All over Japan, there are several hiking trails that offer opportunities to get close to nature. From north to south and east to west, these trails showcase the country’s various natural destinations, such as majestic mountains, rolling plains, and untouched forests, which are sometimes overlooked by tourists.
On your next trip to Japan, check out the following beginner friendly hiking trails to see more of Japan’s natural scenery:
1. Mount Takao
One of the most common day trip destinations from Tokyo, Mount Takao is home to numerous hiking trails through the thriving forests. For hikers with no or very little experience in hiking, below are some highly recommended trails to try:
Length: 4 kilometers
This trail takes you to the summit of Mount Takao, and is approximately four kilometers long. It takes about one hour and a half to reach the peak. Along the way, you will pass by the Yakouin temple complex. It is highly recommended to newbies who want to conquer their first mountain.
Length: 1 kilometer
This is a trail that loops around the forests on the mountainside. It measures one kilometer in length, and takes 30 minutes to complete. It is perfect for families with young children.
Length: 2.5 kilometers
This trail is two and a half kilometers long, and takes 50-60 minutes to complete. It is fairly easy, as the majority of the trail lies on a flat area, deep into the thick evergreen forests. It is a good option for those looking for a short, easy hike.
Length: 1.5 kilometers
This trail is one of the more popular ones because of the suspension bridge. It extends through a deciduous forest, and measures one and a half kilometers in length.
Length: 0.9 kilometers
This trail is a very short one, measuring only 0.9 kilometers. It is located on top of the mountain, encircling the summit, and passing through the dense forests. It is best explored after taking a quick rest upon reaching the top. It takes only 30 minutes complete.
Length: 3.3 kilometers
This trail is one of the longer ones, measuring more than three kilometers in length. It is narrower than the others, goes through the forests, and passes by a stream. It takes about one hour and 30 minutes to complete. It is suitable for those with a couple of hours to spare to explore the stunning scenery on foot.
Length: 3.1 kilometers
This trail is a little over three kilometers long, and offers observations spots at various points along the way. It is highly recommended to those who want to take pleasure in the gorgeous views of the surroundings from above. It takes under two hours to complete.
To access Mount Takao from Tokyo, you can take the direct Keio Railway Line from Keio Shinjuku Station to Takaosanguchi Station. This one-way journey takes about 50 minutes and costs 390 yen. Alternatively, you can take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station to Takao Station, and then transfer to the Keio Line to Takaosanguchi Station.
Renowned for its ancient sites and beaches, Kamakura is another popular day trip destination for visitors in Tokyo looking for excellent hiking trails not too far away. For hikers, the following courses are a great way to get around the Kamakura’s historic and cultural sites:
Daibutsu Hiking Course
Length: 3 kilometers
This trail is found in western Kamakura, and extends to Kita-Kamakura. It is three kilometers long, and connects the Daibutsu, or the Great Buddha site, and the Jochiji Temple site. It takes one hour and 30 minutes to complete, and is very accessible to inexperienced hikers.
Gionyama Hiking Course
Length: 1.5 kilometers
This trail is only one and a half kilometers long. It provides a scenic and tranquil link between the Toshi-ji Temple and the Yagumo-jinja Shrine. It takes only 30 minutes to complete. On clear days, it offers views of the bay, the nearby Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and even Mt. Fuji.
Tenen Hiking Course
Length: 6 kilometers
This trail lies on the northern hills of the city. It is six kilometers long, extending from Kenchoji Temple to Zuisenji Temple. It is known for the Hyakuhachi Yagura, or tomb caves, and takes approximately one hour and 30 minutes to complete.
To get to Kamakura from Tokyo, you can take the JR Yokosuka Line from Tokyo Station or the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku Station to Kamakura Station. The one-way journey takes about one hour, and costs 920 yen. Alternatively, you can take the Odakyu Railways from Shinjuku, which takes one hour and 30 minutes.
3. Kiso Valley
Kiso Valley is situated in Nagano Prefecture. It is surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in the country, and is home to the Nakasendo, an ancient road rich with history and culture. Back in the Edo Period, it acted as an important connection between two Japanese cities, Kyoto and Edo (old name of Tokyo). Today, some segments of it are open to hikers wanting to enjoy some nature, away from the hectic and chaotic urban areas, and have many traditional Japanese inns and ryokan available in the post towns along the way. It is highly recommended as a weekend getaway from Tokyo.
Magome to Tsumago
Length: 8 kilometers
This hiking trail is the most popular among all the hiking trails along the Nakasendo. It is eight kilometers long, and passes through several post towns, hills, mountainsides, plains, highways, and wooded areas. It takes approximately three hours to complete. As a beginner, it is best to start your hike in Magome, as the trail is less uphill-y.
Naegi Castle Ruins
Length: 5 to 6 kilometers
The Naegi Castle was constructed in the early 16th century. It served as the seat of the Toyama feudal clan during the Edo Period. Unfortunately, it was abandoned and demolished in 1871, and only the ruins can be visited today.
From Nakatsugawa Station, the walk to the Naegi Castle Ruins is about five to six kilometers long, takes about an hour, and affords fantastic views of the Kiso River and valleys.
To get to Kiso Valley from Tokyo, take the Shinkansen to Nagoya Station, and then transfer to the JR Shinano limited express to Nakatsugawa Station. The one-way journey takes about two and a half to three hours. And, to get to Magome from Nakatsugawa Station, catch a bus right outside the train station headed to the starting point of the hiking trail in Magome.
4. Mount Mitake
The 929-meter high Mount Mitake is another highly recommended hiking destination near Tokyo. Like Mount Takao and Kamakura, it is an excellent day trip choice that offers an abundance of amazing natural scenery. But, unlike the other two, it is not as crowded and busy, so you get to enjoy a more serene environment.
Mount Mitake base to Musashi Mitaki Shrine
Length: 6 to 8 kilometers
There are two ways to reach the summit of Mount Mitake, where the Musashi Mitaki Shrine stands: (1) by hiking from the foot of the mountain to the top, or (2) by taking the cablecar to the upper station and then start the hike from there.
From the base of the mountain, the entire climb up takes three to four hours, while hiking from the cablecar upper station to the summit only takes about 30 minutes. Along the way, you are treated to picturesque views of the surrounding nature, traditional Japanese inns, and tourist souvenir stalls and shops.
Length: ~4 kilometers
Once you arrive at the summit, you can explore an area nearby called the Rock Garden. The trail leading to it is approximately four kilometers long, and takes about an hour tops. Along the way, you are treated to picturesque views of a stream, two waterfalls, and numerous moss-covered rocks and stones.
To get to Mount Mitake from Tokyo, take the JR Chuo Line from either Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station to Ome Station, and then transfer to the JR Ome Line to Mitake Station. The one-way journey takes about an hour and a half, and costs 920 yen.