Autumn colours tour Hiking the Salt and Shinetsu Trails
The customer and their requirements: a group of 12 regular hikers, mostly married couples who wanted to do a major trail walk with few or little tourists, carrying only day packs with their luggage being delivered ahead of them. They wanted to do some cultural sightseeing and eat mainly the local cuisine. They were happy to stay in B&B style accommodation. They were flexible as to timing and wanted Phil and Kazuko to guide them.
The location and timing: we recommended that the group come to Japan during the autumn, from September to November, as this is when the weather is best for walking and the autumn colours are superb. We suggested that the Shionomichi (Salt Trail) and Shinetsu Trails, both in Nagano Prefecture, would meet their requirements for cultural sightseeing and beautiful nature without any crowds, and virtually no other foreign tourists.
The accommodation: we stayed in a mix of accommodation including western style hotels, B&Bs, chalets, Japanese inns and ryokan. Every place had hot springs to relax in after each day’s walk.
The daily program: The first week of the tour was to walk about 70km from the coastal town of Itoigawa following the ancient Salt road through rugged gorges, over mountain passes and through picturesque valleys with thatched roof villages and stepped rice fields. We stopped along the way to see shrines, temples, statues and museums related to the trail’s history. On one day we took a gondola high up into the North Alps and then climbed a 2,500m alpine peak. On another day we walked along beautiful alpine lakes and stopped for a luncheon picnic. On the way to the start of the second week’s walk we stopped in Matsumoto to visit its magnificent castle. The Shinetsu Trail walk was in beautiful autumnal native forests along the top of an up and down 1,000m+ mountain range. We were driven to and from the trailhead every day and took obento lunch boxes with us. We had great views and hardly met any other hikers. A small part of the group wanted to explore the local towns and so Kazuko took them on excursions to the famous Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, and the historical towns of Iiyama and Obuse.
The cost: Approximate cost per person (twin share) for the 14 days stay in Japan was about Yen 250,000 per person including our fee for arranging the program and guiding, 3 meals a day and local transport (but not including air fares to Japan, transport to the start and finish places).