When you think of Japan you probably don’t immediately associate the country with epic hiking opportunities. That’s OK, though, because nobody else does either, and that means that you won’t have to fight the crowds whenever you hit some of the most remarkable trails on the planet. That’s right—the Land of the Rising Sun is also home to some of the best hiking opportunities on the planet. Here’s a closer look at some of the best!
Shikoku is the smallest island in Japan. Between the mountains on the island lies the Iya Valley, and if you get the chance to hike there, DON’T PASS IT UP! It’s literally like hopping through a time warp back to ancient Japan. As you hike, you’ll pass farms, pristine forests, and old-school cottages with thatched roofs. It’s not for the faint of heart, though, as you’ll need to traverse some rivers using ancient, grass vine bridges. But man-oh-man will you have a story to tell when you get back home!
Rebun Island is essentially the northernmost part of Japan. The island is located just off the coast of Hokkaido and it offers some really tremendous hiking opportunities. One of the most popular routes runs the entire length of the island (north to south) and will have you stepping out 18 miles total. The locals call the trail “Hachijikan haikingu-kosu,” which, after translated, means “an eight-hour hike.” Eighteen miles in just 8 hours might be a bit optimistic for some, but remember that you’re under no official time commitment. Plan to complete the hike in the summer months, as the area sees some pretty harsh winters and you won’t see nearly as many gorgeous flowers.
Hiking the Tomomine Highlands is a bit of surprise, as it’s located in the middle of Japans most populated island. It’s an easy hike, but people don’t commit to this trail for the challenge. If you plan your hike just right, you can sit atop the plateau while the farmers below set fields of susuki grass on fire. They do this to promote new growth the following year and the sight is pretty amazing from above. You’ll need to plan your trip in the spring to catch this. After the sun goes down, hang out on the trail for some really epic views of the stars.