Over 70％ of Japan is forested, giving it a rather unique ecological system. Hiking is a great way to discover the Japan’s natural beauty with its distinct changes over the four seasons. Here are three different hiking experiences to enjoy.
Perhaps the most accessible mountain for hiking from Tokyo is Mt. Takao, offering lush forests, beautiful summit views, and a cable car that ferries the most ‘casual’ of hikers to the top and back down again. The mountain is around 600 meters tall and offers 8 different hiking courses that range in levels of difficulty. As you head for the summit, stop off along the way and visit Monkey Park which is home to around 60 Japanese monkeys, and the Yakuoin Temple which is believed to have been built in 744.
Since it is only an hour’s train ride from Tokyo, the city skyline can be seen from the top of Mt. Takao and is particularly impressive at night. After a long day of hiking, you can enjoy a refreshing beer and meal at the restaurant Beer Mount, located on the mountain. This scenic spot was awarded three stars in the Michelin guide, and seems to get more and more popular every year. Therefore, bookings are highly recommended, especially during autumn when thousands visit Mt. Takao to see the leaves changing color.
Yakushima, A Natural Treasure
Yakushima is a small island, part of the Osumi Island chain, that belongs to Kagoshima Prefecture. It has a very natural, unspoiled ecosystem that has rightfully been listed as a World Heritage site. It is accessible by hydrofoil, boat and plane and attracts around 300,000 visitors a year.
90% of the island is covered by forests that possess an almost enchanted and mysterious atmosphere
Yakushima has many beautiful hiking trails too but perhaps the most used path is the one that leads to a 25m high cedar tree, Jomon Sugi, that by some estimates is over 7200 years old. While the tree is perhaps the most famous ‘attraction’, 90% of the island is covered by forests that possess an almost enchanted and mysterious atmosphere. These forests are home to over 1500 species of plant, animal and bird life as well as waterfalls, rivers and gorges and were the inspiration for the Japanese animation film Princess Mononoke.
A Steeper Challenge
A Steeper Challenge
The Japanese Alps, made up of the Northern (Hida), Central (Kiso) and Southern (Akaishi) Alps, stretch across the center of Honshu. There are several peaks in the 3000 meter range offering a tougher workout for the more serious hikers and climbers. As interest has grown in exploring these very scenic ranges, the local industry has grown and renting climbing equipment has become a much simpler process. Additionally there are plenty of mountain climbing tours available so that you don’t have to risk climbing alone, or if you’d prefer, private guides can be hired to lead a more personal hike.
…hiking is especially the domain of the middle-aged and the elderly in Japan
Hiking through the Japanese Alps is not only a great way to experience the exquisite nature Japan has to offer, but also a chance to meet and interact with local climbers. Though it is a very popular pastime with Japanese of all ages, hiking is especially the domain of the middle-aged and the elderly in Japan. Luckily, as we’ve discovered, they are a very friendly bunch so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to join them for a cup of tea and a chat!