The northern half of the Shio-no-michi trail runs along the sides of a narrow and rugged valley and was relatively isolated until the road and train line were built, mainly running through tunnels, in the later half of the 20th century.
This meant that the area was undeveloped until recently and is one reason why the area still has some small villages with traditional thatched roof homes remaining. The traditional wooden and thatch houses are two stories high so as to provide a place on the ground floor for the horses and cattle to be indoors and the people to live upstairs during the long snowy winters.
The first snows will start in November and last until April, and 4 to 6 meters of snow will have piled up around the houses by the end of winter.
This is why the houses have doors on the second floors so they can get in and out of the house in winter.
It also has not surprisingly resulted in this area becoming the largest and best winter sports areas in Japan.