Part 2: Shizuoka Tokaido Trail

Rural backroads landscape, image courtesy of Tourism Shizuoka Japan

Shizuoka Tokaido Trail Highlights

With the support of Tourism Shizuoka Japan organisation (TSJ), the following walking itinerary brings together some of the distinctive elements of this beautiful prefecture – restored and remnant sections of the historic Tokaido trail, landscapes of forests and tea plantations with Mount Fuji views, rural backroads and ancient temples. Access between each day’s walking locations requires bus, train or taxi transfers, and note that this is not remote Japan – urban sprawl frequently overlays the old route, so this itinerary is very selective and not consecutive village to village walking.

The following website has excellent English language maps of the Shizuoka Tokaido Trail:

Odawara Castle, while just across the border in Kanagawa prefecture, sets the scene for coming to grips with Edo period history

Day 1 – start at Odawara Castle (Post Station #9); transfer by train and bus to Amazakejaya Tea House; walk the remnant Tokaido trail from Amazakejaya tea house at the top of the pass down to Moto Hakone (Post station #10);
walking distance 3km; overnight Moto Hakone area

Torii gate of Hakone Shrine on Lake Ashi from Moto Hakone

Day 2 – walk from Moto Hakone to Hakone Sekisho (barrier checkpoint), then bus up hill to bus-stop Hakone Toge. Cross at the lights, walk past the Hakone Eco-parking lot for 500m and turn right at the toilets onto Ashinoko Country Club road, walk 400m to Baragadaira trailhead on the left, which is the start of the walkable section of the Hakone Hachiri trail; walk to castle ruins and then take bus down to Mishima (Post Station #11), visit Mishima Taisha shrine and beautiful canals and riverside walk on the Genbei river; walking distance 7.5km; overnight Mishima

Remnant ‘ishidatami’ stone paved trail on the Hakone Hachiri

Day 3 – transfer by train to Fujinomiya, and take a taxi to Asagiri; walk 15km forest and marsh section of the Tokai Shizen Hodo (East Japan Long Trail) from Asagiri to Lake Tanuki; accommodation Lake Tanuki area

sunrise over Mt Fuji seen from Lake Tanuki, image from Tourism Shizuoka Japan

Day 4 – start from Lake Tanuki with guides from Fuji Eco Tours, and walk down to Shiraito Falls through pretty countryside on rural backroads in the Yuno valley; walk on to enjoy tastings at a sake brewery and lunch served by community grandmothers; and return to Fujinomiya city by car or bus; walking distance 15km; overnight Fujinomiya

Shiraito Falls – underground water springing from a cliff of lava
Walking through the quiet rural landscape of the Yuno valley

Day 5 – In Fujinomiya visit Fuji Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine, then a walking option according to the season and the weather. Mount Fuji climbing takes 2 days, and can only be done in the summer. Walking the mid section to the Hoei Crater can be done from May to October, and from November through to May, there are trails in the foothills on rural backroads and through snowy forests. Local mountain guides are recommended here and I use:

With a guide, you can walk the Murayama Kodo old Shugendo pilgrimage trail from Murayama Taisha shrine up through the Mt Fuji foothills. Walking distance is variable depending on snow cover on Fuji; overnight Fujinomiya area

In the early 19th century Japan’s pre-eminent woodblock artist Hokusai created a series entitled ’36 Views of Mt Fuji’ including this one (below) showing pilgrims emerging from the tree line into the lava scree.

Hokusai woodblock ‘Fuji Pilgrims’, wiki commons image

In summer, walking to the summit or traversing above the treeline is possible.

Walking to the Hoei Crater from the 5th station

Day 6 – Visit the Mt. Fuji World Heritage Centre. The form of this amazing feat of contemporary architecture by Shigeru Ban reflects the symmetry of the mountain. The interpretation inside is just as good – well worth a morning.

Mt. Fuji World Heritage Centre

Extension tokaido walks

Start from Abekawa Station, take a bus or taxi to Chojiya tea shop in Mariko-juku. This is well worth the visit as it is run by the descendants of the original 19th century owners. From Mariko-juku (Post-station #20) take a bus to Sakashita bus stop to walk a remnant section of the Tokaido over the Utsunoya Pass on a forest trail to the village of Okabe-juku (Post Station #21); walk on to Fujieda town* (Post station 22) – walking distance 8km; overnight Fujieda area

*Note that much of this section of the Tokaido has been overdeveloped, and is through urban landscapes, and unless you are a Tokaido history fanatic it can be a dull walk beside busy highways. I prefer exploring the side valleys like sleepy Asahina which has a thriving tea industry.

