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Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 01:01
I plan to go to Japan in 2021 depending on the Covid situation. I have never been to Japan and my Japanese knowledge is actually on a basic level.
What I`d like to ask is how your experiences are in a more rural area. Besides going to common travel destinations such as Tokyo and Kyoto I`d very much like to do some hiking in National Parks or natural areas. I don`t know generally how easy it is to get from the nearby accomodation to hiking trails by train or bus or if a rental car is a must. Of course it depends on the are. But it would be very helpful to get a recommendation so I might get an idea where even to start and to look deeper into? There are so many things to see as a first time traveller to Japan it`s a bit confusing where to begin.
by Nicole (guest)  

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 11:03
How hard core are you think hiking and what season? Some trails are open year round and are more like long walks and others are only open Summer and Fall. How much time do you have? Having 2 weeks for your first trip and wanting to see Tokyo and Kyoto and hike is going to make some place like Hokkaido a challenge. There are hikes near both Tokyo and Kyoto though and would make more sense if you have only a 2 week period.

How hard hikes are to get to again varies and varies in what you are looking for in a hike.

A lot of people like to hike part of the Kumano Kodo in Wakayama-ken. There are buses and a decent amount of English because foreign tourists=more money for the economy.

There are places where cars are required (like Dakigaeri Valley near Kakunodate, because the bus schedule is VERY limited.) and there are places with regular public transit. A lot of people like the easy hike around Kamikochi and I guess if you want something harder there is actual mountain climbing there. That can be accessed via public transit from either Takayama or Matsumoto.

There are lots of hiking trails in lots of parks.

I love reading this website:

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 14:08
Thank you so much for your very useful information, I`m going to look into all this deeper.

I am sorry of course I should have mentioned it before.
Maybe I thought 1 week in Tokyo and 1 week in Kyoto, probably a bit longer in Kyoto because I am very interested in visiting temples and shrines. My stay is not so limited, it depends on what I can find and what accommodation is available (rates). Maybe 4 or 6 weeks the whole trip.

I am not confident in Japanese enough for car rental as to read for example village names or directions given for areas written in kanji etc. while driving. I guess this will not be indicated in romanji in rural areas? So I depend on public transport.

Concerning hikes they should not be too hard, I prefer more decent ones, most important they should lead into natural or wild areas. Wildlife spotting would be perfect.

For my first visit I thought fall would be nice especially in Kyoto. But this raises another question. I guess going to Hokkaido needs to be earlier in the year than Kyoto? Additionally I would so much like to go to Okinawa to visit the aquarium and do some whale watching but as this is taifun season it`s not a very good idea, am I right?
by Nicole (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 14:40

My Japanese is god awful. I know a few scattered kanji and can sometimes remember my kana but I wouldn't be competent enough if it was required for driving, it is not. I drove all over Tohoku and some of the areas were pretty rural. All road signs were written out in romanji, so as long as you know where you want to go you can find it. Many rental cars come with the option for English GPS. It might cost a bit more, but not that much more. With the GPS, you put in the phone number of the place you want to go, and it directs you, in English. It's pretty amazing.

I've not personally been to Okinawa, I've gone whale watching in Maine (it was ok) and in Hawaii. Hawaii is ideal starting in December, I saw so many humpback whales.

And yes, snow and cold starts earlier in Hokkaido. I think if you started up North you would be able to do some hiking there as well so long as you don't mind a bit of a chill at times. You would just have to watch the weather reports where you wanted to go. You can not rent a car in Hokkaido and travel to Honshu with it or vice versa.

You can do some simple hikes in Onuma Park in Hokkaido. But again I've noticed people have different ideas of walking in nature.

You could technically do Hokkaido to Tokyo to Kyoto and end in Okinawa. Taifoon season ends by October.

Again Kamikochi when it is not raining is quite pretty and very natural. I always wanted to do the Kuju Mountains.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 14:54
There's a hiking section on this website with trails listed by area, including some close to capital cities.
by / (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 15:44
@rcold thank you very much again. Well thanks especially for the information concerning driving.
@guest thanks indeed and I am very sorry I missed this section. I apologise. Anyway personal experiences are so important to hear.

