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TRAVEL | What to Do

BEST HIKES IN KANTO

Article | Lukas Leiffer

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From trails around the Great Buddha of Kamakura, to around the outskirts of Tokyo, up through the forests of Nikko and as far up as the mountains of Nagano, the Kanto region has some of Japan's best hikes! Japan loves to preserve its natural beauty, even around its major metropolitan areas. So whether you are only stopping in Tokyo for a few days on business or have two week's worth of fun planned in this incredible region, the hiking trails of Kanto are never too far away to squeeze a hike into your schedule. There are some walking trails within Tokyo itself: Shinjuku Gyoen, Ueno Park, and Chidorigafuchi all provide an excellent opportunity for sightseeing in addition to enjoying the exercise. A quick train ride outside Tokyo brings you to charming peaks including Mt. Takao and Mt. Mitake. If you have a few extra days to spend exploring the Kanto region, which hike to choose may prove to be a real conundrum - there are so many amazing ones bursting with natural beauty and traditional culture. Will you take the train to Kamakura and hike the forest trails around Kotoku-in and the Great Buddha? Or perhaps make for Nikko, where the trails around Lake Chuzenji may be shared with curious monkeys, and outside Toshogu Shrine, paths through the dense cedar groves make any hike refreshingly pleasant. For a longer hiking adventure, take the trails through Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, which encompasses four prefectures within the Kanto region. Or make your way to Hakone to hike the living history found on the old Tokaido Road where, if the weather is right, you can catch a glimpse of mighty Mount Fuji. Some of the top hiking trails in Japan await the footsteps of travelers both casual and adventurous, so why not add a hike to your itinerary while in the Kanto region?


TOKYO HIKING TRAILS | TOKYO

Tokyo Hiking Trails combine the best of the big city with the love of nature that the Japanese are known for. Although Tokyo proper isn't often identified with hiking, there are plenty of walking and routes that provide some of the best ways to explore Tokyo on foot. Vast nature spots like Shinjuku Gyoen, Ueno Park, and the Imperial Palace Garden offer moments of calm tranquility in place of the typical Tokyo hustle. Mount Takao is one of the best hiking destinations outside the Tokyo metropolis, with 8 hiking courses up the mountain for beginner to average hikers. While many choose to hike from the base, a ropeway and funicular train up to the halfway point is available to travelers looking for a more leisurely experience. Mt. Takao is connected to the tengu - legendary creatures from Japanese Shinto-Buddhist folklore, and there is a charming Buddhist temple on the mountain. Just outside the Tokyo Area, other hiking hotspots include Mount Mitake, Nokogiriyama, and Mount Oyama.

Read about hiking near Tokyo

Tokyo Hiking Trails


NIKKO NATIONAL PARK | TOCHIGI

Nikko National Park is in Tochigi, and one of Japan's most famous national parks for its natural splendor and proximity to Toshogu Shrine. Amble down the shrine path lined with pine and cedar trees, hike a mountain road up to gorgeous Lake Chuzenji, and challenge the summit of Mount Nantai for a stunning view of the national park below. The lake spills out over a spectacular promontory down into a vast gorge forming beauteous Kegon Falls, which can be viewed near Chuzenji Onsen. While spending time at Nikko National Park, enjoy the company of any curious monkeys you may happen across, but beware their childish pranks. Another good regional hike is found at the highland marshes of Senjogahara, which is best hiked during summer and autumn. In July and August the local flowers are in bloom and the grassy region is green and growing, but in autumn the grass burns a bright reddish-yellow color, and the leaves of the sparse larch trees turn a splendid gold. The Senjogahara hiking course can be taken down to Ryuzu Waterfall and Lake Chuzenji.

