links to APDL and KCC link to KCC homepage link to APDL homepage

Roads of Oku: Home

Inspiration ...

Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North, Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa / Google Map: Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi ("Narrow Road to the Deep North")

Journeys ...

Spring 2004: On the Road in Kansai / Google Map
Summer 2005: Roads of Oku / Google Map
Fall 2006: Where Gods Alight / Google Map
Summer 2007: Hōkūle‘a in Yokohama / Map
Winter 2008: Snow Country / Google Map
Spring 2008: Full Bloom & Festivals / Google Map
Summer 2009: Fireflies & Sweet Fish / Google Map
Fall 2009: North Country Colors / Google Map
Summer 2010: Legends of the Land / Google Map
Spring 2011: On the Far Side of Disaster / Google Map
Summer 2012: Travels in the Fifth Moon / Google Map
Summer 2013: Far Roads: Finishing Touches / Google Map
Summer 2015: Saké-Tasting in the Kingdom of Local Brew

Memorable ...

Roads / Seacoasts & Coastal Roads / Bridges / Ferries / Walks & Hikes / Mountains / Ropeways / Rivers / Waterfalls / Lakes / Trees / Rocks / Caves / Hot Springs / Sakura / Fall Colors / Archaeology and History / Castles / Shrines / Temples / Gardens / Festivals / Food / Drinks
Photography: Dennis Kawaharada and Karen Ono

Note ...

On Driving in Japan

Roads of Oku: Journeys in the Heartland

A collection of essays on Japanese culture, history and literature. Available at (Far Roads Press, 2015).

Walks and Hikes

Updated: Summer 2015

Walks and hikes abound along rivers, to waterfalls, around lakes and ponds, but also up stairways to shrines, temples, and castles located at the top of hills.


Mt. Miwa, Nara. 2011

Mt. Miwa is the site of Ōmiwa Jinja, dedicated to Ōmononushi, the sun kami who entered the mountain in ancient times. The mountain is said to be his sacred body; he also takes the form of a white snake which lives at the shrine.

No photography is allowed on the trail, but here is the map from the shrine.

Someone posted a photo of the shrine at the top on the internet:

Kawazu Nanadaru (“Seven Falls”), Izu, Shizuoka. 2008

The one and a quarter mile walkway along the Kawazu River goes past seven falls. At Kani Daru (top right) are statues of the dancer and the student from Yasunari Kawabata’s novella “Dancing Girl of Izu,” which is set on the Izu Peninsula. The walk ends at Kamu Daru (bottom right).

Kawazu NanadaruKani DaruStatues of Dancing Girl of IzuKama Daru

Kunozan Toshogu Shrine, Shizuoka. 2008

A zigzagging stone staircase with 1159 steps leads up to Kunozan Toshogu Shrine, the first burial site of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616). From the top is a view of Suruga Bay. The remains of Ieyasu were moved to Toshogu Shrine at Nikko after that grand shrine was completed in 1617.


Philosopher’s Path, Kyōto. 2004

"This is a pleasant city stroll following the old canal, lined with cherry trees, between Ginkakuji Temple and Nanzenji Temple. Local scholars call the little alley flanking the canal The Path of Philosophy" (JNTO Travel Guide.) The path was used for meditation by Nishida Kitaro, a professor of philosophy at nearby Kyōto University.


Ryūokyo, Nikko, Tochigi. 2015

Located between Kawaji Onsen and Kinugawa Onsen, this gorge has a nature trail for walking, including a short 3 km, 1.5 hour walk. From Musasabi Bridge, visitors can view the gorge north- south along the Kinugawa River.

Ishilna Natural Cedar Foreest, Sado Island, Niigata. 2015

Three miles up a narrow mountain road on northern Sado Island, Osado Ishina Natural Cedar Forest nature trail, about a mile RT, well marked, with signs (in Japanese) marking interesting old cedar trees along the way.

Kosuge Shrine, Nozawa, Nagano. 2015

The Kosuge Shrine is a mile or so up a steep mountain trail. Signs in Japanese mark rocks with names/stories along the way.

