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  • Walking & Trekking
  • New Walking Holidays
  • Food

    • — Explore beautiful and fascinating Kyoto — Enjoy historic pilgrimage walks along the Kumano Kodo — Immerse in Japanese culture off the beaten track — Walk the Nakasendo Way from Tsumago to Magome — Learn about the pearl-collecting Ama Divers while staying in Toba — Stay in charming Kiso Fukushima
  • 1

    Start Kyoto

    With about 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a treasure house of Japan’s cultural heritage and remains one of the most fascinating cities in Asia. Unlike many other Japanese cities, it escaped the ravages of both the Second World War and modern urban development, keeping intact much of the spirit and architecture of traditional Japan. You are free to arrive at the start hotel anytime today during the day. This evening, there is a briefing with your leader. Accommodation: Hotel Resol Kyoto Trinity Oike Fuyacho (or similar)

  • 2

    Hike to the Kibune shrine; onto Kurama temple; return to Kyoto

    This morning, we set out on our first hike, visiting the northern mountains and the Kibune shrine, followed by the Kurama temple. Our first stop, however, is the Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion). From here, we climb up to the Daimonji mountain for an excellent view of Kyoto, then take a short train ride north to Kibune-guchi, where the hike to Kibune and Kifune shrine begins. Kifune shrine was built upon the site where supposedly a goddess finished a long journey by boat. It’s dedicated to the deity of water and rain, so all those who seek protection and maritime safety come here to pray – especially seamen and fishermen. The charming town of Kibune is dotted with traditional restaurants and inns, with streams running beneath the restaurant platforms. It’s an excellent opportunity to relax, especially for those who wish to escape the Kyoto crowds. We then set out for Kurama town, renowned for its Kurama temple and special hot springs. The temple is deep in the woods and requires a fair bit of legwork to reach, but those who do venture there are rewarded with beautiful scenery along the path. We return to Kyoto for the evening, where you can choose to join an optional group dinner in the Gion district if you wish. Accommodation: Hotel Resol Kyoto Trinity Oike Fuyacho (or similar)

  • 3

    Walk on the ancient Yamanobe-no-michi

    Leaving the north of Kyoto, we enjoy a pleasant hike on the Yamanobe-no-michi. The path is believed to be the oldest still in existence connecting Edo (present day Tokyo) with the western parts of Japan with a history of more than 1,200 years. Starting in present-day Nara and spanning through what used to be Yamato – the cradle of Japanese civilisation – the trail takes us through more than 9mi (15km) of distance and two millennia of history. Along the way, we discover relics of a distant past, including the seventh-century BCE shrine of Omiwa, said to be the oldest still standing in Japan. There are also many temples and shrines dotting the trail and the trail itself runs through lush forests and comfortable paths. As we pass rural villages, we can experience true Japanese hospitality as fruit vendors often offer locally grown fresh produce to trail hikers as an energy booster. In the late afternoon, we return to Kyoto for an evening at leisure. Accommodation: Hotel Resol Kyoto Trinity Oike Fuyacho (or similar)

  • 4

    Morning walk to the Fushimi Inari shrine; free time in Kyoto before train to Tanabe

    We have an early start to visit the most iconic sight in Kyoto: the Shinto shrine known as Fushimi Inari-taisha. Working folk have worshipped Inari, the deity of good harvest and business, since the seventh century. Even today, businessmen and entrepreneurs from all corners of Japan donate a torii arch to the shrine in hope of gaining the deity’s favour. Although this custom is fairly recent, the mountain path has thousands of torii arches, making for a wonderful morning stroll at the break of dawn. We start early to beat the crowds, otherwise we must compete with the thousands of visitors Fushimi Inari-taisha attracts daily. After the hike, we return to the hotel. The rest of the morning is free for visiting the sites of Kyoto, such as the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle or the Golden Pavilion. In the afternoon, we leave Kyoto by train and head to Kumano Kodo, a series of pilgrimage routes more than 1,000 years’ old, when the imperial ancestors of Japan made pilgrimage from Kyoto. In the Kii Peninsula, the largest in Japan, the trails along Kumano Kodo are incredible for hiking. Taking a train to the tip of the peninsula, we reach the rural coastal town of Tanabe, where we spend the night. Accommodation: Kamenoi Hotel Kii Tanabe/Azikuno Garuten (or similar)