Nikko National Park


OZE NATIONAL PARK | GUNMA

Oze National Park is a fantastic hiking destination that is lies mostly in the central Gunma prefecture, but stretches over parts of Fukushima, Tochigi and Niigata. Among the most popular places to hike are the marshlands of Ozegahara, lush and green in the spring, which is famed for native plant life that include alpine lilies and white skunk cabbage (which sprout flowers with no offensive odor, despite having "skunk" in the name). The autumn colors of this region are also spectacular. Ozegahara one of Oze National Park's prettiest regions, and is largely unspoiled apart from a well-maintained elevated boardwalk allowing hikers easy passage through the marsh. To the east of the marshland is Ozenuma Pond, which sits at the foot of Mount Hiuchigadake. The pond is a favorite for casual hikers, with a nice, leisurely trail that circles the pond.

Oze National Park


MOUNT SHIRANE | GUNMA

Hike Mount Shirane in Gunma Prefecture, also known as Kusatsu-Shirane (to differentiate it from other mountains called Shirane). It is one of Gunma's best hiking spots from spring to fall, becoming especially must-see in autumn when the trees along the mountain slopes are covered in brilliant fall colors. The hiking trails are closed in winter, local resorts attract traveling skiiers to the gorgeous winter scene. The Yugama Crater is Mount Shirane's most breathtaking sight. The largest of the crater lakes on the mountain, Yugama is filled with a pale turquoise water tinged with volcanic acid, and sulfurous steam often rises from it's surface. Near the mountain is Kusatsu Onsen, one of Japan's most well-known hot springs, where travelers observe a traditional yumomi, or "water-stirring" performance, which is used to cool the water to just the right temperature without using cold water.

Mount Shirane


CHICHIBU TAMA KAI NATIONAL PARK | SAITAMA, TOKYO, YAMANASHI & NAGANO

Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park is a mountainous national park outside the Tokyo metropolitan area. It's so large that it covers four prefectures: Tokyo, Saitama, Yamanashi, and Nagano. The rich natural beauty of this national park, with eight mountains, numerous rivers, a couple lakes, and even some mountain shrines along the numrous hiking trails. The various trails nearest to the Tokyo-side of the park take nature-loving hikers around Mount Mitake, Mount Odake, and Mount Mito, as far as Lake Okutama. The lake is surrounded with natural hot spring onsen - a perfect opportunity for weary hikers to rest after a day of exploring the beauties of Chichibu-Tama-Kai. Take the time to explore the other prominent peaks and their splendid surroundings in the neighboring prefectures.

Chichibu Tama Kai National Park


KAMAKURA | KANAGAWA

Hike through Kamakura, a seaside town south of Tokyo, known for dozens of Buddhist temples. First among them is one of Japan's most recognizeable landmarks: the Great Buddha of Kamakura, which sits on the grounds of Kotoku-in Temple. There are three primary trails around the city that offer distinct natural and historic charms. The Daibutsu ("Great Buddha") Hiking Trail is the best trail of the region in terms of historical and cultural beauty, connecting the Kotoku-in Temple in western Kamakura to Jochiji Temple in Kita-Kamakura, a trail even beginners will love, passing by some of the city's most important zen temples. There is also a trail to the north, called the Tenen Hiking Trail, which is more moderate in diffuculty, and is a popular trail for Kamakura's autumn colors. Gionyama Hiking Trail is in the eastern hills; an easy route offering delightful views of Kamakura and the sea.

Kamakura


HAKONE HIKING TRAILS | KANAGAWA

The Hakone Hiking Trails wind through some of the most gorgeous nature locations of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Close to both Tokyo and Mount Fuji and lush with natural splendor that includes forests, lakes, rivers, and hot springs, Hakone is one of the top hiking spots in all Japan. One of the most historic walking routes in the country - the old Tokaido Road - runs right through Hakone. Walk the road of noble samurai and religious pilgrims from the Edo period, now rich with traditional and natural treasures along the partially stone-paved path including a view of majestic Mount Fuji, Lake Ashi, the Old Cedar Passage, Amazake teahouse, and the Hakone Detached Palace. Another popular route is Mount Kintoki, named for the legendary Japanese hero Kintaro. Hikes to the summit provide grand views of Mount Fuji. Hakone Hiking Trails are beautiful from mid-spring to autumn, and is known for both pretty cherry blossom landscapes and enchanting scenes of autumn leaves.

Read more about hiking in Hakone

Hakone Hiking Trails

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