Hiking Gems in and Around Aichi: Your Guide on the Road Less Travelled
Aichi, Japan. Home to approximately 7 million people, Aichi isn't exactly the first place people think of when Japan is mentioned, but that doesn't detract from the sheer amount of things to see and do. Geographically, Aichi is surrounded by the mountains which border Nagano, Gifu and Mie prefecture, so naturally it's a hikers dream. For those that are looking to get out and about in Aichi, here's a guide off the beaten path.
Magome to Tsumago (Nakasendo trail)
The trail between Magome and Tsumago is an ancient path which runs through the Kiso valley and is part of the old Nakasendo, a road which connected Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period. Tsumago is the forty-second post of sixty-nine post towns on the Nakasendo, and was used a rest stop for travelers and horses. It used to be a popular trade town and even today is still inhibited and preserved by locals, who`s main source of trade is tourism. Tsumago was one of the first towns selected by the Japanese government to be restored and preserved, and in 1976 was added as a Nationally-designated Architectural Preservation Site. You can start the hike by catching the JR express train from Nagoya on the Chuo Line to Nakatsugawa Station then take a bus to Magome. From there follow the Nakasendo trail as it takes you to Tsumago. To get back, simply catch a bus to Nagiso and hop on the train back to Nagoya (via the Chuo Line)
Venturing into Aichi's neighbouring prefecture Mie, is Mount Gozaisho - one of the highest mountains in the Suzuka mountain range. Mount Gozaisho is famous for being absolutely stunning all year round. From beautiful, vibrant foliage during autumn to trails littered with sakura during the spring and snow covered peaks in winter, Mt Gozaisho is definitely worth the trip. There are several routes up Mt Gozaisho all with their unique traits and all which offer different views. These routes can range from beginner to expert to needing actual rock climbing equipment. The routes themselves are also extremely varied. You'll find yourself walking through lush forest only to come across barren rocks, rickety wooden bridges, areas which you'll need to use rappel yourself down a cliff face with the provided chain. You'll be rewarded for all your hard-work with serene everglades, the sound of birds chirping and the rushing of waterfalls. If you're looking for a more relaxed day however, you can take the ropeway to the top. Gozaishos ropeway is one of the longest in Japan, with a distance of 2.1km. Dizzying heights and the sheer length of the ropeway make the trip alone worth it, whilst also providing spectacular views of the region. At the foot of Mt Gozaisho is Yumeno Onsen. Several hotels and onsens are scattered across the area, providing hikers a place to soak after a long day or offering a retreat for locals escaping the city life. Mt Gozaisho is accessible via Yumeno Onsen station. Take the Kintetsu line from Nagoya to Kintetsu-Yokkaichi and catch the local train until the end of the line. Get off at Yumeno Onsen and take a short bus trip to the foot of the mountain.
Whilst not exactly a hiking trail, Kourankei is a valley close to Nagoya that is famous throughout Japan as one of the most scenic places for autumn foliage in the Chubu region. In the middle of the valley is Mount Iimori, which stands at only 254 meters tall and is a quick walk from the surrounding Tomoe river. The maple trees covering Mount Iimori are amazing, and hikers and tourists alike can find a variety of trees each with their own uniquely coloured leaves. Shrines and temples litter the area, monks chant ritualistic hymns and the surrounding village (Sanshu Asuke Yashiki Village) make vistors feel like they've stepped back in time. Kourankei is also just as magnificent at night. The entire valley is lit up with lights, accentuating the entire palette of colours on display. Travellers be warned however: Kourankei is extremely busy during peak season (mid November) and day trips need to be planned accordingly. Traffic leading into Kourankei is normally backlogged for hours and buses run extremely infrequently. Lights come on at around 6pm, however during peak season, to make it back to Nagoya before the last train requires you to leave Kourankei before then. To get to Kourankei, take the Meitetsu train to Toyota and board the bus bound for Asuke.