  • 5

    Start walking the Kumano Kodo. Bus transfer to Takajiri-oji; hike to Nonaka passing Takahara village

    After an early breakfast, we take a bus to Takijiri-oji, the start point of the pilgrimage, from where we walk to Takahara. This is the steepest part of the trail, leading to Takahara Shrine, a Shinto shrine surrounded by ancient camphor trees. From here, we walk towards Takahara village, also called kiri-no-sato (village in the fog), a small, quiet town with rice terraces and surrounded by forests. The trail continues upwards until we reach the Uwadawa-jaya teahouse, where the trail begins to descend, passing ruin shrines and the small villages of Osakamoto-oji and Chikatsuyu-oji, crossing Kitano-bashi bridge, and following the road to Nonaka-no-Shimizu, a source of potable water. Around the Nonaka-no-Shimizu area, the group are accommodated in modern Japanese container style cottages, located not too far from the Kumano Kodo trail. As our hike tomorrow is a bit longer and more challenging, we highly recommend turning in early. Accommodation: Sen Retreat Chikatsuyu (or similar)

  • 6

    Walk in the forest, crossing rivers and ancient shrines; transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen

    Today we start with a 10-minute bus ride to the start of our hike. We first start walking uphill, and head towards the woods to see Tsugizakura-oji, a sub-shrine at the top of steep stairs leading into a thick forest of huge cedar trees believed. Next to the entrance of Tsugizakura-oji, we find Toganoki-jaya, a replica of a traditional Japanese teahouse. We then continue with a slow ascent to Kobiro-toge pass, followed by a relatively downward trail along a series of paved and unpaved paths, passing Jagata-jizo, which is believed to protect travellers from evil spirits, a couple of river crossings and passing by thick forests of cedar and cypress until we reach Kumano Hongu Taisha, the head shrine of more than 3,000 Shinto shrines in the Kumano area. After visiting the shrine, we transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest and most revered hot spring resorts in Japan as it used to be the place where pilgrims cleansed themselves before praying at Kumano Hongu Taisha. Tonight, we stay at a ryokan, another traditional Japanese-style inn, where we sleep on a futon, have access to the public onsen, and enjoy a Kaiseki-style dinner. Accommodation: Yunomineso Ryokan (or similar)

  • 7

    Follow the old spiritual path from Ukegawa to Koguchi; transfer to Kawayu Onsen; enjoy views of the Kumano mountains

    After breakfast, we take a bus from Yunomine Onsen to Ukegawa where today’s hike (mainly along unpaved road) commences. We pass the remains of the Matsuhata-jaya teahouse and Hyakken-gura, one of the top spots in Wakayama to see the Kumano mountains, which consists of around 3,600 peaks. From here, we continue on a mainly level road towards the remains of the Sakura-jaya teahouse, before descending from the hills, along a path with cobblestones (which can be slippery, especially if wet or covered with moss). At the foot of the hill, we should find small prayer tablets left by other spiritual hikers as offerings. We continue onto Koguchi, the end of today’s walk, where we take a bus via Kanmaru to Kawayu onsen. This place is famous for the hot spring beside the river. Accommodation: Omuraya Ryokan (or similar)

  • 8

    Walk past historic sites and enjoy wonderful views to Nachi Falls and Kumano Nachi Taisha

    We rise very early and return to Koguchi to begin our hike. Today’s trail is one of the most challenging sections of Kumano Kodo, taking us through forested hills and along unpaved roads. However, a series of historic sites and wonderful views await as we pass Waroda-ishi rock (where the Kumano deities are believed to meet and chat over tea), through the woods of Irokawatsuji, and over Funami-toge Pass, where we glimpse the Pacific Ocean. After hiking for almost eight hours, we arrive in Nachi. Here, we see Nachi Falls, the highest waterfall in Japan, and pay a visit to Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine. Later in the afternoon, we take a local bus (approximately 30 minutes) to Katsuura, staying at a Japanese inn on the beautiful islet-dotted Katsuura Bay, where we can listen to the ocean waves and relax after completing our hikes along the memorable Kumano Kodo. Accommodation: Hotel Sunrise Katsuura/Pals Inn Katsuura (or similar)