Mt. Iwaki, Aomori. 2014

Hoei Crater, Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka. 2012

Feeling too old to climb to Fuji-san's summit, we decided to do a shorter hike to one of its craters, Hoei, from Fujinomiya fifth Station. As we approached the station up a winding road, the weather was sunny, but clouds were moving in.

It was chiily and the trail was closed (it was before the opening of the climbing/hiking season), but we went anyway.

When we got out to the crater lookout, the view was hidden by rain and mist:

A day when Fuji-san is hidden, still interesting. —Bashō

Ibuta-ji, Mie. 20012

On the way from Toba to Nagoya, we stopped at Ibuta-ji, in the Suzuka Mountains above Matsuzaka. Ibuta-ji is a Buddhist temple where mountain ascetics train. I saw it on an episode of Extreme Japan (NHK) and located it on a Google Map, then used our GPS to navigate to it. At the beginning of a trail to the top of the 1300-foot Mt. Ibuta is a fifteen-minute climb up a steep cliff, which, with the help of a chain in one section, takes you to a hilltop shrine on a ledge beneath an overhang.

Left: Trail to the shrine. Right: View from the top:

Left: Shrine at the top. Right: Stairs at the end of a long hike around some step ridges, which I skipped.

Azuchi Castle, Shiga. 2012

The ruins of Oda Nobunaga’s Azuchi castle, completed in 1579, is located up a long flight of stairs.

Uba Falls, Ishikawa. 2012

Ubagataki is on the Hakusan Super Lindo ("Forest Road"). We walked to the fall down a steep stairway and along the river bank.

The trail goes past the falls.

A foot bath fronts the falls, on the opposite bank.

Tateyama, Toyama. 2012

Tateyama, like Mt. Fuji, is still snow-covered in June. From the Tateyama train station we took a cable car up to Bijodaira, from where a bus transported us to Murodo, just below the highest peaks. (To protect the environment, private cars aren’t allowed on the road.)

Mikurigaike (Mikuri Pond) still frozen:

Kamikochi, Nagano. 2012

Nature walks along the Azusa River, from Kappa Bridge to Taishō Pond.

Kappa Bridge:

Shosen Gorge and Sengataki, Yamanashi. 2012

Mt. Nokogiri, Chiba. 2012

Mt. Nokogiri, near the town of Hama-Kanaya, is noted for a mountain temple and a giant statue of the medicine Buddha Yakushi Nyorai. Up a walkway of steep stairs and cliff-side trails are 1,500 arhat sculptures set in shallow caves, a towering bas-relief of Kannon carved into a cliff, and a lookout.

Lake Senba, Mito, Ibaraki. 2010

The walk around Lake Senba in Mito starts getting busy at six in the summer, when sunrise is before 5 am. Just above the lake is Kairakuen, a garden famous for its plum blossoms in February.

Lake SenbaPlum orchard

Lake Hibara, Urabandai, Fukushima. 2010

Trails along the lake has views of Mt. Bandai. Fishing is a popular pasttime in the lake.

Lake HibaraMt. BandaiTrees in the lakeFishing

Muroto, Kochi, Shikoku. 2009

The trail goes along the coast and up to Hotsumisaki Temple. The walk features wave-sculpted rock and Mearai-no-ike Pond, where Kobo Daishi is said to have purified the water of the pond and cured people of their eye diseases. A fig tree whose roots cover a rock is another featured site. Hotsumisaki Temple is temple 24 on the 88 temple tour of Shikoku. From the trail up to the temple is a view of Cape Muroto, the southeastern point of Shikoku.

MurotoMuroto pondFig treeWalk

Daisen Falls, Tottori. 2009

A mile long trail goes up and down hillsides on the north side of Mt. Daisen, across Kaseichi Stream, to the two-stage falls.

Oni ga shitaburui (“Demon’s Trembling Tongue”), Oku Izumo, Shimane. 2009

The river has steep granite cliffs along the banks and is filled with huge boulders and odd-shaped rocks. The trail goes along the river banks, with bridges crossing the river.


