Barren street of Tsumago, mountains and trees.

Hiking from Magome to Tsumago: timeless Japan

Article updated on May 22, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

During the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), an ancient route called the Nakasendō, literally meaning the Central Mountain Route, connected the political capital Edo (today’s Tokyo) to Kyoto, home to the Imperial Palace. Samurais and merchants used to cover its 534 kilometres through mountains and valleys. Today one can still hike the historical trail, its most atmospheric stretch being between the villages of Magome and Tsumago to explore a rare and timeless Japan.

Keep exploring!

Rock eroded by drift ice, Shiretoko Peninsula, Japan.

Road trip in the wild northern island of Japan: Hokkaido

Article updated on May 23, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

While the Japanese train system is excellent and allows to explore most of the country, driving is essential to explore the more remote areas of Japan, where public transportation is less practical.

Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan, accounting for about 22% of the territory. The northernmost island is a lot less connected by public transports than the main island Honshu, and renting a car is a great way to explore its wilderness.

Keep travelling!

Wild salmon jumping up against a roaring waterfall, Hokkaido, Japan

Wild salmons of Hokkaido

Article updated on May 20, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Only a curtain of fog separates the Russian Kuril Islands from Japan along the narrow Nemuro Strait bordering the sea of Okhotsk. The Ainu people, an indigenous ethnic group of people who have inhabited Hokkaido (Japan’s second largest and northernmost island) and the Kuril and Sakhalin Islands belonging to Russia since the 13th century, call it sir-etok, literally meaning end of the Earth. Keep travelling!

A monk staring into the clouds from the summit of the sacred Ishizuchi mountain in Japan.

Hiking up a sacred summit of Shikoku: Mount Ishizuchi-san

A mountain so sacred that for centuries only men were allowed to summit it… Ishizuchi san, the highest mountain of Shikoku and Western Japan remains a very important place of worship and one of the major centres of Shugendō, a sect in-between Shintoism and Buddhism. Many pilgrims climb this mountain that still is forbidden for women every July 1, the first day of the climbing season. Whether you are an avid hiker, curious to see what a place so sacred looks like, there to take in the stunning views, or just up for a challenge, hiking up the sacred Mount Ishizuchi will leave you breathless – literally. Keep hiking!

A group of Japanese kids wearing the traditional outfit chats during the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival in Fukuoka, Kyushu

Spectacular festivals of Japan: The Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Fukuoka & more

Festivals are very important in Japan. In a very fast-paced and ultra-modern country, they are an integrant part of keeping ancient traditions alive and passing them on to younger generations. If they take place throughout the year, the best moment to witness most of them is the summer. Be warned: some are so popular that they make travelling and staying in the hosting cities difficult. Keep travelling!