When you mention Japan, the picture of bustling metropolis of Tokyo often comes to mind. Streets filled with neon-lights, the chaotic Shibuya Crossing, and endless alleys filled with modern shops and restaurants – all of these speak true of the Japanese culture. But in reality, this is only grazing the surface as far as what you can find and enjoy in Japan. This nation is also known for its rich natural beauty with splendid landscapes that span from mountains, hills, and other hiking trails. In fact, Japan is very much celebrated for its natural beauty that is within a short-day trip away from the bustling cities of Tokyo or Kyoto.
When traveling to Japan with family, and especially children, there is a long list of family-friendly activities to enjoy. But if you are feeling a little adventurous, taking your family (and kids!) for a hike is one way to switch things up, if you want to escape the city or are tired of the temples!
Ready to explore Japan’s wild side via its nature hiking trails? You and your kids are in for a treat as you’ll encounter some of the best hikes, you’ll ever come across here.
Here are 7 amazing and kid-friendly hiking trails in Japan.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
1. Fushimi Inari Shrine
Is there a more iconic destination in Japan than this (aside from the infamous Shibuya Crossing)? The Fushimi Inari Shrine is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on top of being one of the most coveted hiking destinations for families. Located in Kyoto, it is a perfect day trip destination from Tokyo and other major cities you might be based in. It is not just one of the best family-friendly hiking trails in Japan, but a must-visit (no trip to Japan is complete without it!).
Considered as the most important shrine in Kyoto, this world heritage site features thousands of black and orange torii gates. These gates line up the trail as you make your way to Mount Inari. There are also temple buildings to visit, which are worth stopping by if you’ve traveled all the way to Kyoto. The stairs that you must scale to get to Mount Inari are paved and well-maintained, so they are easy peasy for your kids to conquer. Even the younger kids can easily navigate them!
The hike will take approximately 30 minutes until you make it to the Yotsutusji intersection. This is a wonderful stop for you and your kids to enjoy the spectacular views of the city, or to grab a matcha ice cream! You can opt to end your hike here or make your way back down or proceed with the rest of the hike.
If you complete the entire hike, it will take approximately 2.5 hours (depending on how many stops you take or your pace). The entire trail spans 5.4 km and you can reach an elevation of 310 meters.
2. Mount Tenran
Are you staying with your family within the Greater Tokyo Area? You can still get your fill for nature hiking as there are plenty of choices available near Tokyo. One of them is the hike to Mount Tenran. This is a hike that you and your kids can do with ease.
To embark on this hike, you and your family must head to the Hanno Station on the Seibo Ikebuburo Line. This is approximately an hour away from the center of Tokyo. The mountain itself is relatively low in elevation with the highest point at 200 meters. Thus, it is a no-brainer why it is perfect for families to conquer.
From the station, you must hike 20 minutes to reach Nonin-Ji Temple. The trail to get to Mount Tenran passes through the temple wherein you must follow the trail towards an observation platform. On clear days, this observation platform offers some of the most spell-binding views of Tanzawa Mountains and Mt. Fuji. This is a loop trail but there is also an alternative route you can take that leads to Okumusashi Nature Path that will lead you towards the Koma Station.
The Mount Tenran hiking trail spans a total distance of 9.2 km and can be completed within 4 hours. The elevation is at a maximum of 95 meters and is a loop hiking trail (meaning the start and end point is the same).
3. Golden Pavilion
Another iconic temple and shrine in Japan is the Golden Pavilion. It is also a popular family-friendly hiking trail for families visiting Japan. The Golden Pavilion is a Zen temple that is covered in gold leaf, thus the name. This is one of Kyoto’s major attractions but also offers a wonderful hiking experience for the family.
There is a viewing area that is open for tourists to get the perfect photo with the temple. For a jaw-dropping temple like this, it is no wonder why visitors would want to get that perfect shot. This leisurely hike involves taking a stroll at the temple gardens. This is an easy hike, but you’ll be compelled to take your time as the views of the temple and the beautiful garden reminds you to soak it in. There are plenty of stairs along the path and is not even, so bringing a stroller is not a good idea. There are plenty of benches you can sit in and relax, if you want to relish that view and the fresh air of Kyoto. There are also plenty of toilets available.
If you want a more leisurely hike, try to take your family here during the off-season. It is a very popular attraction and there can be plenty of crowd.
Irikawa Gorge (Image by Ridgeline Images)
4. Irikawa Gorge
The Irikawa Valley is another family-friendly hiking trail that has unbeatable nature and scenic views that you can enjoy. Whether you want to take the hike to get physically active or to treat yourself to spectacular views, you can achieve both. Located in Chichibu on the Saitama Prefecture, the Irikawa Valley has one of the best scenic trails near Tokyo. It is recommended for beginners, so it is easy enough for your kids to conquer, too.
