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Hike Japan’s oldest and most beautiful trail

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Hiking has always been a popular pastime in Japan. However, self-guided tours have taken the lead in recent years. With countless sublime trails crisscrossing all over Japan, hardcore hikers and leisurely walkers are truly spoiled for choice when considering exploratory jaunts for their trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

One particular route whose fame and beauty has never been feigned is the Basho Wayfarer – a historical journey based on the iconic poetic travelogue, Oku-no-hosomichiwritten by legendary Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho.

Considered one of the country’s most illustrious hiking trails, this multi-day and overnight tour sends explorers down the narrow road to the deep north of the Tohuku region, along which sensational samples of the stunning nature of the country, its distinct culture, its welcoming people and historic sites can all be experienced as authentically as the day Basho first discovered them himself.

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Hike the self-guided Basho Wayfarer Trail – one of Japan’s most beautiful routes

The Basho Wayfarer is one of Japan’s most authentic experiences and there’s no shortage of self-discovery along the way. At 100 miles in length, the stupendous path offers an entertaining opportunity to experience Japan’s unique and different northern Tohoku region, where its distinguished culture and friendly people welcome walkers as they explore their proud homeland.

Along with a menu of history, culture and beauty, what makes this journey all the more revered is that participants follow in the very footsteps of the famous wandering haiku poet Matsuo Basho, who previously recounted the journey in his classic poetic travelogue, Oku-no-hosomichi – the “Narrow road to the Far North.”

He wrote what has been translated as: “Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the sages of old, but seek what they sought” – and the itinerary bears witness to those exact words, offering a truly authentic chance to do exactly that while looking for generous offers from Japan.

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Basho indeed completed the journey more than three hundred years ago, but even so, it would seem that the hardy inhabitants – who have adapted to the region’s harsh winters – have not forgotten his visit.

At every step of the journey, residents welcome visitors with warm greetings and recitations of Basho’s eloquent poetry, while the area offers equally rewarding delights: the gift of sumptuous onsen hot springs, irresistible local cuisine and decadent amounts of authentic sake.

Add to that comfortable accommodation in a beautifully traditional style, and tired eyes and aching feet are effortlessly soothed in the evening – the perfect end to every day’s hiking adventures.

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The road

The route begins in Sendai and ends in Yamadera, with the starting point being a historically significant and culturally exquisite part of Japan that once served as the stronghold of the Date clan – a powerful samurai family that dominated the region for over three centuries , whose hometown in Sendai is still the largest in all of Japan.

From Sendai, hikers continue along the path to the site of a ruined fortress at Tagajo, after which they head to the magnificent bay of Matsushima, the beauty of which would have left Basho himself speechless. And if such admiration still isn’t enough to strike the same chord with explorers, then the list of temples to be discovered along the next sections of the route might just do the trick; hikers will encounter Entsuin, Zuiganji, and Chusonji, all of whom are more than enough to leave visitors speechless like they did for Basho.

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Additionally, traversing lush forests with flourishing flora in a myriad of shades throughout the ever-changing seasons is also responsible for the trail’s splendor, resulting in the crisp icy, wintry hues during the colder months, the rich leaves golden autumn leaves and warm, verdant foliage. of spring and summer. And it is in one of these lush forests that hikers descend on the famous Hojin No Re – a picturesque thatched-roof building cited as the only remaining structure in which Basho is documented to have stayed.

It is at this old-world establishment that weary explorers retrace Basho’s footsteps and enjoy a refreshing cup of green tea before retiring to their comfortable accommodation of beautifully traditional nature and aesthetics. And, with onsen baths by the river and a mouth-watering meal of local ingredients prepared by a welcoming local host, weary hikers basking in the therapeutic hot spring waters wonder this during their evening and morning: a vacation. in Japan can they really get much more authentic than that?


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The beginning and end of each day are indeed as heavenly as that image is imprinted on our minds at this moment; backpackers staying in quintessential Japanese ryokans and family-run inns, most with a distinctive traditional setting with sliding paper shoji doors and straw tatami flooring.

If experiencing a true sense of the classic Japanese lifestyle, its historic buildings, and the overwhelming beauty of the nation’s natural environment is on your bucket list, then this incredible voyage of discovery is a must.

It showcases some of Japan’s finest samples of nature, history and culture, all on a stunning route that guarantees a unique perspective and unparalleled insight into the country and its treasures like no other experience to be had in all of Japan. .

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What to know before trying the Basho Wayfarer

The self-guided Basho Wayfarer is simple to follow and less strenuous than many other hikes in Japan. Walking distances vary from five to 14 kilometers per day (three to eight and a half miles) and involve an average altitude differentiation between 100 and 400 meters. The itinerary is as flexible as it is easy; hikers can shorten or lengthen the daily mileage depending on their daily endurance.


Generally speaking, the journey is comfortable, although it does include some significantly steeper portions, such as the most remote section of the Natagiri-toge pass whose challenges are fully rewarded in the form of panoramic views of the stunning countryside. .

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The last point to note, visitors are welcome to explore the Basho Wayfarer from mid-May to early November during the warmest and most inviting months of the season. So pack those hiking shoes, book that ticket to Japan, and get ready to tackle one of its oldest and finest hiking trails for explorers in the Land of the Rising Sun – a path of possession that obviously has captivated the poetic heart of the famous Matsuo in Japan. Basho himself, whose famous words were inspired by the relentless series of performances along this cinematic path – but not before they were first stunned by its majestic beauty.


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