The Ministry of Environment has set up this website which outlines the route in detail, in English.
You can order English-language maps directly from them, or download PDFs here.
The maps don’t list all accommodation options, but do outline the official campsites along the route. For information on accommodation, see here.
As mentioned above, the trail heads are in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefectures, and Soma, Fukushima Prefecture.
Obviously, you don’t have to start at either of these points, or walk the whole thing. If you want to use public transport, much of the coastline is serviced by trains (including the famous Sanriku Railway) and buses.
To get from Tokyo to/from the trail heads, you can take the bullet train or - for budget travelers - take long-distance buses (e.g. Willer Bus)
Food & Water
Make sure you have enough food and water to last the entire journey. Some stretches of trail don’t have any shops/restaurants (as outlined in the maps), so take some snacks as back up. Tap water in Japan is potable – make sure you fill up as regularly as you can, especially during summer when temperatures can reach 35+ degrees C.
Earthquakes & Tsunamis
If you feel a tremor, head directly to high ground. Tsunami evacuation zones tend to be well-marked in more built-up places. Remain in a safe place until you have been given the all-clear (and not before). Follow the directions of local officials.
Yes, that’s right! The trail does go through some bear habitat, and you may see signs warning of bears along parts of the trail (mainly in Aomori and northern Iwate prefectures). Remember, Japanese bears are NOT grizzlies. They tend to be shy and scared of humans. But of course, there are rare cases of bear attacks in Japan (none so far on the trail, as far as I know), so take basic precautions like wearing a bear bell. Also, some towns will broadcast bear sightings on the PA system (クマ出没情報 kuma shutsubotsu jyouhou). Prefectural governments even have maps showing latest bear sightings and other useful information (see Aomori Prefecture Bear Page and Iwate Prefecture Bear Page).
Other Important Points
Make sure you tell someone where you’re going and which section of the trail you’re walking each day, especially for the more mountainous and remote sections. Take an emergency blanket, torch (flashlight), and first aid kit, as well as other common-sense items for outdoor activities.
The trail should be marked by these kinds of markers:
And in places, these will be replaced by these bands:
However, there are many parts of the trail that are unmarked, so you may have to guess and be a little creative at times…
In my experience, the areas in Aomori and northern Iwate were better marked than the others. Be prepared for some serious guess work, and make sure you bring the right maps!