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Best Hiking Trails in Japan

Overview

The Land of the Rising Sun is comprised of more than 4000 islands, but there are really four main ones that make up 97% of its land mass: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku.  More than 75% of the country is mountainous, and Japan has a thriving hiking culture.  All four of the main islands have excellent hiking, including: Diasetsuzan National Park on Hokkaido, Kamikochi Valley in the Japan Alps, Hakusan National Park, the Kumano Kodo trail on the Kii Peninsula, the peaks around Kyoto, the many peaks on Kyushu such as Mount Aso, and of course Mount Fuji.  The best months to hike in Japan vary – read on for more information on where and when to go hiking in Japan. 

Capital: Tokyo

When To Hike in Japan?

April – November: Driest months
December – March: Cold, snowy, rainy
Climate: With the country stretching over many degrees of longitude, there are a range of climates from subarctic in the north to subtropical in the south.  There are also differences between the eastern and western sides of the country. Many parts of Japan are quite rainy, particularly during summer months. Typhoons from mid-July to October.  Summertime in the low-lying cities can be unbearably hot and humid.  Rainiest areas are: central-western part of Honshu (because of northwest monsoon); Kii peninsula; inland and southern areas of Shikoku; central-southern part of Kyushu.

 

Japan Monthly Weather

Accessibility of Hiking

Easy – Medium: Japan has everything that contributes to great access to hiking: the mountainous landscape, thousands of km of well-marked trails, the excellent transportation and mountain hut infrastructure, not a lot of threat from wildlife (except bears in some parts).  BUT outside of the popular tourist spots, signage is almost always in Japanese, as well as maps.

Transportation required: Public transport to many hikes, car for more remote regions

Where to stay in Japan for hiking:

  • Kamikochi
  • Nikko
  • Kyoto
  • Owase
  • Kumamoto
  • Yakushima
  • Kitakata
  • Owani
  • Sapporo

 

Top Places to Hike in Japan

The four main islands of Japan are Honshū, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku. There are many places to hike on these four islands (and beyond); the map highlights some of the popular areas including the national parks as that’s where you’ll find information and more marked trails. Highest Mountain: Mount Fuji (3776 m); located on Honshu in the Japanese Alps.

Filter out hiking places of Japan by month

Click on the red map pointers to see more info.

Yakushima

  • April – May; Oct – Nov
  • Island south of Kyushu, very mountainous, interior is one of the wettest places in Japan, has southern Japan’s highest peak (Miyanouradake, 1935m) and six mountain peaks over 1800m

Kyushu

  • April – May; Oct – Nov
  • Unzen Amakusa National Park – includes Mount Unzen, an active volcano
  • Aso Kuju National Park – dramatic landscape of active volcanoes, numerous peaks to hike here
  • Other mountains (Mt. Hiko, Mt. Sarakura, Mt. Tsurumi, Mt. Sobo, Mt. Yufu)
  • Kirishima Kinkowan National Park
  • Kyushu Mountains
  • Hiking Kuju Mountain

Kii Peninsula

  • Apr – May; Oct – Nov
  • Kumano Kodo Trail
  • Kii Mountains
  • Mount Shakka
  • Mount Ōmine
  • Mount Obako
  • Many others

Around Kyoto

  • May – Oct
  • Mount Hiei
  • Other trails

Daisen-Oki National Park

  • May – Oct

Fuji Hakone Izu National Park

  • Jul – Aug
  • Most visited national park in Japan, main thing to do is climb Mt Fuji

Japan Alps

  • May – Oct
  • Containing many 3000m peaks, higher peaks are best in the summer months
  • Chubu Sangaku National Park (contains Kamikochi Valley which has great hikes)

Hakusan National Park

  • June – Oct
  • Contains the tallest peak in western Japan

Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park

  • May – Oct

Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park

  • May – Oct

Oze National Park

  • May – Oct

Nikko National Park

  • May – Oct

Bandai Asahi National Park

  • May – Oct
  • Home of Mount Bandai and Dewa Sanzan mountains

Towada-Hachimantai National Park

  • May – Oct
  • Located in Hachimantai Mountains

Hakkōda Mountains

  • May – Oct

Shikotsu-Toya National Park

  • May – Oct

Akan-Mashu National Park

  • May – Oct

Shiretoko National Park

  • June – Sept
  • Remote and some parts of it can only be accessed on multi-day trek or by boat, a big population of brown bears here

Diasetsuzan National Park

  • July – Aug
  • Daisetsuzan National Park Information – this site is helpful for climate and other logistical info but note there isn’t any trail info in English on this site; one of the most popular places in Hokkaido, the 5 day traverse is one of the most popular hikes in Japan

Rishiri Rebun Sarobetsu National Park

  • May – Oct
  • Rishiri and Rebun are two small islands off the northern coast of Hokkaido, offer hiking

Japan's Long Distance Trails

There are long distance trails in Japan known as Nature Trails, some of them are:

  • 88 Temple Pilgrimage
  • Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage
  • Nagasendo Trail (between two towns)
  • Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse
  • Yarigatake

Japan's Walking & Hiking Resources

Japan Hiking Books:

  • Lonely Planet Japan’s Best Day Hikes, by Ray Bartlett, Craig McLachlan, Rebecca Milner, 2020, Lonely Planet Publications
  • Hiking and Trekking in the Japan Alps and Mount Fuji: Northern, Central and Southern Alps, Cicerone Guide, by Tom Fay and Wes Lang, 2019, Cicerone Press – great guide; up to date and detailed
  • Japan’s Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage: The UNESCO World Heritage Trek, Cicerone Guide, by Kat Davis, 2019, Cicerone Press
  • One Hundred Mountains of Japan, by Kyūya Fukada, 2014, University of Hawai’i Press
  • Hiking in Japan by David Joll, Craig McLachlan, Richard Ryall, 2009, Lonely Planet Publications 
  • Lonely Planet Japan, 16th Edition, by  Rebecca Milner, Ray Bartlett, Andrew Bender, Craig McLachlan, Kate Morgan, Simon Richmond, Benedict Walker, Phillip Tang, Thomas O’Malley, Samantha Forge, Stephanie d’Arc Taylor, 2019, Lonely Planet Publications
  • Moon Japan: Plan Your Trip, Avoid the Crowds, and Experience the Real Japan, by Jonathan DeHart, 2020, Avalon Publising
  • The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth, 2020, Penguin Books

 

Japan Hiking Associations:

 

Best Hiking Trails in Japan:

You can find more details on hiking these trails from hiking guidebooks, official hiking websites, trail maps/apps, other websites, and tourist offices:

  • Mount Fuji
  • Mount Kasa
  • Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage
  • Mount Yari
  • Mount Kita
  • Mount Unzen
  • Mount Aso
  • Kamikochi Valley

Easy Hiking Trails in Japan:

  • Mount Yake
  • Shiratani Unsui Gorge – Yakushima
  • Mount Takao

 

Japan Hiking Websites:

 

Japan Weather websites:

 

Japan Official Tourism Organizations:

 

Japan Hiking Apps: 

 

Japan Hiking Maps:

What Else To Do

  • Cherry blossoms in spring
  • Visit the many hot springs (onsen)
  • Visit temples
  • Japanese cuisine
  • Watch sumo wrestling
  • Stay in a ryokan
  • Autumn foliage
  • Lots more

Other Important Points

  • Japan is very geologically active, therefore earthquakes are common (although usually nothing that will be felt by the average person), volcanoes can erupt and typhoons can occur from late June to October
  • Parts are still recovering from 2011 tsunami