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The Tokai nature trail offers pleasurable hiking regardless of the season.

Photos and text by Yoshimitsu Yagi

There is a hiking trail that stretches all the way from Tokyo to Osaka, winding through mountains, highlands, fields, and rivers. It leads past steep rocky mountains fit for serious climbers to gentle highlands suitable for a leisurely stroll. It follows along dense virgin forests, swamps, and waterfalls. The Tokai nature trail was built by the Environment Agency and the prefectures through which it passes and completed in spring 1974.
The hosoba rhododendron, a species unique to the Chubu region.

The trail was built to preserve a piece of the disappearing natural environment and provide local residents an area for recreation. The path is generally around 1.2 meters wide and stretches 1,376 kilometers, linking the Takao National Park in Tokyo with Minoo National Park in Osaka. In Aichi the trail runs east-west through the northern mountainous regions of the prefecture. Its look has changed somewhat over the past 20 years due to the construction of intersecting roads, and it has become quite convenient and easier to traverse thanks to the addition of guideposts and descriptions. One of the more scenic spots it passes through is the Seven Falls area of Adera in the town of Horai, eastern Aichi, on the upper reaches of the Adera River. The seven-tiered falls, with a total length of 64 meters, was designated as a natural monument by the national government in 1934. In 1990 it was selected as one of "Japan's top 100 waterfalls." Because roads lead fairly close to the falls, it attracts large numbers of visitors. During May and June, when the area receives plenty of rainfall, the surrounding foliage sparkles with freshness. In deep autumn, when the flow along the Adera thins and the colorful foliage falls away, the area assumes a lonely, rustic countenance.

The trail, which enters Aichi on the east from Shizuoka Prefecture, passes through an afforested patch of Japanese cedar as well as through woods created by nature, reaching the waterfall before running alongside the river and up a mountainside to the northwest. A leisurely walk along the trail on a sunny spring day will lead to encounters with a variety of mountain flowers. The sight of hosoba rhododendrons in the middle of the forest is breathtaking, as is the sight of the large, blooming horaiji mountain lilies. There are plenty of sights to behold in the summer as well, such as the purple iwatabako flower growing along the stream.

Walking through fields and hills, surrounded by rich vegetation and inhaling fresh air, refreshes the body and lifts the spirit. Happily, nearby residents' appreciation of nature appears to have grown over the years, leading to better facilities along the trail.