To get to the trail head will require a bit of travel time – 3 hours from central Tokyo. It is, therefore, recommended that you allot one full day for this hiking trip. The trail navigates through a disbanded railway that was initially used for transporting logs. This area features a slight incline but nothing that beginners and kids can’t handle. The hiking trail will end where the Irikawa and Arawaka Rivers meet. You will know you’re here because there is a monument that signifies the starting point of the Arakawa River. The river itself is 173 km long.
Exploring this trail at a steady pace is recommended. This will enable you to marvel at the picturesque views of the gorge and the Irakawa River. There are also spots for a lovely picnic, if you want to spend more time. But if you want to simply follow the trail, you can complete it within 90 minutes before you reach the confluence of the two rivers. The total distance of the trail is 10.5 km with an elevation of up to 290 meters.
Arashimaya Bamboo Grove
5. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
To round up this list of the best kid-friendly trails in Japan is another iconic attraction in Kyoto – Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. You might have seen photos of this popular bamboo grove on Instagram a few times. But this site is also a popular destination for hiking for the family.
You can kick off your hiking journey on the eastern side of the bamboo grove. When you complete the side, you will be able to continue exploring the other parts of the park. The western side is where many of the tourists flock in, though, because this is where the best photos can be taken at the grove.
The hiking trail at the bamboo grove is mostly flat, so it is also accessible to strollers. It takes about 30 minutes to complete so you have plenty of time to marvel at the bamboo grove and other park features. And speaking of the park, Arashiyama Park is spectacular in its beauty and lush green landscape. One of the highlights of your visit to the park is the view of the Katsura River that glides through the mountain valley. There is also a river walk, which provides another unique view from your hike than what you’d find at the bamboo grove.
Needless to say, it is a must-see when in Kyoto!
6. Kamakura Trail
Kamakura is not as well-known as a day trip destination from Tokyo. But it is also one of the reasons why you need to consider adding it to your list of family-friendly hikes in Japan. Kamakura reminds you right away that you’ve made the right choice for a day trip hike as you are greeted with a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji within ten minutes of embarking from your hike. As it rises out of the clouds, Mt. Fuji is a vision of natural beauty and prominence. This view alone makes this a fail-safe day trip destination for the entire family.
There are numerous hiking routes to choose from in Kamakura but the Tenen trail is the most popular of them. This hiking route is well-trodden so you could encounter a few other hikers (or families) on this trail. This hiking route navigates through the northern hills, most of which are along the ridges. Along the way, you will encounter a handful of temples and complexes. But the best features include the gardens and bridges that provide a calming atmosphere through the hike. If you fancy yourself a nature lover, you will be compelled to stop by and take some photos as you enjoy the scenic views.
The hiking route is also well-shaded by the thick jungle so the heat isn’t an issue. The tracks are unpaved but none of them are very steep so it adds to the rural zen retreat atmosphere. As you near the end of your route, you will find the Sasukeinari Shrine and a row of apopletic statues amidst the foliage.
7. Tenguno Falls
Japan has no shortage of kid-friendly trails that lets you reconnect with nature and witness its natural splendor first-hand. Case in point: the hike to Tenguno Falls. It is one of three waterfalls that you can find along the Senzoku River trail. These waterfalls are pretty secluded so it is something that your family should plan ahead. But it is still easily accessible from Tokyo, so it is the perfect spot to go to if you want a nature break.
The difficulty range of this trail is easy to moderate. The Tenguno Falls is a bit farther from your jump-off point from the Senzoku bus stop. If you want to keep the hike minimally challenging for your little ones, you can stop at the first waterfall – Kotengunotaki. But if your kids can take on the challenge, you can continue on your journey to the next waterfall, which is the Tenguno Falls. Watching the gently flowing water that divides in the middle is a calming scene. If you decide to proceed to the third waterfall – Aya Falls – you will be able to set up a picnic lunch with your kids as there are tables available. Either way, you can re-trace your steps to get back to the starting point of this trail.
Whether you come to Japan as a tourist or you are a local looking to escape the concrete jungle, being somewhere filled with greens is a growing necessity. Nothing can fully recharge you as much as nature does. And when you’re in Japan, luckily there are plenty of choices of destinations to do that. If you choose to hike with your kids in tow, there is no need to worry because Japan offers a bunch of easy hikes to tackle without compromising on the views and the scenery that await you along the way. The trails listed above are proof of that!