Tips for Hiking in Japan

A great hike isn’t normally just a stroll in the park. It’s an outdoors adventure leading you up and down trails of unfamiliar terrain.

If you’re a seasoned hiker, you know hiking can be tremendously fun and exhausting. But the most important things to consider before starting any level of hike are: know your route, plan your trip, and be prepared.

Whether you’re heading out on one of our International Tours & Travel (ITT) hiking tours at NAF Atsugi MWR, or going solo, we hope this information is useful for your next hiking adventure.

Here’s what you should know about hiking in Japan.

Hiking Trails, Terrain and Climate

Hilly Trails
About 70% of Japan is mountainous, meaning your planned hiking trail is likely to experience some ups and downs. Consider this fact when prepping gear and selecting your hiking shoes.

Rugged Routes
Some trails, many in public parks, provide mostly flat walking paths with convenient, well-maintained steps. Many trails in Japan, however, consist of jagged, uneven rocks, or slippery gravel and mud. Know the conditions of your route before setting out.

The View is at the Top
Keep in mind, the most scenic and selfie-worthy locations await at the summit of a mountain. This means your trek will be almost entirely uphill. Consider this well when prepping.

Japan Gets HOT
Spring and summer are peak hiking seasons in Japan, and the climate is prone to extreme heat and humidity. These conditions may lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and cramps — especially during physically-demanding intermediate and advanced level hikes.

ITT Hiking Classification

Eyeing a new trail to conquer? Before choosing your gear, ask or search for your hike’s difficulty level. ITT here on NAF Atsugi classifies each of their hikes using the following levels of difficulty:

EASY/BEGINNER: Trails are 80% flat and 20% ascending and descending. Total distance: about 6 miles.

Recommended Conditioning
: These trails are recommended for beginner hikers with a conditioning routine that includes walking, commuting by bicycle, or low-intensity cardio training.

INTERMEDIATE: Expect trails to be about 50% uphill and downhill and 50% flat with a variety of terrain. Ascending these trails can be physically demanding and descending them is moderately demanding on lower body muscles and joints. Total distance is six to 10 miles.

Recommended Conditioning: These trails are recommended for people with some hiking experience and who condition themselves with regular (two-to-three times weekly) intermediate-level cardio training, such as running, cycling, or StairMaster for 30 minutes.

ADVANCED: These trails are 90% up and down hills with rugged and slippery terrain, with a total distance of 6 to 10 miles. Mt. Fuji falls in this category due to its high elevation.

Recommended Conditioning: Recommended for avid hikers who run at least five miles three times weekly or participate in similar intense cardio exercises, such as StairMaster for 45 minutes, three times a week.

What to Bring (Basic Items)

Now that you’ve chosen a trail to match your skill level, and the weather forecast’s looking good, let’s look at the basic items you should take with you:

  • Clothing. A change of dry clothes, socks and shoes is recommended since getting wet from sweat, rain or wet trails is a possibility. Don’t forget a change of dry socks!
  • A fully-charged cell phone
  • 1 small backpack
  • Water & electrolytes, such as fruit & vegetable juice or sports drinks. These are especially important during warmer months to prevent dehydration and cramps.
  • 1 light raincoat
  • 1 small towel
  • Snacks
  • First-aid kit or first-aid supplies (band-aids in case of blisters)
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and sun hat (optional)
  • Menstrual products

What to Wear

  • Broken-in light soft hiking boots or trail running shoes (with gators to
    prevent rocks from getting into the shoes)
  • Thick socks
  • Comfortable pants or shorts. It’s recommended to wear pants or shorts made from dry-fit material or material that dries quickly.
  • Dry-fit material shirt to draw sweat from your body and dry quickly
  • In colder months, dress in layers. Your body will heat up quickly once you
    start hiking, especially since almost all hikes start out going uphill.
  • A hat with a draw string to keep it from blowing away.

Tools/Repair Items

  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Gear repair kit

Oh, and a few additional tips include: take it slow when on the trail! A slow and steady pace helps you conserve energy and to take in all the wonderful sights. Running not only drains your long-distance energy, but may risk the safety of your fellow hikers, especially in rugged or or slippery areas.

Visit our Gear Rental shop in Building 978 (next door to ITT) to rent the following hiking items: hiking poles, headlamp, poncho, and backpacks (daypack/waist pack, two-person, three-person and internal frame).

Finally, here’s a list of great local hikes organized by level of difficulty.

Easy

  • Kamikochi Walk (Leisurely and great for beginners!)
  • Oze National Park
  • Tsumago Magome Village
  • Lake Okutama
  • Shasui Waterfall

Intermediate

  • Nikko
  • Mt. Takao
  • Nishizawa
  • Flying Dragon (Hiryu) Waterfall

Advanced

  • Mt. Fuji 1st — 5th Station Hike: Advanced*
  • Mt. Fuji Full C
  • Mt. Oyama
  • Mt. Kintoki
  • Mt. Shirane

*All Mt. Fuji trails are currently closed to the public. Follow The Official Web Site for Mt. Fuji Climbing for updates, or ask ITT or Gear Rental.

Happy hiking and check out our upcoming tours!