The road less travelled
Shio no Michi Trail
Join a unique 7-day off the beaten track adventure holiday in Nagano, the mountainous heart of Japan, for stunning scenery and an in-depth cultural experience
The Salt Road (Shionomichi) was an ancient highway that connected that interior regions of Honshu Island in Japan with the coastal regions.
Part of it was called the Chikuni-kaido that connected the castle city of Matsumoto with Itoigawa on the Japan Sea coast.
In landlocked Shinshu (today’s Nagano), the route saw the transportation of various kinds of goods, the most-prized of which was salt, along treacherous mountain roads, carried by porters and oxen and often traded for rice and tobacco.
Getting to the start
The Shio no Michi Trail starts in Itoigawa, on the coast of western Niigata about 350km northwest of Tokyo, where the mountains of the Northern Japan Alps meet the Japanese sea and travels inland for over 120 klms to finish in the famous castle town of Matsumoto, in Nagano Prefecture.
A shorter version of the hike – of 70klms – finishes at Shinano Omachi, 20 klms past the famous ski area of Hakuba – which – in summer -offers some of Japan’s most spectacular mountain scenery.
The JR Oito Line connects several towns between Itoigawa and Matsumoto, including Hakuba and Shinano Omachi, making it easy to hop on and off the train as required between walking stops or return to the trail start upon finishing the hike.
Located between two mountain ranges and the Sea of Japan, Itoigawa offers striking scenery.
In this single city, the elevation ranges from sea level along the coast to the 2,766m peak of Mt. Korenge.
Cycling, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, swimming, fishing, and onsen hot spring bathing are just a few of the exciting outdoor activities enjoyed in Itoigawa. Of particular note for onsen enthusiasts is Renge Onsen, which includes 4 rotenburo (outdoor baths ) located on a mountainside about 1,500m above sea level.
The climate in Itoigawa is warm and temperate, with summer temperatures averaging around 24°C in summer and 2°C in winter.
Once considered an area quite difficult to get to from the main cities , access to the area since 2015 has improved dramatically, with the introduction of the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train.)
The Hakutaka service on this line now takes just over 2 hours direct from Tokyo – on one of the most picturesque fast train rides in the country.