Mt Fuji from Utsunoya Pass, wiki commons image

Start Kanaya Station (Post Station #24); walk through tea plantations on the Makinohara Plateau to Kikugawa village; continue to Nissaka (Post Station #25). Take a bus on to Kakegawa and visit the castle and the old Edo town area; walking distance 6.5km, overnight Kakegawa area

Note that the views of the pretty tea plantations from the old stone-paved path are somewhat marred by lines of power lines radiating out over the landscape.


A guide is recommended as minimal route information exists in English about the Tokaido trail through Shizuoka

This walking tour can be booked through

What: easy to moderate hiking through rural areas, some forests trails, and small towns on a mix of earth, concrete and stone paths, and paved roads.
Where: through Shizuoka prefecture with a focus on Mt Fuji views.
When: recommend March, April, May, October November (6 nights 7 days).
Distance: about 75km walking
Highlights:  Mount Fuji landscape, interesting geology, pretty farmland and sleepy villages, Edo period remnant buildings, hot springs and great food

Caution: some sections require walking along very busy prefectural roads and crossing highways – use Hi-Vis pack covers and jackets

Trip grading: moderate (strenuous if walking Mt Fuji)

Accommodation: traditional inns, onsen hotels, minshuku farmhouse lodging and western-style hotels; hostels and mountain lodges are also plentiful (note – in minshuku and ryokan bathrooms are usually shared)

Access & transfers: trains, local buses and taxis

Luggage transfers: possible using Kuroneko (Black Cat) company

Other Shizuoka locations worth a visit:

Izu peninsula – many hiking trails, historic towns and beautiful coastline make this an attractive destination. Include Shuzenji Onsen, Kawazu, Shimoda, Matsuzaki

Tokaido continuation to Kyoto – it’s possible to continue walking sections of the Tokaido on to Kyoto

Visit other interesting locations along the Tokaido in Shizuoka prefecture – Yui checkpoint; walk Satta Pass to Okitsu; Shizuoka City Tokaido Hiroshige Museum

Part 1: Following the old Tokaido road through Shizuoka

Soak up the spirit of Edo, walking old trails through the landscape of the Mount Fuji area. Shizuoka Prefecture is easily accessed from Tokyo by train and is full of diverse attractions and great natural beauty.

Mount Fuji from Shizuoka tea fields, image courtesy of Shizuoka Tourism Japan

About the old Tokaido road

The busiest and most direct route between Tokyo and Kyoto from ancient times was the Tokaido – literally the Eastern Sea Road. It was 488 kilometers long and mostly traversed the coast along the Pacific on Honshu island.

Hokusai’s woodblock print ‘Hodogaya on the Tokaido’, 1832, wiki commons image

During the Edo period the ruling military dictator (Shogun) Tokugawa Ieyasu imposed a system called ‘sankin kotai’ requiring regional lords to reside at the Shogun’s court in Tokyo (Edo) for some months each year, and to leave their wives and families there when they returned to their fiefs, thus controlling their actions by a system of ‘hostages’. To travel from their regional castles, a network of roads developed, with government checkpoints to control the movement of the population. Wheeled vehicles were not permitted – another form of Tokugawa control to prevent fast mass movement of armies, and thus these were roads for pedestrians & packhorses, horses ridden by samurai, and palanquins carried by bearers for important people including noble women. Similarly bridges were also forbidden, so crossing several treacherous, wide rivers was done by boat or human ‘piggyback’. Vast armies of foot-soldiers and samurai also used these roads at times, and the steep mountain sections were paved.

Kago Bearers on the Tokaido, by Felice Beato, 1868, wiki commons image

Like the Nakasendo (the inland road), 53 villages called ‘juku’ or post stations were spaced a days’ walk apart along the route providing food, lodging and stables, and were rowdy places during the Edo period (1603 to 1868). The famous woodblock artist Hiroshige created a series entitled ‘The 53 Stations of the Tokaido’ after he travelled the route in 1832 and was impressed by the beautiful landscapes of rural Japan with Mount Fuji often dominating the background.

Hiroshige’s ‘Travellers on a mountain path along the coast’, 1832, wiki commons image

Today this same route is consumed by a national highway and the main arterial bullet train rail line, smothering most of the traces of the old pedestrian road. However, sections of the trail away from the larger towns still remain and are progressively being restored and the spirit of Edo can still be experienced.

