more ONLINE Resources to help plan your Salt Road trip…
Itoigawa City Tourism Bureau has some information on the section of the Salt Trail starting in Itoigawa and going to the town of Otari.
As mentioned on the web site, the “Ono” section of the trail is one of the best-preserved sections of the original trail and there are a number of interesting historic sites on this section that means you can get a good feel for the trail in just one day.
If you only have a short amount of time, Itoigawa is the best place to make one day excursion on the trail because you can get to Itoigawa on the Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo in 3 hours and almost straight on to the trail from the train station.
You can collect maps in English at the tourism information center at the train station or download the Itoigawa Walking Map in English.
Itoigawa UNESCO Global Geo Park
The Itoigawa UNESCO Global Geo Park has an excellent museum in Itoigawa that explains the ‘Fossa Magna”, which is the geological name for the structure of the Japan Alps that the Shionomichi runs parallel to. There are also several geological features just off the trail on the first day’s walk from Itoigawa which are worth a short detour and are well marked.
The Himekawa River and the beaches around Itoigawa are famous for their jade rocks which can still be found. The oldest jade culture in the world was based around Itoigawa during the Jomon era, about 4-10,000 years ago.
The Chogahara Jomon outdoor and indoor museum, located in IIyama Park, is well worth a visit
The town of Omachi ‘Big Town is located in the middle of the Shionomichi.
The English website covers much of interest in the area but has little information on the trail itself.
The Chojiya Salt Road Museum is a well-preserved salt merchant’s house and worth a visit.Set in an Edo era building, exhibits include old methods of transportation for cattle and heavy goods, travelling clothes & lunch boxes, daily tools of the local residents, ancient documents and more.
Located in the western part of Nagano, the prefecture was brought to international attention during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. With stunning views of the surrounding alpine landscape and an array of cultural attractions, Azumino is one of Japan’s best-kept secrets.
The town of Azumino website has some information on some of the places of interest that the Shionomichi Trail passes near, such as the Hotaka Shrine and the Daio Wasabi Farm. The Wasabi Farm is Japan’s largest, with visitors able to sample authentic wasabi, and wasabi-flavored goods,
like beer and ice cream…
Matsumoto is the second largest city in Nagano Prefecture.
It is most famous for Matsumoto-jo, one of Japan’s most beautiful original castles. Check the website for entrance times and what events are on at the castle.
The city is also a good base for trips into the Japanese Alps, e.g. to Kamikochi, Norikura or the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route.
It is also known as the hometown of internationally-acclaimed artist Yayoi Kusama.
Resources in Japanese
Produced by the Otari Town Chamber of Commerce, this is the most comprehensive guide to the Shionomichi Trail. It contains notes on all the points of interest on the trail and comprehensive maps (divided into 11 sections from Itoigawa to Matsumoto). Maps are available for download which include distances, times and elevation profiles.
A printable PDF pocket map and guide in Japanese can be found here. Hard copies of the trail guide were produced several years ago but are hard to find now.
Otari is the only town on the 120km route with comprehensive information (Japanese only) on its section of the Shionomichi Trail which covers the most mountainous and difficult to navigate sections.
The publisher of the major daily newspaper in Nagano Prefecture, the Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, has published (in 2012) an excellent guidebook on the trail, packed with information, photos, maps, and walking times. Available in bookshops or online.
Mt-Compass, a Japanese trail app, has a dedicated app for 8 of Japan’s Long Trails, including the Shionomichi. The app is called トレイル巡り(Trail Meguri ) and is downloadable in Apple or Google. This is the only real-time way to track location on the trail using GPS only- but all the information on the maps is in Japanese Download PDF trail map here.
The town of Omachi, midway on the trail, has some information about the trail in Omachi.
This site is produced by a Japanese guide, Mr Kimihiro Fukawa who specializes in guiding in Japanese on ancient trails. The site has detailed information about the Shionomichi Trail.
In addition, Fukawa has produced a colour pocket-sized guidebook with maps and photos of the Shionomichi, and it includes detailed photos and notes of the trees and flowers on the route, as well as photos of all the snow patches on the North Alps and what their shapes resemble. It is available at some locations on the route or on Amazon.
Guides and Tour Companies in English
Phil Ingram has been organizing and planning for visitors to hike the Shionomichi Trail since 2014.
Phil has hiked all over Japan for the last 40 years and greatly enjoys taking visitors from overseas to explore the less visited culturally interesting and scenic parts of Japan.
Paul Deckrect, a professional mountain guide and long-term resident of Japan, lives next to the Shionomichi trail in the town of Otari.
He runs a regular one-day hike on the Otari section and is available for tailor-made guided tours of the trail.