At the beginning of May, the Golden week holidays herald the arrival of cherry blossom season in Hakuba. Every year the Salt road festival celebrates the ancient salt road that passes through Otari, Hakuba and Omachi.
The Salt road runs from Itoigawa on the Japan sea all the way inland to Shiojiri near Matsumoto. Until roads were developed salt was ferried by oxen and human from the sea to the interior and sold at markets. The biggest market was in Shiojiri near Matsumoto. Shiojiri literally means “salty arse”!
The most intact stretch runs through from Otari to Hakuba and we joined thousands of others on the 3rd for the walk of 10kms.
The old road winds through beautiful countryside and clusters of thatched farmhouses. Along the way local people sing folk songs, play taiko (Japanese drumming) and hand out free refreshments of tea and local sukemono (pickles). The old village of Chikuni at the half way point houses the salt road museum where you can see the history of the salt road and “Pay a toll” to the tollbooth staff for passage by getting your map stamped. Everyone dresses in traditional costumes and you get a real feel for what it was like 100’s of years ago on the salt road.