Japan walking vacation activities

Japan walking vacation activities


WHAT TO DO ON WALKING HOLIDAYS IN JAPAN

Climb a peak

Many mountains are considered sacred in Japan, with Mount Fuji being the most revered. Japanese people parade up to its various stages in pilgrimage, some to the summit at 3,776m and others to the 1,000-year-old Murayama Sengen Jinja Temple, just before final level of the climb. The official climbing season is early July until mid September when the mountain huts are open. There are various routes up to the summit, and your vacation company will advise on the best one for your abilities, which are less crowded, and so on. But, in short, you need two days to do climb it if you want to do the traditional summit at sunrise.
The other iconic peak is Mt. Yarigatake, or Yari, at 3,180m, located in the Hida Mountains. It has a sharp, jagged peak and sometimes called the Matterhorn of Japan. Indeed, you make the final ascent using mountain ladders. The ascent takes a full day and people either spend the night after summiting at Yarigatake Mountain Hut, or the night before, and then summit at dawn. The hot springs back down at the foot of the mountain in Kamikochi will never feel so good.

Traditional inns

On many of Japanís walking trails you will have an opportunity to stay in a traditional rural ryokan inn. These would have hosted people on the pilgrim or samurai trails over the years, and their sparse architecture feels unchanged with time. The room has little furniture, bar some tatami mats and a low table for drinking tea. Your futon bed will be rolled out on the tatami mat at bedtime, often when you are taking your bath, which is also part of the traditional ryokan ritual. The food is nearly always off-the-scale superb. There are sometimes options to stay in a minshuku, which is a smaller, budget version of the traditional inn, with more basic food. Although basic is usually beautiful in Japan.

Food

In general, the food is just superb in Japan. And not as expensive as you might think. Budget bento box lunches are great for hikers, and sushi will fill up hollow hiking legs. And an okonomiyaki omelette will definitely get you to the next post town. Just try everything. Except whale meat (unesu or onomi) which is a big ethical no no.

Hot springs

Public bathing at the sento bath houses is very Japanese and, after a day of hiking even the most body shy are stripping off to enjoy this most warming of traditions. There are codes of practice to be aware of. Men and women bathe separately, yes you do go in naked, and always soap and rinse before you get in the tub.
Photo credits: [Climb a peak: Rick McCharles] [Traditional inns: Banalities] [Food: OKU Japan] [Hot Springs: OKU Japan]
Written by Catherine Mack
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