Frequently asked questions

How long is the trail?

The Tokai Nature Trail is 1,697 kilometers (1054 miles).

When will you put out the updated version of the guide?

The first time I hiked in 2016, I injured my ankle and knee so the hiking guide currently on the website does not include experiences past Tanayamakōgen (棚山高原) in Aichi prefecture. I finished hiking the trail in 2019, and, even though I was injured more seriously I didn’t notice until I arrived back home so I was able to finish! Ideally I will put out the updated version in January or February of 2020. However, work and life sometimes get in the way off working on my hiking guides! If you have specific questions that you feel the guide doesn’t answer, feel free to reach out to me at the contact page.

When will you put out the maps for the trail?

Currently I am also working on my own maps for the Tokai. I did have GPS for my hike, however the resource I used most consistently were my maps. When I was lost they were much more helpful to me, and the people I asked for directions. The maps are going to be topographic and they will have the distance between points, water and camping spots as well as have current trail closure information taken from all of the maps. The maps will have both English and Japanese on them. The guide books, official trail maps, and maps on the trail all have different information. So I am trying to create a consistent set of maps that can easily be edited for trail closures, ect. Though I really like the official prefecture maps, they are not always easily available online.

Which way should I hike the trail, from Tokyo to Osaka or Osaka to Tokyo?

I have only hiked the trail from Tokyo to Osaka, and I believe which way you hike the trail depends on personal preference.

Ending up in Osaka gives the opportunity to be closer to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima. I personally think that this area is a great first experience for Japan. These are more touristy cities compared to Nagoya but I think there are some unique gems in these cities that can take you away from the most popular places. Additionally I found the prefectures at the end of the trail, to be much easier to hike than Aichi and Kanagawa. If you are hiking during the raining season, which I strongly discourage, I think hiking from Tokyo to Osaka would be better. My logic behind this is if you start in late spring by the time the rainy season is in full swing you will be in an area with better bus systems and can travel to safety easier if a typhoon comes or the trail becomes impassable.

Ending in Tokyo may be preferable if you are starting in early March, because there may still be snow in some of the areas of Kanagawa and Shizuoka. When I was hiking in April there was still snow in the mountain area of Shizuoka. By the time you get to Kanagawa it should be warmer, but the mountain terrain of Kanagawa can still become quite cold at night. I have not hiked this way before, so this suggestion is based on my overall experience of hiking and living in Japan.

Where do I find the physical maps?

To obtain the official physical maps you need to request the prefecture mail you the map, or go to the prefectural government office. You can print off the official maps for the following prefectures Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Yamahashi, Aichi, Shiga and Nara. Currently, Gifu, Mie, Kyoto and Osaka require you to request the maps by mail, or visit the government office. See our Links to Prefecture Map page, for direct links to the Japanese web pages.

I also suggest going to local tourist information centers if you are near one. They may have the official prefectural map, but that is rare. Usually they will give you a local area map that will show the Tokai trail in that area. In my experience how helpful they are completely depends on who is working that day. I’ve been told that the trail doesn’t exist, they can’t give me a map, and that there are no maps of the trail, and then was given a map the next time I went in and was helped by a completely different person.

There are also Japanese books that provide maps, these are what I used to write my book, and plan my hike. I made physical copies of the maps, and kept them with me while I hiked. These were great to have because when people asked where are you going, I could show them on the map.

I used the following books:

  • 東海自然歩道30選 関東編―東京・神奈川・山梨・静岡 (Tokai Nature Trail 30 Selection Kanto Area - Tokyo · Kanagawa · Yamanashi · Shizuoka)

  • 東海自然歩道31選 東海編―愛知・岐阜・三重 (Tokai Nature Trail 31 Selection Tokai Area - Aichi, Gifu, Mie)

  • 東海自然歩道30選 関西編―大阪・京都・滋賀・奈良・三重 (Tokai Nature Trail 30 Kansai Area Osaka, Kyoto, Shiga, Nara, Mie)

What time is best to hike the Tokai nature trail?

The best time to hike in Japan is during spring, early summer and fall. March to May is considered Spring; June to August are the summer months, and September to November is autumn. Don’t start your hike in the rainy season. Don’t. I am aware people will, and will continue to do so. However, if you do hike during the raining season make sure you are aware of the risks, and are paying attention to the weather. The Tokai trail is not always well maintained, and there are areas that have trails completely washed out, which will only get worse after rain, and have not been reported to the prefecture. The area the trail goes through is prone to mudslides, and takes you through rocky terrain, with steep slopes. I personally injured my ankle after a rainstorm when the trail gave way beneath me. If you are hiking during raining season you need to be prepared for the trail to be impossible to hike in particular areas. Of course this can happen during any season, but rainy season is the most likely time to cause difficulties.

What should I bring on my hike?

Packing for any hike is something I have found hikers hold strong opinions about, and each person thinks their way is the best way. I suggest checking out my Gear List. The list addresses why I brought the items and the relevance to hiking in Japan. One thing I strongly recommend is some type of Personal Locator Beacon or satellite messenger. While the trail is becoming more popular it is not unlikely to go days without seeing someone.