Thanks and I need some time to look into alls this.
by Nicole (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 16:22
For respondents to make good suggestions, you really do need to provide more details, especially whether you want multi-day or single-day hikes.

I like to go on at least one hike on each of my trips to Japan, and have only rented a car once. My favourite locations have been the Tsumago-Magome route, and the Kumano Kodo (over several days, spending nights in onsen towns along the way), both done solely via public transport. I rented a car to visit Kawazu Nanadaru on the Izu Peninsula, but that could also have been done by public transport.
by / (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 16:46
@ guest yes of course you are right. But I thought of getting primarily some ideas where to even start to look. I prefer 1 day hikes but as I already said from the accommodation the trails should be accessible by public transport in a reasonable time. And as I am flying in from Europe it wouldn't make any sense to need 3 days to even get to this area because it`s so remote. As I have never been to Japan I ignore how it`s organised. I thought mainly about getting to two or three spots additionally to Tokyo and Kyoto and doing some hiking there. I now started looking for Hokkaido and obviously it`s not as easy as that.
by Nicole (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 17:35
It really depends on what and where you want to see.

There are plenty of really nice National Parks and good hiking on Honshu. You don't need to go to Hokkaido unless there is something more about Hokkaido you are interested in. If it's just to hike and you're not going in the Summer when the weather in most of the big cities is quite hot and humid, there are plenty of great hikes in nature elsewhere. Also don't be afraid to fly within Japan. I visited Hokkaido briefly many years ago, but I got there by flying because it was faster. (the shinkansen ended at Hachinohoe at the time.)

But again there is hiking and there is hiking and people have rather different ideas of what hiking in nature is. I prefer following a nice obvious trail with limited steep inclines and no rock scrambles or steep drop-offs. My husband on the other hand has no problems with things like that. So for example, Japan Guide rates the hike from Kurama to Kibune in Kyoto as moderate and I would rate it as easy. For more in Kyoto you can also hike down the mountain from Enryakuji to Omi-jingu, I had a friend who did that by accident.

I thought this hike Matt Evans of Japan Guide wrote about in Karuizawa looked quite fun, but I prefer my nature with civilization close by. https://www.japan-guide.com/blog/wild-japan/200703.html

Honestly, I would look at your budget and the amount of vacation time you have and just think about what works for both.

I'm not sure what sort of wildlife you want to see. I personally do my best to never see bears outside of zoos. In the town where I use to live, black bears were regularly seen and I am just so thankful I did not see them, though one was caught on camera at my husband's office.

You can easily see monkeys at the Arashiyama Monkey Park in Kyoto or Jigokudani in Nagano. The onsen monkeys of Jigokudani felt more natural and we saw some on the trail before we even reached the onsen. I believe @Lazy Pious also saw monkeys at Kamikochi, but I was there for pouring rain so no animals were out and about except people. While deer are readily viewed in Nara and Miyajima, if you prefer deer that are a little less corrupted by human feeding, I saw some when doing 48 Falls in Mie-ken. I would not be surprised if people saw them while hiking the Kumano Kodo. I once saw a serrow from the bus between Takayama and Hirayu-onsen. A lot of wildlife unless it is accustomed to people or is looking for handouts just does not want to be seen though.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 17:58
Thank you so much again for all your recommendations and your long answer. It's very helpful, and I am looking into all that. WEll I recently saw a documentary about Hokkaido and they seem to have nice NPs but yes maybe it would be less complicated to stay at Honshu for my first trip. Anyway sure I`d like to see bears (I am from Europe :) ) but I think it`s more difficult to spot them than in Canada or the US. Monkeys - I have lots of respect - they can really bite!!
You mentioned the 48 Falls in Mie-ke, I shortly googled them - that's really beautiful, exactly what I am looking for. Now the question is, if accommodation is nearby and if it's accessible by public transport.  I am going to look. Thank you rkold :(.
by Nicole (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 18:11
I did a few day hikes in Japan, never rented a car. But I also don't have a car in my own country and am used to plan ahead for public transportation.

