When you think about Japan, you might immediately imagine the urban sprawl of first-time travelers are ready to hit Japan’s big cities, don’t miss out on the country’s plentiful natural sceneries! Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best hiking destinations in Japan.
Among all of the places to hike in Japan, there’s none as famous as Mount Fuji. The first person to climb her peak was a monk in 663 AD. Now, hundreds of thousands of visitors make the ascent every year!
All of the hiking trails open around early July and close in mid-September. Most people start at Mount Fuji’s Fifth Station, which is the highest point you can drive to, then enter the Yoshida Trail. You can potentially make the summit in about eight hours, or stay overnight in a mountain hut.
According to Shintoism, the fox-like Japanese gods, known as inari, bring prosperity to worshipers. For this reason, companies all over Japan have donated thousands of torii gates to Fushimi Inari Shrine. No one is exactly sure how many there are, but the thousands of gates lined up one after another are a sight to behold.
The shrine sits at the base of Mount Inari-san. After passing the Main Hall, you’ll find the entrance to Senbon Torii Trail. It’s a moderate, 5-kilometer trek that takes about two to three hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll see smaller shrines and restaurants serving local Kyoto dishes.
The Kumano Kodo trails are a network of roads that run between temples and shrines in southern Kansai. They’ve led pilgrims from Tanabe’s coast to Osaka and Kyoto for over a thousand years. There are six treks to choose from that vary in difficulty and length.
The main route is the Nakahechi Trail. It's a well-preserved and relatively smooth path that takes you through forests and villages. On it, you’ll see the three main shrines, Hongu Taisha, Hayatama Taisha, and Nachi Taisha. It takes about two days to get from the starting point to Hongu Taisha.
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Visitors to Miyajima Island will know they’ve arrived when they see the iconic torii rising out of Hiroshima Bay. The best time to visit Itsukushima Shrine and the island is during high tide when the torii gate looks as though it’s floating on the water. At low tide, you can walk up to the torii, but for the best views, climb Mount Misen.
One of the main attractions of Miyajima Island is its abundant nature and untouched forests. You can enjoy the area’s natural beauty as you explore the trails, excellent views, and historical monuments. There are three paths to choose from, all of which take around two hours to reach the top.
The Shimanami Kaido bridge connects Honshu and Shikoku. Two other paths also connect the islands, but the Shimanami Kaido is the only one you can traverse on foot or by bicycle. The bridge begins in Onomichi City and leads you over the Seto Inland Sea and six small islands.
In addition to the scenery, travelers can enjoy the attractions on the islands. On Ikuchijima, you can see the Hirayama Museum, which houses artwork by one of Japan’s most beloved painters. You can also stop by the unique Kosanji Temple. The pedestrian walkway is 70-meters long but doesn’t have any steep inclines.
This place is arguably one of the most beautiful traditional Japanese gardens. Commissioned by feudal lord Takatoshi Ikoma during the Edo period, it took 100 years to finish! The spacious land includes six ponds, thirteen landscaped hills, and a 750,000 square meter area covered with pine trees.
It takes about two hours to walk around Ritsurin Koen Park. Along the way, you’ll find local shops and the Sanuki Folk Art Museum. You can also stop for a cup of green tea to take in the view as you relax, or ride on a traditional boat across the ponds.
Mount Koya is one of the most significant religious sites in Japan. According to tradition, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kukai, is meditating at Okunoin Temple as he waits for the next Buddha. His mausoleum is in the center of Japan’s largest cemetery, which houses over 200,000 tombstones. Among them, you can find the burial sites of famous historical figures like Oda Nobunaga and Date Masamune.
The Ichinohashi Bridge marks Okunoin’s entrance, and visitors should bow to pay respects to Kukai before crossing it. The approach from here to Kukai’s resting place is 2 kilometers long. Many travelers prefer to enter the cemetery at night, which has a very different atmosphere compared to the daytime.
The Shikoku Pilgrimage Route is approximately 1200 kilometers long and takes you through the island's main cities and 88 temples. It isn’t a World Heritage Site like the Kumano Kodo trek, but it’s one of the best multi-day hikes in Japan. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world go here every year, especially from March through May and in October.
The goal is to visit all 88 temples, but there aren't any rules about how you should go. Most people start at Ryozenji in Naruto, then walk in a clockwise direction. It also doesn’t matter how long you take to complete it. Some people cover parts of the pilgrimage on several trips!
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Hokkaido’s Daisetsuzan National Park is so massive, some of Japan's prefectures could fit inside of it! It boasts acres of unspoiled mountains, forests, waterfalls, and even hot springs. It’s a paradise for any nature lover, especially in the fall and winter, but visitors should be wary of brown bears.
One of the most dazzling areas in the park is the Sounkyo region. Here, you can find Hokkaido’s largest onsen resort and the majestic Ginga and Ryusei Waterfalls. A ropeway connects Sounkyo with the 1,984-meter Mount Kurodake. At the top, you’ll find several entry points for hikes that lead to the center of the park.
If you don’t have a lot of time, don’t miss out on taking a quick stroll through the scenic Philosopher’s Path. Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro used to meditate and walk on this route as he commuted to Kyoto University, which gave the place its name.
The stone walkway starts near Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion) and takes you to Nanzenji Temple. Hundreds of cherry blossoms that bloom in April line the 2-kilometer road and a babbling canal provides a peaceful soundtrack.