Travel back in time as you follow in the footsteps of medieval shoguns and samurai while immersed in traditional culture
Walking through the Japanese countryside, it is easy to see what has inspired the elegant simplicity of Japan’s traditional art: ethereal cherry blossoms, ancient temples, lush valleys, misty forests, and snowcapped peaks. Today, we tend to associate Japan with the hustle and bustle of modern Tokyo and its outstanding technological legacies, but the traditions of ancient Japan are still strongly ingrained in the culture. Traveling through its magnificent landscapes, you’ll hear the echoes of shoguns, samurai and merchants who once traveled on foot or horseback on a network of trails linking the Imperial capital with the provincial towns of the Kiso Valley.
MTS’ Walking Japan itinerary combines stunning hiking with timeless tradition. Hiking along well-maintained trails through forested mountains and past hamlets and small villages quickly brings you in touch with the real Japan. While some tours of Japan spend only one night in traditional accommodations and eat mainly western food, our trip immerses you in Japanese culture to experience the gracious hospitality of small, family-run inns and exquisitely-prepared, multi-course Japanese meals. You will travel in the company of our expert, bilingual, Japanese guides, who will share the culture, history, and traditions of their country with passion and a flawless attention to detail.
We embark from the old imperial city of Kyoto, home of an incredible 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, where we’ll visit Kinkaku-ji—the Golden Pavilion—built by the Ashikaga Shogun at the end of the 14th century. We’ll see the Gion Geisha district and stroll the famous Philosopher’s Path lined with cherry trees—sublime in the springtime! Our first hike is along the Yamannobe-nomichi, literally “path beside the mountains,” said to be the oldest road in Japan. From the Nara plain, we’ll travel by train along the scenic Nankai railway to Mount Koya, a high bowl-shaped valley filled with towering cedar trees. The center of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, this region is home to more than 100 monasteries. Here we’ll stay in a traditional shukubo (temple lodgings) and dine on shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian fare). A sumptuous dinner awaits in Akame, a small village deep in the hills of Mie Prefecture, followed by hot springs baths, an age-old Japanese custom guaranteed to relax tired muscles. We continue along the Nakasendo, one of Japan’s principal trade routes during the time of the shoguns. Beautifully preserved post towns (called juku) pepper the route, and you’ll enjoy the hospitality of villagers who have converted their traditional ‘machiya’ houses into inns. We wrap up our journey in Tokyo. We’ll get to experience the electric energy of the city, with time to visit the elegant Ginza shopping district, the Imperial Palace and the Grand Meiji Shrine. Come experience Japan, MTS-style!
4 days of easy to moderate hiking along country trails and village roads
- Explore the old imperial city of Kyoto, its ancient temples, the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji, and the Gion Geisha district
- Follow your local MTS guide over some of the oldest trails in Japan through medieval towns, lush valleys, and misty forests
- Stay at traditional Japanese inns, including a night at a shukubo, a pilgrims’ lodging, soak in hot springs, and eat exquisitely prepared, multi-course Japanese meals every night—only with MTS
- Experience the electric energy of Tokyo and visit some of its oldest sites, including the Imperial Palace and the Grand Meiji Shrine
Duration: 11 days Start Location: Kyoto End Location: TokyoDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Kyoto (This entire trip is below 6,000' elevation)
Arrive in Kyoto.
Day 2 : Kyoto
Explore Kyoto: walk to nearby Ryoan-ji to see its famous rock garden and stroll the Philosopher's Path along a canal lined with mature sakura (flowering cherry trees).
Day 3 : Nara
Visit the ancient capital of Nara and walk in the nearby hills. Return to Kyoto in the late afternoon.
Day 4 : Mount Koya and Pilgrim’s Trail
This morning we travel along the scenic Nankai railway, which brings us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mount Koya, home to more than 100 monasteries, many of which host travelers in shukubo, or temple lodgings.
Day 5 : Mount Koya and Kiso Valley
Tour the vast Okuno-in cemetery, with thousands of graves and memorials to feudal lords, shoguns, samurai, politicians and other luminaries. We then head by train to the Kiso Valley, where we’ll enjoy the hospitality of villagers who have converted their traditional machiya houses into inns.
Day 6 : Kiso Valley and Nakasendo
In the morning, take time to explore the small post-town of Magome before we walk to the village of Tsumago-juku over Magome Pass. This small village has many restored machiya houses lining the main street and there are small shops selling local crafts as well as snacks such as gohei-mochi (rice paste covered in a miso sauce).
Day 7 : Tsumago – Nojiri
Continuing our journey along Nakasendo, we head to Nojiri via the route of your choice: a 13-mile hike or an abbreviated version (2.5-miles) with a train ride. Then a short train ride brings us to Kiso-Fukushima, where we'll stay at the Koma-no-yu Ryokan.
Day 8 : Yabuhara – Narai
A short train ride takes us to the post town of Yabuhara, where we climb to Torii Pass for a stunning view of the Kiso Valley. Mid-afternoon finds us in Narai-juku, one of the best-preserved villages on the route. We have the unique experience of traveling without our luggage, as it will be transferred by courier this morning to Tokyo. You will need to pack a bag or pack to carry your overnight items.
Day 9 : Hirasawa – Tokyo
A short morning walk to the town of Hirasawa, renowned for its lacquer-ware artisans. We'll stop in at one of their workshops before transferring to Tokyo.
Day 10 : Tokyo
Hit the highlights of Tokyo: Nihonbashi, the elegant Ginza shopping district, and the spacious park around the Imperial Palace as well as the Grand Meiji Shrine and the famous Shibuya entertainment area.
Day 11 : Departure
DATES: Best time to go: April - May, September - November Departures: Sep 15 - 25, 2014 Oct 13 - 23, 2014 Nov 10 - 20, 2014 Mar 30, 2015 - Apr 9, 2015 Apr 13 - 23, 2015 Sep 14 - 24, 2015 Oct 12 - 22, 2015 Oct 26, 2015 - Nov 5, 2015 Nov 9 - 19, 2015
$5,295 (5-12 members)
$700 single supplement (Single only guaranteed in Kyoto and Tokyo)
$5,495 (5-12 members)
$700 single supplement (Single only guaranteed in Kyoto and Tokyo)
Welcome to Iseya Ryokan. This is a minshuku with 10 rooms.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Yumiko was born in Japan but spent several years living in the UK as a child, and returned to Japan to attend university. She has climbed many of highest peaks in Japan and had guided foreign visitors both on cultural and hiking trips. She has traveled to more than 80 countries, and is keen hiker, climber and cyclist. Yumiko's hobbies are also gardening, botany and architecture. She is member of the Japan Guide Association. Yumiko always looks forward to share her knowledge about her beautiful country