Walking and cycling through some of Japan’s most glorious landscapes provides an insight into a more traditional way of life….
Walking and cycling through some of Japan’s most glorious landscapes makes a refreshing contrast to the bustle of the big cities and provides an insight into a more traditional way of life. In the Kiso Valley and Takayama, deep in the Japanese Alps, you get the sense of a slower, more relaxed existence. Almost everyone comments on how smiling and welcoming people are in this region of Japan. Residents always seem to have time for foreign visitors and are extremely happy to share the joys of their local area with them. The food’s also a highlight, partly because the ingredients you get in the mountains are different from those on the coast.
For me, cycling in Takayama is always special. It’s the genuine interactions with the locals that are most memorable. Nobody is ever in a hurry; they are happily living out their days in the sunshine and the rice paddies and feeling grateful to be here. When I did the cycling tour a few years ago, we stopped at an older lady’s house. She was picking the last strawberries of the season from her field, but as they were a little over-ripe they were no good to sell, so she gave them all to our group to eat. They must have been the sweetest and juiciest strawberries I’d ever tasted.
For anyone who’d rather walk than cycle, exploring the alpine section of the historic Nakasendo Way is also a wonderful thing to do in the Japanese Alps. There are hardly any hiking routes in the country that are genuinely unspoiled while being completely accessible at the same time.