Shortly after finishing the Kansai section of the Tōkai Shizen Hodō in July 2009, I'd wanted to start this website, in order to create a sort-of hiking guide for the route. Eight months of travel and an international move distracted me some. An email from a friend and fellow hiker kept the project alive. What better day to begin than this, the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day.
Where earlier on Notes from the 'Nog, I'd published posts chronologically, here I'll write them geographically, in the order you'd walk them. I start from my home at the base of Uryū-zan, (behind Zōkei Daigaku), going up and over Hiei-zan's shoulder to Biwa-ko, then work south through Nara and along the Yamanobe route to Murō-ji before looping back to Ishiyama. From there the westbound posts will deal with the section heading from Hiei-zan to the terminus at Minoo above Osaka. Posts will appear more or less as they did earlier.
Looking back, I realize now that I didn't write about the entire hike, in particular the sections in North Kyoto. We had earlier walked these sections as the Kyoto Isshū Trail, which follows the same course as the Hodō. I'll try to fill in the gaps with basic course information, leaving out my usual witty insight and banter, no matter how much you plead.
Now, the tools. The resource I relied on most heavily was 東海自然歩道30選 関西編—大阪・京都・滋賀・奈良・三重 (Tokai Shizen Hodō 30 Sen, Kansai Hen --Osaka, Kyoto, Shiga, Nara, Mie), easily found at Amazon Japan. This book details most of the route, and does a fantastic job despite the fact that it's showing its age somewhat. The route has changed some in the 10 years since publication, what with the ever changing face of Japan. Entire housing communities now lie across certain sections, trails have washed away, and Matsutake growers allow no access during the picking season.
Some of the gaps can be covered with a quick visit online. Prior to setting out, I spent an fair amount of time at 東海自然歩道ぶらり一人歩き. This guy's stuff proved invaluable, particularly in transportation to and from the hike (Do double check bus times online, as this info too is 7 years old). Don't rely too much on the times he gives for the hikes, since they're so quick I began to think he did the Hodō on roller skates. Times in the 東海自然歩道 30選 book are much more realistic.
Other useful online resources:
- 東海自然歩道放浪記 (Recent links to public transport, plus more recent updates.)
- 東海自然歩道 散策 (Good info, but annoying 文字化け.)
- てくてく東海自然歩道 (By far the best maps.)
- 東海自然歩道連絡協会公式サイト (Good transportation info, but strange layout and slightly annoying interface.)
The only English information I've yet to come across is a blog called Nomadic Tom. In addition to the narrative of his complete traverse of the TSH in 2015, he has created a useful guide to walking the course. Tom himself admits that the information is somewhat basic (and geared more toward those walkers coming from abroad), but it is still the best English resource out there.
By far the greatest resources are the trail markers. They are for the most part consistent, though notable exceptions are in Shiga, Ōtsu in particular. If confused, it is far better to ask a farmer or old timer than someone in one of those MosMansions thrown up by Daiwa House the day before yesterday. (Most of these suburbanites don't even know the name of their neighbors, let alone a badly marked hiking course.) Asking other hikers would help, but aside from in the hills ringing Kyoto, you'll be surprised how few people you see out there. On the other hand, locals in the more remote farm villages often will take the time to chat.One fascinating facet of doing the entire Kansai section is noticing the difference in character from prefecture to prefecture, village to village, mountain to mountain, valley to valley. It is an amazing way to learn about the region's history and ever-changing culture. The walk you do today will have a different character than my own.So throw those onigiri in the pack, lace up your boots, and get tramping!