I would say that, although there are not many buses to remote places in Japan, they are reliable.
The main ones I did :
1) Tokyo -> Matsumoto -> Kamikochi (day hike) -> Takayama -> Kanazawa -> Kyoto. Each town was worth visiting, so I did not feel like loosing time "getting there".
2) Osaka -> Tanabe -> Kumano Kodo -> (hike) -> Hirayu onsen. We left our luggage in Tanabe, and just took a small backpack to hike to Hirayu and spent the night there.
3) Tokyo -> Mount Takao
4) Kyoto -> Kurama/Kibune
by ML (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/16 19:56
thank you ML - very useful! and obviously wonderful spots :)
by Nicole (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/17 07:45

I went to 48 Falls all via public transit. Driving just gives you more freedom because there are fewer buses between Akame-guchi Station and the entrance to the park area. We took the first bus of the morning. I happened to stay in nearby Sakurai. It's a suburb of Osaka and on several train lines. You can get to Osaka in around 30-40 minute and Kyoto in about 45-1 hour. I picked it because it was cheap vs. staying in a ryokan at Akame Falls was going to run me more like $300 a night and I wanted to splurge elsewhere. If you stay at some of the ryokans they can do pick-up and drop-off from the station. I guess you might be able to technically walk it, it's not so far, but it's mostly all uphill and there is no sidewalk or walking area on the steepest twistiest part, so I personally would not want to do it. It seems like an easy way to get hit by a car. There is a nearby campground, if you want to try that for overnights. I also looked into staying here: http://takamuchi.net/houseinfo/, I thought the open deck was beautiful. You could walk to here from the station if you don't have a lot of bags.

You do not want to meet bears in person. They are not cuddly and much more dangerous than the snow monkeys. Bears are mean and dangerous and can seriously hurt or kill you. There are signs warning about them through out Tohoku and bear bells are a definite thing. There are many places in the US where people spot them regularly, they're attracted to bird feeders.

If you want to go to Hokkaido, if you have the time and money it can work. I would just highly recommend flying. You can fly from Haneda to most airports and then you fly from where ever you end in Hokkaido to Itami airport near Osaka and Kyoto. It saves you an enormous amount of time. You then (assuming you didn't get an open jaw ticket) would take the train from Kansai back to Tokyo and go back to Europe.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/17 22:45
For hikes, looking into the various pilgrimage routes and historic traveling routes is always a good start.
The Nakasendo Trail, the Tokaido Trail, the Yamanobe Trail, etc. are some old traveling routes that people still walk today, and some of the routes are very scenic and nice (not all parts are, though. Overall, the Nakasendo has better scenic hiking that the Tokaido). The Yamanobe Trail passes a lot of historic shrines.

For pilgrimage routes, others have mentioned the Kumano Kodo area. There are many different routes there for hiking. Southern Wakayama and Mie are very beautiful. The Iseji is the Mie portion.
-Walking a portion of the Shikoku pilgrimage route or the Saigoku Pilgrimage are also options. You can get the stamps/temple signatures.

If you are more interested in nature hikes, Mount Ibuki (Ibukiyama) and Mount Gozaisho have public transport access.

Other cultural site hikes: Mount Atago and Atago Shrine in Kyoto, Takeda Castle in Hyogo, Takatori Castle in Nara...
by Rabbityama rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/26 15:25
Seeing your comments, Kyoto trail course reminded me up.

Though the start point is Fushimi-inari, somewhere along the course you can enter the trail course from your accommodation probably by walking.

Several months ago, I enter that course at Himukai daijingu shrine and enjoyed 2hr. hiking till the Daimonji.

You could find another phase of the old capital city Kyoto.

by biwakoman rate this post as useful

Re: Hiking in National Parks 2020/8/27 17:38
I'd like to say thank you to you all for all these really nice suggestions. I will certainly hike some of these.

@Rabbityama thank you for mentioning pilgrimage routes, it's a great idea. I think I will spend some days in the Kumano Kodo area because there are a lot of different things I am interested in.

Thanks again :)
by Nicole (guest) rate this post as useful

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