Trekking in an area that looks like a painting of the “real” Japan; experiencing the rich history, culture and beautiful scenery of this area.
Through experiences including cycling, paddling and snowshoeing, explore the history and the culture firsthand.
Outstanding local cuisine, and unforgettably warm hospitality await our guests.
The terraced rice fields in the mountains of Japan are a symbol of its history and culture.
The records from the past show how people in this area of heavy snow built stair-like rice fields; they also show how hard-working these people were.
The wind flowing gently through the trees, the sound of the water from the many streams and rivers, and the beautiful flowing shapes of the fields all welcome the guest.
Tokamachi has arguably the most beautiful and historic rice terraces in all of Japan.
Walking on the paths between the terraced rice fields, with deep forests and unmistakable cedar trees standing alongside, you encounter some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.
Close by the plants are flowers are the many wild animals that live here: owls, dragonflies, raccoon-dogs, swallows, weasels,
even black bears.
Walking along these trails, you feel the history: the peasants who worked and lived here, the merchants carrying goods, the trails that were the roads, often to battle, for the local warlord’s troops.
With the explanation of the guide, the little Jizo statue by the side of the road has a deeper meaning; this road is a gateway to Japanese history and culture.
- 1. The old samurai road
The trekking route from village to village runs along portions of the Uesuki Gundo (military road), also known as the Kodo no Matsunoyama Kaido (the old Matsunoyama Road), that runs from Joetsu City to Tokamachi.
- 2. A choice of four routes
Each of the four routes currently available are about five kilometers in length, and take about three hours each to complete. Guests can arrange these as they like, even combining multiple routes.
- 3. Experienced, dedicated guides
These are private tours, with a dedicated, local guide who can lead guests along the trails with explanations in English. Only on this tour will you be led to places that ordinary visitors could not access.
- 4. Sophisticated accommodations
Local accommodations are available for one to multiple nights. These high-end lodgings include sophisticated onsen (hot spring inns), and a holiday house tucked between the fields that provides an outstanding chance to interact with locals.
- 5. Local cuisine
Fine dining is a key point of the tour, with gourmet meals featuring unique and delicious local specialties and the best ingredients of the season and the region.
- 6. Cultural programs
Apart from the trekking, a variety of other programs are available to experience the life and culture of the people living in this mountainous rural area.
The Trekking Courses
Locally, this trail is known as the Kodo Matsunoyama Kaido. It was also used by famous 16th-century daimyo Uesugi Kenshin, one of the most famous figures of the Warring States Period, to move his troops and travel to Edo (today’s Tokyo). It has been an important road for centuries, but much of it is no longer used daily because of the problems of upkeep, and the spread of the automobile. From this trail, however, are still views of the unchanged landscape of rice fields and Satoyama
, the traditional mountain villages and surrounding settings of Japan.
Trekking Course 1: Oshima to Gimyo
Theme: Excellent Views
The course starts at Oshima Station of the Hokuhoku Line. The first stop is to visit the local shrine to ask for safety on the walk, and then start the trek. The course provides views of a variety of landscapes, as well as the footprints of the animals of the beech forests (and sometimes the animals and birds themselves). When the weather is favorable, it’s possible to see not only the tanada terraced rice fields, but as far away as Sado Island in the Sea of Japan. Along the walk are the Hoshitoge Rice Terraces, the most famous tanada in all of Japan. The course, however, is not used by regular tourists, so guests have a private view all to themselves.
Trekking Course 2: Gimyo to Matsudai
Traveling along a mountain ridge, this route travels from village to village. There are great opportunities to hear a variety of stories while meeting with local residents along the way. Walk through villages that have been here for centuries. There are stone Buddhas and jizo, unique shrines and temples everywhere to welcome the visitor. There’s a good chance of encountering a festival or other regional event. It gives the guest the chance to real feel the life in Satoyama.
Trekking Course 3: Matsudai to Inubushi
This is a walk from the area around Matsudai Station up toward the mountains. There are unique stories to be heard even very close to the town. There are endless tales that have been carefully handed down about village life here from the Warring States Period in the 16th century to the end of the Tokugawa era in 1868. After taking a break at a village home, head up along a mountain ridge, and encounter the truly ancient ruins of a shiro, usually translated as “castle.” This was not the luxurious home of a lord, however, but a practical fortification built for warfare. You’ll even find that one ancient house here is the repository of one of Uesugi Kenshin’s swords from 500 years ago—there are many tales to be heard here!
Trekking Course 4: Yomogihira
This optional course lets trekkers enjoy the rice terraces around the area where a mountain castle was once located. Seemingly stuck onto the bowl-shaped terrain here is a village in the Yomogihira area; this is a tough course in several areas with sharp ups and downs, but it provides a variety of beautiful views of the rice terraces. This is an area that would be almost impassable without the guidance of locals, so it’s a very special chance. With the guide there, there is a very good chance of being welcomed by, and having the chance to talk with locals, and perhaps even shar a meal. Unkai Onsen at Shiba Pass is close by, so hot springs are one more thing to enjoy as part of the hike.
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