  • 9

    Travel by train to Toba in the rural Mie prefecture; learn about the Ama Divers on Mikimoto Pearl Island

    After breakfast, we get ready for a short walk to return to Katsuura station on foot (with luggage), where we begin our journey by train to Toba in the neighbouring Mie prefecture. The rural Mie prefecture has forested landscapes and Mediterranean-looking coastlines. The area is also known for producing some of the freshest seafood in Japan and, in its waters, pearl cultivation has become an important activity. Upon arrival in Toba, we store our luggage safely at the station before having lunch and walking a short distance to Mikimoto Pearl Island, where we learn about pearl cultivation and the life of the Ama Divers. These female divers are famous for their centuries-long tradition of diving for pearls without oxygen masks and here we witness an Ama Diver demonstration. After, we continue to the Osatsu area in Toba where we spend the next two nights at a ryokan in Japanese-style rooms. Accommodation: Ohtaya Ryokan (or similar)

  • 10

    Osatsu village followed by lunch at the Ama hut; visit Ise Shrine

    This morning, we can relax in the ryokan or walk around the neighbourhood where there may be the chance to visit a local shrine and temple or, in warmer weather, enjoy a swim at the local sandy beach. Late morning, we take a short walk to visit the hut of an Ama Diver, who prepares us a grilled seafood meal. After lunch, we continue to the Ise Shrine by train, one of the most sacred areas for the Shinto religion and a favourite pilgrimage destination for Japanese people. Just a short walk away, the picturesque Okage-Yokocho district offers a great outlook on the traditional side of the area with quaint shops selling local arts and crafts and food before returning to our ryokan. Accommodation: Ohtaya Ryokan (or similar)

  • 11

    Scenic train journey to Kiso Fukushima

    A long and scenic train journey with one change takes us to Kiso Fukushima in about 4hr 30min. Upon arrival, we take a short orientation tour with our leader. Kiso Fukushima is a delightful town in the Nagano prefecture on the railway line between Nagoya and Matsumoto in central Japan, roughly half-way along the Nakasendo. Kiso Fukushima was an important checkpoint on the route, and its historic sekisho (barrier station) is one of only two on the Nakasendo. The Fukushima sekisho-ato (checkpoint) is where travellers on the Nakasendo were made to wait and present their passes to travel on the highway. The Tokugawa regime was on the lookout for guns and women travelling in disguise. Across the Kiso River from the Fukushima Sekisho-ato is Kozenji Temple with an attractive rock garden. Kozenji Temple is free to enter and lovely, especially in autumn. We spend the next two nights in Kiso Fukushima in Japanese-style rooms at a simple family-run ryokan. Accommodation: Ryokan Sarashinaya (or similar)

  • 12

    Walk a section of the ancient Nakasendo Way from Tsumago to Magome

    After an early breakfast, we travel by train to Nagiso in about 50 minutes. Upon arrival, we take a short ride on a local bus to Tsumago, a well-preserved post town. Tsumago had a golden era when merchants, nobles and other prominent people frequently passed through for trade and other formal appointments. From Tsumago, we start the journey to Magome, one of the post towns that flourished in the Edo period. The trail that runs from Tsumago to Magome is perhaps the most popular section of Nakasendo. This ancient trail can be completed in about three hours, including some quick breaks. After concluding the trail, we ride a bus to Nakatsugawa and then a train back to Kiso Fukushima in just over one hour. Accommodation: Ryokan Sarashinaya (or similar)

  • 13

    Train to Tokyo; free time to explore

    After breakfast, we embark on our last scenic train journey to Tokyo in a little over three hours with one change en route. We may catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji on the way, if weather conditions permit. We recommend buying a bento on the way for lunch as the journey is about three hours –the leader can advise. After check-in at our hotel, you have a few hours to explore Tokyo before an optional farewell dinner. Accommodation: Hotel Dormy Inn Kodenmacho (or similar)

  • 14

    End Tokyo

    The trip ends this morning after breakfast. For more information on returning home, see the Joining Instructions in the Trip Notes. Alternatively, if you’d like to spend a little longer exploring, speak to your sales representative about extending your stay.

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