Origin of Oni no Shitaburui, according to Izumo-Fudoki (local history of Izumo): a beautiful princess, Tamahime-no-mikoto, lived in this valley. A crocodile which lived in the Sea of Japan fell in love with her and went up the river every evening to visit the princess. However, the princess disliked the crocodile and placed a big rock in the river to block his visits. It is said that these rocks of Oni no Shitaburui are the remnants of that rock.

Sandantaki, Hiroshima, Chugoku. 2009

Sandan-taki (“Three stage waterfall”) is on the upper end of Sandan Gorge, carved out by the Shibaki River. From the visitor’s center, it’s something like a 7.5 mile walk, one way, 15 miles round trip, but there is a parking lot much closer to the falls, a mile or so away.


Goshikinuma (“Five-colors Marsh”), Urabandai, Fukushima. Summer 2005

Near Lake Hibara, the trail leads from pond to pond through the marshland, each pond with a different color.

Kushiro Wetlands, Hokkaidō. 2005

A boardwalk goes through Wetlands, where tsuru (Japanese cranes) mate in winter. Small birds flit among the reeds in summer.

Kushiro wetlandWild grass

Rebun Island, Hokkaidō. 2005

We caught the ferry from Wakkanai to Rebun Island and hiked up the trail on the eastern side of the island. From the hilltop, you look down on the cliffs on the northern side and to the southeast, Rishiri Island on the horizon. The wildflowers were just starting to bloom in mid-May.

Hagurosan, Yamagata. 2005

The stairway through a cedar forest to Hagurosan Shrine ascends in 2446 steps, with thirty-three carvings. Walkers who can find all 33 are said to be blessed.

HagurosanWalkwaySake cupsBell


Rairai Gorge, Akiu Onsen, Miyagi. 2009

Rairai gorgeStream

Narugo Gorge, Miyagi. 2009

The walk along Narugo Gorge is popular in autumn, when the leaves turn color. The southern end of the walk starts at a bridge above the gorge.

Narugo walkwayGorge

Oirase Stream, Aomori. 2009

The walk goes from Lake Towada, along Oirase Stream, which flows out of the lake, past several waterfalls, down to Kumoi Falls. In early November, the first snow of the year had fallen the night before and a light snow was still falling.

Oirase streamWaterfall

Ammon Falls. Aomori. 2009

The falls in located in the Shirakami mountains, in one of the world's largest birch forests, in Aomori prefecture. We hiked up to the first of the three falls, a 45-minute walk. The trail to the two upper falls was closed.

WalkwayAmmon falls

Ōnami Pond, Miyazaki, Kyushu. 2006

On a misty, drizzly morning, we hiked up to Ōnami Pond near Mt. Kirishima ("Misty Island") and waited .... After half an hour, a circular pond appears under the mist, mirroring the bare trees inside the crater rim, with ripples of light winds moving across the surface, like the tracks of the kami. The lake is said to be inhabited by a water-dragon who became the beautiful daughter of a village headman who prayed for a child. She leapt back into the lake on her eighteenth birthday.

Misen, Itsukushima (Miyajima), Hiroshima. 2006

One of the most famous destinations in Japan, the trails on Miyajima are generally crowded with visitors. But once the hike up Misen gets steep, the crowd grow smaller. When we got to Shishi Iwa (“Lion Rock”) it was almost deserted, as the ropeway was closed due to gusty winds. We could see Hiroshima City and islands in the Inland Sea.

MiyajimaVisitorsPanoramaInland Sea


Yamanaka Hot Spring, Ishikawa. 2008

The walk goes along Kakusen Gorge and the Daishoji River from Daishoji Bridge, passing below the curvey modern Ayatori Bridge, to the traditional Korogi Bridge.

Ayatori (Cat’s Cradle) Bridge, a modern steel structure with an S-curved path inside an inverted triangular frame, designed by ikebana master and film-maker Hiroshi Teshigahara (“Woman in the Dunes”):

Traditional wooden Korogi (Cricket) Bridge, at the upper end of the paved trail along the river bank.

Ninenzaka, Kyōto. 2013

Ninenzaka is a narrow street of shops, between Yasaka shrine and Kiyomizu temple in Higashiyama (eastern Kyōto).