The best hiking spots in Japan

Mount Hakkoda, photo by Masa Sakano on Flickr

Japan’s landscape is amazingly diverse, and many other countries of a similar size could not boast of such a great mix of mountains, valleys, lakes, hot springs and beaches like Japan. And despite being among the most densely populated countries on earth, Japan’s natural environment is quite well preserved – no matter how developed and neon-tinged the metropolises are, the countryside is just as tranquil and picturesque as ever. When you feel like you need to escape the urban jungle for a day or two, you can turn to nature, and try out some of the best hiking trails in Japan. There is no shortage of wonderful trails and paths that all travelers can enjoy!

Mount Odake

If you prefer not to stray to far from Tokyo and yet you feel the need for a breath of fresh air, you should hike Mount Odake, which contrary to its name (which means big peak), is a relatively easy and very pleasant hike. The hike to the peak doesn’t take long, and the first part of it will take you past souvenir shops, shrines and even some restaurants (the green udon noodles in the area are famous). The views from the top are unrivaled: the huge sprawl of Tokyo and the crisp shape of Mount Fuji.

Mount Shikarami, Honshu

Shirakami, photo by jetalone on Flickr

Mount Shikarami can be found in the Shirakami-Sanchi protected area, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on the border between Akita and Aomori prefectures. The ancient beech trees that grow on the mountain are quite famous, as it is the breath-taking view of the ocean. The trail leasing up to the summit makes for a moderate but long hike, seeing as there’s quite a long walk from the railway station to the trail head too.

Ryuugatake

Ryuugatake mountain, not far from the more famous Mount Fuji, is a very pleasant hiking spot not far from Mount Fuji, near the shores of Lake Motosu. On New Year’s Day, people come to Ryuugatake to witness the ‘Diamond Fuji’, a beautiful sight created by the sun setting directly over the peak of Mount Fuji. Ryuugatake gets plenty of visitors all year round and it is one of the best hiking spots in Japan for those who’d rather not brave the crowds on Mount Fuji.

Mount Bandai, Fukushima Prefecture

Shirakami forest, photo by Psymeg&Chooch on Flickr

Hiking up an active volcano might not sound like the best idea, but Mount Bandai is quiet safe, and popular with local hikers. The colorful rock formations in the area are the highlight of the hike, and if you think the view is amazing while you’re making you’re way up, just wait until you reach the summit.

Mount Hakkoda

In winter, Mount Hakkoda is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders, but in summer it is the hikers who can take over the trails of the mountain. The trails will take you through dense forests and volcanic valleys, but the cherry on top, yet again, is the amazing view from the top. Stop at Sukayu Onsen on your way back to replenish your energies.

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