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Long Distance Nature Trails
For more details on long distance nature trails in Japan, see this Ministry of the Environment “NATS Nature Lovers Club” website.
① Hokkaido Nature Trail: 4,600km
Under construction (Hokkaido)
② Tohoku Nature Trail: 4,369 km
Aomori Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture, Akita Prefecture, Yamagata Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture (6 prefectures)
③ Tohoku Pacific Coast Nature Trail (Michinoku Coastal Trail): 1,025 km
Aomori Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture, Fukushima Prefecture (4 prefectures, 28 municipalities)
④ Chubu Hokuriku Nature Trail: 4,085 kilometers
Gunma Prefecture, Niigata Prefecture, Toyama Prefecture, Ishikawa Prefecture, Fukui Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture, Gifu Prefecture, Shiga Prefecture (8 prefectures)
⑤ Shutoken Nature Trail: 1,794 km
Ibaraki Prefecture, Tochigi Prefecture, Gunma Prefecture, Saitama Prefecture, Chiba Prefecture, Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture (6 prefectures and Tokyo)
⑥ Tokai Nature Trail: 1,734km
Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture, Shizuoka Prefecture, Gifu Prefecture, Aichi Prefecture, Mie Prefecture, Shiga Prefecture, Kyoto, Nara Prefecture, Osaka (8 prefectures, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto)
⑦ Kinki Nature Trail: 3,296 km
Fukui Prefecture, Mie Prefecture, Shiga Prefecture, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, Wakayama Prefecture, Tottori Prefecture (7 prefectures, Kyoto, Osaka)
⑧ Chukoku Nature Trail: 2,295 km
Tottori Prefecture, Shimane Prefecture, Okayama Prefecture, Hiroshima Prefecture, Yamaguchi Prefecture (5 prefectures)
⑨ Shikoku Nature Trail: 1,647 km
Tokushima Prefecture, Kagawa Prefecture, Aichi Prefecture, Kochi Prefecture (4 prefectures)
⑩ Kyushu Nature Trail: 2,932 km
Fukuoka Prefecture, Saga Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kumamoto Prefecture, Oita Prefecture, Miyazaki Prefecture, Kagoshima Prefecture (7 prefectures)

Long-Distance Nature Trails in Japan were first announced as a policy in 1969. Their purpose is to enable many people to walk courses across or looping around sections of the country throughout the seasons, while having fun and staying safe. Along the way, they can encounter rich nature and natural scenery as well as local history and culture, in the process rediscovering the land and its natural features as well as becoming more aware of the importance of protecting the environment. Work on the first Long Distance Nature Trail, the Tokai Nature Trail, began in 1970. It was followed by the Kyushu Nature Trail in 1975, the Chukoku Nature Trail in 1977, and continued on until the present day, with ten Long Distance Nature Trails in total (the Hokkaido Nature Trail is still in the process of being made). The total length of these courses is 27,000 kilometers. The Michinoku Coastal Trail’s official name is the “Tohoku Pacific Coast Nature Trail” and it is the tenth Long Distance Nature Trail. At 1025 kilometers, it is the shortest of the Long Distance Nature Trails.

The idea for the Long Distance Nature Trails came from many factors, which included the Appalachian Trail in the United States, but also from Japan’s post war economic growth, a boom in popularity for leisure activities, and a trend toward development and damage to the environment. Mr. Michio Ooi, a ranger at the time who was a leading proponent for creating Long Distance Nature Trails, advocated for “regaining humanity.” The announcement about the Long Distance Nature Trails policy was prominently covered in newspapers and garnered a very large reaction. “If the Tokaido coastal route has major arteries–shinkansen and highway–pouring vitality into this country, these new “53 Stations of the Tokaido” for strolling on foot must be like a vein that brings health and a recovered sense of humanity to those who walk it.” (Sankei Shimbun, January 5th 1969) “This plan at first glance may appear to be going against the tide of civilization, but in fact it is a most civilized plan for the sake of humankind,” “If a natural trail for people walking on foot is created, it will naturally bring about more enriched hearts filled with humanity.” (Mainichi Shimbun, January 13th, 1969) “More of these ‘sacred spaces’ should be made across the country so that people do not forget their humanity.”(Yomiuri Shimbun, January 5th, 1969) “If people depend too much on highways and bullet trains and forget walking, their lives will become warped.” (Asahi Shimbun, January 3rd, 1969)

The 2020 Annual Report of the Environment in Japan referred to the Michinoku Coastal Trail and the Long Distance Nature Trail 50th Anniversary Symposium held on December 8th, 2019. Movement is building on this occasion, 50 years later, to reexamine and rediscover Long Distance Nature Trails.