no less than four tectonic plates on the Pacific Ring of Fire, hence its earthquakes, tsunamis (a Japanese word of course), dramatic, rugged mountains and plethora of joke-perfect volcanoes.

All this makes Japan a fascinating country to visit, with history and the beauties of a deep civilisation to investigate and superb landscape and scenery to delve into. The variety of travel and tours you can make here is as a result huge. We tell you about walking below, but have a look here for a wide selection of the travel, tours, holidays and activities available.

Japan is actually easy to get about, and people are invariable polite, indeed friendly if you smile and act willing, although it can at times be challenging even now to get about as a result of language difficulties.

The excellent Walking Stories – www.walkingstories.com – has good general thoughts for planning a visit in Japan.

Walking, hiking and trekking in Japan

What isn’t widely known is that Japan has some of the world’s best walks, hikes and treks. Walking, hiking and trekking options are so varied that everyone’s taste and energy levels can be met.  See here for information on walking holidays available.

Hiking is now hugely popular with locals; the 100 Famous Peaks of Japan are a bigger draw than the Munros to the Scots.

For perfect alpine splendour, you shouldn’t miss the glories of its …er…Alps, which rise to over 3,000 metres and are riddled with gorgeous walks. It has great volcanoes to climb:  Mount Fuji is the famous one, but by no means the best of, so try a Hokkaido excrescence or one of the specimens in Nikko National Park. You can wind through the ancient sub-tropical cedar forests of Yaku-shima and traverse the birch forests, grasslands and tundra of Hokkaido.

Japan has some of the world’s best cultural walks, from its famous pilgrimage routes such as the Kumano Kodo or Shikoku Pilgrimage, to the old Nakasendo Highway linking Kyoto and Tokyo.

See below for a list (which is currently incomplete – please give us your recommendations!) of the best walks, treks and hikes here.

Walkingstories.com has a good article on the author’s long and varied Japan trip, which included extensive walking.  

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Walkopedia has been surprised at how cheap it is to walk in Japan, especially considering the comfort of the lodgings and stellar food to be had even in remote areas. Vital tip: trains can be expensive, but not if you get a Japan Rail Pass, which needs to be bought ahead of time outside Japan.

 Our partners Walk Japan have to be one of the most impressive firms Walkopedia has met: meticulously selected and researched routes; an obsessive’s attention to detail; excellent information on the route, and the ability to deploy guides who know a lot but wear it lightly. We are proud that we have become partners.

We intend that our walk pages contain detail and photos on walking, hiking or trekking routes, including books, best times and weather, how to get there, possible problems, walking, trekking and hiking firms, organisers and guides in Japan, accommodation in Japan and useful links. But this takes a lot of research, so if they are not "there" yet, please give us any suggestions you may have.

Shikoku Pilgrimage
© By Nils Wetterlind Tokachi-Dake
Mt. Tokachidake  - © Walk Japan Media Mts. Asahi-dake, Hokkai-dake, Kuro-dake
Asahidake - © Flickr user - Carolien Coenen

Best walks, hikes and treks in Japan

You can sort the walks by category by clicking on the category titles.

(The rating of walks marked * is currently provisional.)

Region Walk Name Walkopedia Rating Difficulty Day Walk
Possible?

  Basho Tour
86*
Moderate No
  Japan's Pilgrimage Routes
90.5*
Variable Yes
  Nakasendo Way
87*
Moderate Yes
 Chugoku Daisen
84*
Strenuous Yes
 Chugoku Miya-Jima
87*
Moderate Yes
 Hokkaido Hokkaido Walking
84*
Variable Yes
 Hokkaido Shikotsu Toya
84*
Variable Yes
 Hokkaido Shiretoko Peninsula
83*
Variable No
 Hokkaido: Daisetsu-zan Daisetsu-zan Grand Traverse
88*
Strenuous Yes
 Hokkaido: Daisetsu-zan Daisetsu-zan NP
84*
Variable Yes
 Hokkaido: Daisetsu-zan Mts. Asahi-dake, Hokkai-dake, Kuro-dake
86*
Strenuous Yes
 Hokkaido: Daisetsu-zan Tokachi-Dake
83*
Strenuous Yes
 Japanese Alps (Chubu) Kiso-Koma-ga-Take & Utsugi-dake loop
85*
Strenuous No
 Japanese Alps (Chubu) Mt Yarigatake
82*
Strenuous No
 Japanese Alps (Chubu) Murodo-Kamikochi
81*
Strenuous Yes
 Japanese Alps (Chubu) Ontake-san
87*
Strenuous No
 Japanese Alps (Chubu) Shirouma-dake to Osigawa
85*
Strenuous Yes
 Japanese Alps (Chubu) Tate-yama and Tsurugi-dake
87*
Variable Yes
 Kansai Atago-san
84*
Moderate Yes
 Kansai Daimonji-yama and Philosopher's Path, Kyoto
86*
Moderate Yes
 Kansai Fushimi Inari, Kyoto
85*
Straightforward Yes
 Kansai Konpira-san
87*
Moderate Yes
 Kansai: Kii Peninsula Kohechi Trail
85*
Strenuous No
 Kansai: Kii Peninsula Kumano Kodo
90
Strenuous Yes
 Kansai: Kii Peninsula Nakahechi Trail
90
Strenuous Yes
 Kansai: Kii Peninsula Odagi-ga-hara to Osugi
86*
Difficult No
 Kansai: Kii Peninsula Omine San
85
Strenuous Yes
 Kansai: Kii Peninsula Yoshino
82*
Straightforward Yes
 Kyushu Kunisaki Peninsula
89*
Variable Yes
 Kyushu Mount Aso/ Taka-Dake
86*
Strenuous Yes
 Kyushu Mount Kaimon
85*
Strenuous Yes
 Kyushu Mount Kuju
84*
Moderate Yes
 Nansei-shoto (SW Islands): Okinawa Yaeyama/ Iriomoto
81*
Variable Yes
 Nansei-shoto (SW Islands): Yaku-shima Mt. Mocchomudake
74*
Strenuous Yes
 Nansei-shoto (SW Islands): Yaku-shima Yaku-shima
81*
Variable Yes
 Nansei-shoto (SW Islands): Yaku-shima Yaku-shima Traverse
81*
Strenuous Yes
 Shikoku Ishizuchi-san and Circuit
0*
Strenuous Yes
 Shikoku Shikoku
89*
Variable Yes
 Shikoku Shikoku Pilgrimage
89*
Variable Yes
 Shikoku Tsurugi-san and Traverse
86*
Variable Yes
 Tohoku Bandai-san
86*
Strenuous Yes
 Tokyo Region Fuji-san (Mount Fuji) Area
87*
Variable Yes
 Tokyo Region Mount Fuji Ascent
84
Strenuous Yes
 Tokyo Region Nikko Area
86*
Variable Yes
 Tokyo Region Tanigawa-dake
83*
Strenuous Yes
 Tokyo Region: Izu Peninsula Izu Peninsula
89*
Variable Yes


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