Japan has numerous ancient footpaths, trade and pilgrimage routes crisscrossing the country, some of which have exploded in popularity in recent years amongst both domestic and international tourists. Most notably the Nakasendo and the Kumano Kodo are now a part of many tourist's Japan itineraries. These wonderful trails combine the perfect mix of hiking through both splendid scenery and culture, and it is easy to see why they have gained such prominence an recognition.
Here in the village of Otari exists a portion of a much-lesser known trail of equal historical and cultural importance, the ancient Salt Road (塩の道). The 120km long Salt Road began in Itoigawa, on the Sea of Japan coast, and climbed steadily upward through the deep forested valleys and steep mountain passes of Otari, before continuing all the way to the landlocked castle town of Matsumoto in central Nagano. As its name suggests, the trail was the major trade route linking the ocean to the plains, primarily for the purpose of transporting vitally important salt inland. The road was in use since at least the Sengoku Period of Japanese history, in the mid 1400's, and continued up until the early 20th century.
Very little English information or maps are available for the Salt Road, which has allowed it to fly well under the tourist radar to this point, but we expect that to change in the coming years as both tourism and trekking are currently booming. Now is the perfect chance to explore the most scenic and well-preserved portion of this trail with us while it's still undiscovered, as we tread through both natural landscapes and small settlements that have remained mostly unchanged since the Salt Road's heyday. We will educated you on the fascinating history of the area as we walk, going slowly so that you can engage your senses and truly feel as if you were stepping back in time. On this hike, we will cover a distance of roughly 10km, with approximately 600 meters of total elevation gain, and we should expect to be on the trail for 4 and a half hours.
This full day active adventure combines the best of the area's local history, culture, nature, leisure and gourmet offerings, and will get you as far away from the beaten tourist path as possible. See the full itinerary below for the details.
IMAGE GALLERY (November, 2018)
PICK-UP & DROP-OFF WITHIN OTARI VILLAGE
We can pick you up and drop you off from any location within the village of Otari, such as your place of lodging, one of the three ski resorts located within the village (Tsugaike Kogen, Hakuba Norikura & Hakuba Cortina) or Otari's main train station - Minami Otari (on the JR Oito Line).
All ground transportation (whether by private car, taxi, train and/or bus) during the hours of the tour is included in the price.
Basic hiking insurance covering personal injury, liability and search and rescue is included in the price.
Entrance to the Salt Road Museum is included in the price.
ONSEN (HOT SPRING)
Depending on weather conditions we will stop at either a local outdoor or indoor onsen for a relaxing soak after the hike and prior to dinner. The bathing fee is included in the price, and we can also provide complimentary towels and toiletries.
At the conclusion of the tour, we will stop at a local handmade soba shop, and enjoy a delicious dinner of Nagano's famous noodles and seasonal tempura. One order of noodles for each person, as well as one order of tempura to be shared between two people is included in the price.
*Please let us know if you have a soba or any other food allergy before the commencement of the tour. If necessary, we will try to arrange to eat at another location that suits your dietary needs.
PICK-UP & DROP-OFF OUTSIDE OF OTARI VILLAGE
*If necessary or requested, it is possible to arrange pick-up and/or drop-off from several major hubs outside of Otari, specifically: Hakuba, Itoigawa, Omachi, Nagano & Matsumoto. However, please be aware that this will require extra time and incur additional fees. Please see our downloadable 'Extended Area Pick-Up & Drop-Off Policy' (PDF) for more details.
*This is a one-day tour, so lodging is typically not required or included. However, should you like to spend a night before or after your tour, we can help you arrange a stay at a local lodge or guesthouse.
LUNCH, DRINKS & SNACKS
*No lunch, drinks or snacks or drinks are provided, but you will need to bring your own for eating and drinking along the trail. It is also recommended that you eat breakfast prior to the start of the tour. If necessary, we can stop at a convenience store together to buy anything you might need before starting out on the trail.
For this tour to operate at the listed price, we require a minimum of 2 persons.
Group size will be limited to a maximum of 4 persons.
If you are interested in booking as a private tour for one person, or a group larger than four please contact us for a price quote.
WHAT TO BRING
FOOTWEAR: We recommend light trekking shoes, trail running shoes, or hiking boots
RAINWEAR: A rain jacket and rain pants are recommended, but a properly fitting poncho may also suffice
LUNCH, DRINKS & SNACKS: It is best to pack at least 1.5L of water, as well as a small lunch and some snacks for the hike
CHANGE OF CLOTHES: This is not necessary, but you may want to change into something clean after the onsen
SUNSCREEN, BUG SPRAY, SUNGLASSES, ETC...: Please pack these or any other items that you deem necessary
Meet at Minami-Otari Station (The 6:58 train from Hakuba arrives at Minami-Otari at 7:17)
Travel together by car to Kita-Otari Station, stopping at a convenience store along the way if necessary
Park at Kita-Otari Station and transfer to a train on the JR Oito Line for the onward journey to Nechi Station
Arrive at Nechi Station
Transfer to a taxi for the short trip to the Salt Road Museum
Explore and learn about several items of historical importance in the immediate vicinity of the museum
Explore the Salt Road Museum
See and learn more about the Salt Road through the small museum's exhibits before hitting the trail
Begin the hike along the Salt Road
Today we will cover about 10km of distance with approximately 600m of elevation gain ( 4 hours 45 minutes )
We will take time to enjoy the hike and learn more about the rich history of the Salt Road as we walk
We will stop for a brief 20-minute lunch break along the trail before finishing up our hike
Finish the hike along the Salt Road
Transfer to a bus and return to our car parked at Kita-Otari Station
Make the drive up into the mountains to the onsen where we will enjoy a relaxing soak
Soak in an Onsen (hot spring)
We can take up to 45 minutes to embrace Japanese culture and relax our tired legs in a natural hot spring
Once we are fully refreshed, we will make our way by car to a popular local soba shop for a traditional meal
Enjoy a delicious meal of Nagano's famous soba
We will sample some fantastic handmade local soba in a visually stunning old home
Conclude our meal and head back to Minami-Otari
After our satisfying meal, we will return to Minami-Otari Station by car on the last leg of our journey
Arrive at Minami-Otari Station (The 5:55 train from Minami-Otari arrives in Hakuba at 6:13)
Here we say our goodbyes and the tour officially concludes
Those traveling back to Hakuba and beyond can board the 5:55 pm train departing Minami-Otari Station
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SHIO NO Michi
Hiking Through History on the Ancient Salt Road
Thursdays through Sundays from May - November
¥13,000 per person
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