Remnant 400 year-old Namiki cedars on the Tokaido in Moto Hakone

Happy 400th Birthdays Sugi

Here is a story about the old Hakone Hachiri section of the Tokaido Road in the Mount Fuji Area, where I am trialling a new multi-day hike, and more in this link:


Four centuries ago exactly, the second Edo Period Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada, ordered the planting of sugi (Japanese Cedar, Cryptomeria japonica) along both sides of Tokaido to shade travellers as they made their way around the shoreline of Lake Ashinoko towards Hakone Checkpoint. 420 of these magnificant specimens remain, towering straight, fat, and proud into the Hakone sky along Cedar Avenue.

Sugi is integral to Japanese life. 70% of Japan’s land area is forested, an astounding proportion for any country, let alone a smallish, highly industrialised nation with a massive population. Most of these forests are plantations established shortly after World War II. Sugi and Hinoki are the two main species planted, as both have been Japan’s main timber species for centuries.

Ceder Avenue, Hakone Ceder Avenue, Hakone

Unfortunately these sugi plantations get a lot of bad press, as the copius pollen they produce in spring is the cause of hay-fever grief to…

View original post 103 more words

Kumano Kodo

Hongu Taisha torii landscape banner image

Nakahechi Trail

Deep in the verdant mountains of the Kii peninsular in Wakayama prefecture south of Nara is a network of ancient pilgrimage trails like spokes of a wheel  radiating into Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine. Of these 6 trails the Nakahechi route from the town of Kii-Tanabe on the west coast through to Kumano Nachi Taisha in the south-east is the most well-known, well-maintained, well-signposted and thus well-walked. A more remote trail requiring full pack and tent is the Kohechi Trail starting at Mt Koya, the sublime Buddhist mountain-top town, centre of Shingon Buddhism introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi, famous founder of the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage. Including a visit to Mt Koya before any of the Kumano Kodo walks is regarded as particularly devout.

Yatagarasu – the 3-legged crow of Shugendo

Both Koya-san and the Kumano Kodo trail are UNESCO World Heritage Listed, reflecting the ancient heritage and spiritual nature of this area of Japan. The trails were once walked by the Imperial family and though you seldom encounter royalty, Yamabushi monks still walk these trails in their distinctive white robes, straw sandals and conch shell trumpets. Yamabushi are followers of Shugendo, a derivative of the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism which incorporates Shinto animist beliefs, mountain worship, purification training through physical endurance, and mysticism.

The Nakahechi route can be done over 5 days with village to village walking, averaging 14 km per day. The 71 km trail ascends pine-clad mountains and meanders through rural backwaters, providing immersion in a very Japanese landscape of misty valleys, rushing streams, bamboo groves, forests and the occasional monkey. Accommodation is simple farmstay ‘minshuku’ and ryokan, often with natural hot spring baths. The grade is on the difficult side of moderate – steep at times with some killer steps, and slippery after rain, and Wakayama is a very wet part of Japan. There are also many snakes in warmer months – mainly the harmless sort. The  hot springs village of Yunomine Onsen is worth the detour – remote, atmospheric and a great place for a rest day – hire bikes and swim in the river to find the hot spots!

Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine

Descending from the Kii mountain range to the magnificent red shrine buildings, pagoda and waterfall of Nachi Taisha is a grand reward for an amazing walk.

Moja – no – Deai valley (Abode of the Dead)


Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine 

Tips for walking the Kumano Kodo:

  •  excellent local tourism website with maps, guides, bus timetables
  •  online booking site for self-guided Kumano Kodo
  • use the luggage forwarding service on this walk and carry a daypack
  • avoid the typhoon months of August and September as this area can be just too wet
  • well-worn-in hiking boots required (I use gaiters and walking poles as well)
  • good quality wet  weather gear and a dry-sack for your tech inside your pack
  • stay overnight in Kii-Tanabe to make your first day an easy one, as you will need to take the bus up to Takijiri which has an information centre and the trailhead
  • plan your walk on the last day so that you arrive at Nachi Taisha in time for the local bus (last bus at 5.40pm) to Kii-Katsuura train station, and be aware that express trains back to Osaka are infrequent

The Kumano Kodo is a dual pilgrim trail with the Camino de Santiago de Compostela