“Best Day Walks Japan”: a more relaxed approach to hiking in Japan

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In 2001, Lonely Planet published its flagship guide “Hike in Japan,” a collection of over 70 hikes spanning the length of the country from Iriomote Island from Okinawa to Mount Rishiri in the far north. The now-out-of-print book features some of the most beautiful hikes in Japan, but it is mostly aimed at engaged people prepared for long, multi-day trips and sleepless bus rides to tackle distant peaks.

Best Day Trips in Japan: Easy Nature Getaways, by Craig McLachlan, Rebecca Milner and Ray Bartlett
224 pages
PLANET ALONE

Lonely Planet’s new book, “Best Day Walks Japan: Easy Escapes into Nature,” takes a more relaxed approach. Like its predecessor, it covers routes across the country (although unfortunately Okinawa is omitted), with 60 walks and accompanying maps. The hikes are united in duration, most of which last no more than a day – Mount Fuji and the 1,400-kilometer Shikoku Pilgrimage are notable exceptions – but otherwise offer a fantastic variety: there are hikes. of a day, walks in caves, walks on the few routes suitable for children.

Each route is listed as “easy,” “moderate” or “difficult,” with clear directions for the journey time, allowing you to choose something that fits your schedule and desired level of activity. Another interesting touch is the “Take a break” section on each route, which gives details of great places to stay, local hot springs, cafes, shrines, visitor centers and much more, to pull off. the best out of every hike.

The included photographs are glorious, showing Japan’s wilder side in color, and make the book a welcome departure from the classic edition that came before it, which was devoid of photos outside of its cover. The downside is that this isn’t a book made to be carried in a sturdy backpack: it’s bigger and heavier with ink at almost 500 grams, and doesn’t come with a waterproof cover. as the coveted “Hiking and Trekking in Japan Guide to the Alps and Mount Fuji published by Tom Fay and Wes Lang in 2019.

Like many guides, “Best Day Walks Japan” is a great source of inspiration, but it is not a book to be relied upon alone. While some of the higher peaks have made it clear when the mountain is in season, not all walks and hikes contain specific information about the best time to visit, and readers should check the details beforehand to find out. make sure they are not. go when the trails are too crowded, or completely out of season and therefore inaccessible or even dangerous.

The book maintains a fairly consistent format of two pages per trail, which is great for shorter, easier hikes, but sometimes limits descriptions of longer, more difficult hikes, where a wrong turn can be the difference between a fantastic day. on the mountain and get lost in high ground. If you are planning to venture to one of the more ambitious peaks, it would be a good idea to carry dedicated maps and make sure you have the right equipment, especially if you are heading late in the season when the high mountains start to fall. become very cold.

One final warning: As with any print edition that deals with mountains, information is likely to quickly become out of date (some has been outdated despite the book’s recent publication), so check local sources before heading to the hills. Typhoons in particular have tremendous power to alter and close routes, and as the pandemic continues, many mountain huts and local buses are operating at reduced capacity.

Twenty years after Lonely Planet published its first guidebook, “Best Day Walks Japan” is an important and exciting addition to English hiking literature in Japan and a useful starting point for anyone wishing to start hiking here, that you are a seasoned local or new to the country. Pair it with the original “Hiking in Japan” guide and you are ready to enjoy some of the most beautiful places the country has to offer.

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