In most western countries there are a variety of hiking apps to help you find information on hiking trails such as Outdoor Active, AllTrails, Gaia GPS, Wikilocs, and others. But in Japan, these apps are often missing trail information as they have not been widely adopted by Japanese hikers due to the language barrier. Instead they use a Japanese hiking app called Yamap. Yamap is basically like a social media platform for hiking, users have accounts with followers, a timeline of hikes, and when you post your hikes on your timeline other people can "like" your post using "domo" points. But most importantly, Yamap contains detailed and up-to-date topography maps for all the mountains in Japan, and trip reports from hikers who will post updated photos and mention any recent dangers or trail damage. This makes it a valuable resource for hiking in Japan. Unfortunately, full English language support is not available, and significantly lacking on the iPhone version of the app - this lead to Jordon, a long-time Kyoto resident with a newfound interest in hiking, to offer to write up a tutorial to guide people who can't decipher the Japanese menu in the iOS app.
Access and itineraries
The trail starts from Kunizakai kogen snow park, you can catch a bus there from Makino station. This section is the most popular option for a day hike, going up to Mt. Norikura and across to Mt. Akasaka, then heading down to the campground and onsen. From here you'll need to catch a short taxi ride back to the station.
Norikura to Akasaka day hike
Time: 8-9 hrs
Distance: 16 km
Elevation change: ➚950m gain ➘1150m loss
GPS map: outdooractive.com
The full 5-day hike itinerary has been provided to me by a local guide who grew up in Takashima. You will need to bring a map (linked below, purchased near Makino station), a compass, and sufficient water/camping supplies. I'm including the Japanese version so you can cross check this with your topography map.
Here's the itinerary the guide sent me:
Day 1: 愛発越登山口 → 乗鞍岳 → 芦原岳 → 黒河峠（テント泊）
Day 2: 黒河峠 → 三国山湿原 → 明王の禿 → 赤坂山 → 寒風 → 大谷山 → 抜土（テント泊）
Day 3: 抜土 → 近江坂 → 大御影山 → 三重嶽 → 武奈ヶ嶽 → 二の谷山 → 横谷峠（テント泊）
Day 4: 横谷峠 → 駒ヶ岳 → 桜谷山 → 木地山峠 → 百里ヶ岳 → おにゅう峠（テント泊）
Day 5: おにゅう峠 → 三国峠 → 地蔵峠 → 岩谷峠 → 三国岳 → 丹波越 → 桑原橋
Day 1: Arachi no Seki mountain trail → Mt. Norikura → Mt. Ashihara → Kurokawa Pass (tent night)
Day 2: Kurokawa Pass → Mikuniyama Marsh → Meio's Bald → Akasakayama → Cold Wind → Otaniyama → Excavation (tent night)
Day 3: Excavation → Omisaka → Omikageyama → Sanjodake → Mt. Bunagatake → Ninotaniyama → Yokotani Pass (tent night)
Day 4: Yokotani Pass → Komagatake → Sakurayayama → Kijiyama Pass → Hyakurigatake → Onyu Pass (tent night)
*Since there is no water place on the Onyu Pass, it is advisable to secure water at the Kijiyama Pass.
Day 5: Onyu Pass → Mikuni Pass → Jizo Pass → Iwatani Pass → Mikunidake → Tambakoshi → Kuwanohara bridge
Transport back to the station?
Once you finish the final day at Mikunidake, you will need to reach the nearest train station. The guide advised me there is a local bus not on google maps (Harihata Line) which will take you to Adogawa station. In this case I would recommend talking to locals for further information or considering a taxi. The official map which can be purchased from the Makino roadside station will include markers such as bus stops (linked below).
The Takashima Trail has a lot to offer for those who prefer to escape the well established and busy hiking trails most often talked about in Japan. And now that hiking is becoming more popular, there is a greater need for quiet and undisturbed mountains. Due to the remote nature of the trail and lack of amenities, experience with wild camping and multi-day hikes is required, it's also strongly recommended to avoid hiking this one alone. Follow the normal cautions for potential encounters with wildlife such as wild boars, hornets, and monkeys. On that note, it's advisable to bring bear spray as bear sightings have increased in recent years.