In Japan, people use the word ‘ukino’ to describe their attitude towards slow living, which literally means ‘to live in the moment and be far from common life matters’. It means taking a slower course in every part of your life.
On the surface Japan appears exceedingly modern, but travelling around it offers numerous opportunities to connect with the country’s traditional culture and incredible landscapes.
Although well known for its traditional culture and technologically advanced cities, Japan is a country of mountains. In fact, More than 70 percent of the volcanic archipelago is covered by towering volcanic peaks and snow capped summits; and these mountains, which have traditionally held important religious and cultural significance, provide nothing short of a haven for hikers of all levels. Here, we look at Japan’s most incredible multi-day hikes.
Trekking is the most intimate form of slow travel, where visitors can fully immerse themselves in a destination, one step at a time.
The Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse – Hokkaido
Hokkaido is home to some of Japan’s most remote and rugged outdoor playgrounds. Things are big here. Mountains, valleys, plains, capes and coasts. Summer is most popular for hiking, but the winter landscape is spectacular for those who are well-prepared.
The Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse is a multi-day trek along the exposed alpine spine of the Daisetsuzan National Park. Six to eight days long depending on experience, this iconic Hokkaido expedition covers a mind-boggling diversity of high-latitude volcanic scenery. Ascend prehistoric wetlands, active volcanic landscapes, rocky ridges and vast alpine plateaus, all with the help of a comprehensive English language guide from Hokkaido Wilds.
Top Tip: As weather can change quickly in the mountains, it is essential to pack appropriately so that you can comfortably deal with whatever weather comes your way.
Aso-Kuju National Park – Kyushu
Japan’s southernmost island is a dynamic landscape of active volcanoes, hot springs and epic coastlines. Closer to Korea than Tokyo, but easily accessible from every major city in Japan, Kyushu is the historic gateway to Japan and has close cultural ties with the rest of Asia. Few landscapes are quite as awe-inspiring as that of Aso-Kuju, where expanses of moors, hot springs and vast mountain ranges conjure an otherworldly terrain. Mount Aso, one of the world’s largest caldera volcanoes, is undoubtedly the national park’s crown jewel.
Top Tip: Charge your phone fully before starting off and save important numbers, such as the local emergency numbers and the number of your accommodation.
The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage – Honshu
Honshu is Japan’s largest island and is home to the country’s best-known cities and destinations, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Mt. Fuji. Listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is one of the most popular treks in Japan. It’s actually a series of seven different trails, and while there are a number of routes, the most popular (and famous) route to follow is the Nakahechi Trail, also known as the ‘Imperial Route’ due to its history of hosting emperors, nobles and pilgrims. These lovely trails take you through beautiful woodlands and mountain scenery.
Top Tip: Hike with a companion or two in case something goes wrong.
The Shikoku Pilgrimage – Shikoku
The smallest of Japan’s main islands, Shikoku is well off the beaten path and offers an enchanting blend of old and new Japan amongst some of the country’s most photogenic scenery. The Shikoku Pilgrimage (also known as the Shikoku 88 temple trail) is a famous, long pilgrimage route to 88 temples. This beautiful trail travels more than 1,200 around the island, mostly following the coastline. As well as visiting a plethora of beautiful and ancient shrines and temples, trekkers can also enjoy fantastic scenery on the way.
Top Tip: Bring insect repellent!