The Saba Kaido – or “Mackerel Highway” – is a network of roads that connects Kyoto to the shimmering waters of the Wakasa Bay and the historic port town of Obama. Even before Kyoto was the capital, Obama served as a gateway between Japan and the outside world. It received trading ships, technology, religious beliefs, and art forms from the Asian continent, while the refined culture of Kyoto also found its way back to this once bustling seaport.
Wakasa Bay’s rich bounty of salt, seafood, and other culinary treasures earned the region the status of Miketsukuni – a province tasked with providing the imperial court with food offerings – and the Saba Kaido saw a steady traffic of porters of salt, seaweed, and salted fish, particularly the prized Wakasa mackerel. Thus it was branded the "Mackerel Highway."
Even today, Obama continues its rich gastronomic tradition, and many of the old roads have been paved over and are still used to transport fish. However, one route - known as the Harihatagoe - remains partly in its original state, thanks to the steep mountainous terrain over which it leads. Consisting of narrow paved roads winding through the picturesque Japanese countryside, and steep hiking trails through primeval forests, it can be hiked in two to three days. An old meandering highway that takes a similar course, and is largely devoid of cars, makes for a beautiful cycling route that can be completed in one to two days.
Whether you drive, hike, or bike, there is plenty of old Japan to be explored along these ancient roads. This site will provide you with all the information you’ll need to make the journey yourself. But if you have any questions, or if you would like to join a guided walking or cycling tour, just drop us a message in the contact page.