5 top trails: Hike your way round Japan’s numerous natural wonders

NAKASENDO WAY

This 11-day hike was a popular route through central Japan for 17th century merchants and travellers, but now it’s a much quieter, enjoyable trek through the countryside with traditional inns dotted along the way. Nakasendo is an ancient highway that translates into “the road through the mountains”, starting off in Kyoto, then moving on to Hikone, Sekigahara, Magome, Tsumago, Narai and ending in Tokyo.

ASUKA

If you’re interested in Japan’s imperial history, then a visit to the beautiful village of Asuka is a must. It was Japan’s first permanent capital – even before Kyoto, where this tour starts – at the southern end of Yamato plain. The trail proceeds to the national parks of Hyushu, which is known for its numerous active volcanoes. After you’ve bathed in “onsen” – natural hot springs – make your way to Yakushima Island, a World Heritage Site.

KAMAKURA

This day-long tour is a great way to escape from the madness of Tokyo, as it’s just outside the buzzing capital. Popular for its preponderance of temples and shrines, the pathway is basically a potted history of Japanese buddhism. It starts off with the Hasedura Temple, then moves on to the Great Buddha (the second largest in Japan). After lunch, head to Enoshima Railway along the coast to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, with its cherry-blossom covered entrance.

HOKKAIDO

Experienced hikers will enjoy the challenge of discovering the wild side of Japan. This 10-day trip is a journey through the country’s sparsely populated northern archipelago. In the winter, it’s a skiiers paradise, but in the summer, the weather is mild and pleasant for hiking. Make your way through forests, wetlands, volcanoes and fields of alpine flowers and fauna, some of which are only found here.

KUMANO

The Kumano Kodo or Kumano Ancient Trail to the three great shrines was popularised during the early second century when the imperial family began to seek solace in what they believed to be the supernatural power of mountains. Emperor Kotoba did this trip 30 times. This four day pilgrimage takes in part of the rocky Kii Peninsula, encompassing deep valleys, mountains and small villages around the Kansei cities of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto.

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