Of the major mountain ranges in Japan, the Northern Alps are perhaps the most visually spectacular, with endless, ragged rocky ridges high above the tree line extending uninterrupted as far as the eye can see. Massive 3,000m peaks fall into view in every direction, awing you with both their beauty and dominance over the surrounding landscape. For trekkers, they provide a unique opportunity to traverse long, continuous alpine trails with near-constant 360-degree panoramic views, and Japan's excellent mountain huts provide the perfect refuge and resupply points for multi-day outings.
There are countless route options spread across the area, but one of the most varied and scenic trails is known as Panorama Ginza. Ginza is a bustling major shopping street in Tokyo and, and the term Ginza has now become synonymous with popularity. Aptly named, this is a popular route amongst Japanese hikers specifically due to the amazing panoramas viewable along the trail's entire length. The trail rarely dips below 2,500m, and takes hikers to the summits of 4 major mountains: Mt. Tsubakuro, Mt. Otensho, Mt. Jonen and Mt. Cho. The lofty position of the ridge offers the chance to take in amazing sunsets and sunrises, including the "alpenglow" phenomenon, where the tops of the mountains opposite the rising sun glow red with the first rays of morning sunshine. Viewed from Panorama Ginza, the morning alpenglow directly illuminates the most imposing and impressive range of peaks in Japan, a 7km stretch of rock that includes half of Japan's 10 tallest mountains.
This trail, beginning and ending in forest, quickly rises to the ridge that forms the bulk of the distance, and covers surfaces ranging from hard-packed dirt, boulder fields and loose sand and rock along the way. On this 4-day hike, we will cover a distance of roughly 30km, with approximately 3,100 meters of total elevation gain, and we should expect to be on the trail for between 4 to 8 hours per day. This is not a remote wilderness trek, but it is an excellent introduction to central Japan's stunning mountain scenery and hiking culture.