Let us introduce you to the real Japan, where ancient shrines and glass skyscrapers coexist in peaceful contrast and where the splendid cultural panoply complements the incredible natural beauty found away from the bustling cities.
On this journey, we’ll discover Japan’s rustic history and high-tech modernity, its warm hospitality and outstanding cuisine, and its unique culture and striking landscapes by exploring Kyoto and Tokyo before spending a few days walking The Nakasendo Trail, a historic inn-to-inn walking route that linked Kyoto to Tokyo during Japan’s feudal period. This ‘road through the mountains’ was traveled by lords and their retinues, samurai, and merchants with 69 ‘post towns’ where weary travelers could rest before continuing on their next leg. Join us to uncover traditional Japanese culture that few have the opportunity to experience.
Arrive in Kyoto
The official start of our tour begins today with meeting the guide and the rest of the group in the lobby of our hotel in Kyoto.
Enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant, which gives an introduction to the best of traditional Japanese specialties.
Royal Park Hotel the KyotoKyoto, Japan
The Royal Park Hotel is located in Kawaramachi-Sanjon, the heart of Kyoto. Close to many popular tourist destinations, the hotel features a clean, modern design and an onsite restaurant and bar.
Fushimi Inari; Zen Meditation
Today we visit the stunning shrine complex of Fushimi Inari, which is famous for its many red torii gates. There are several gates and shrines spread across the entire mountain.
Next we visit Tofuku-ji Temple and its unique Zen rock garden. After lunch we will join a meditation session at a local temple to experience the tranquility and peace of this Zen Buddhist practice.
Kurama to Kibune; Tea Ceremony
We begin this morning in the hills of northern Kyoto, on sacred Mount Kurama. Here, Samurai trained with mountain Buddhist practitioners in the 12th century. From Kurama Temple we hike to the Kifune Shrine, which is known for bringing good fortune to those seeking luck in love. Dedicated to the the local god of water, Takaokami no Kami, the shrine's proximity to the source of the Kamogawa River has made it both a spiritual place of healing and a popular escape from the heat of summer.
Our walk begins with a steep and long ascent up stone steps to the Kurama Temple. We'll stop to take in the beautiful scenery and spend time at the shrines and smaller temples along the way.
After lunch, we tour Nijo Castle, which was the seat of power for the Shoguns from the early 17th to 20th centuries. The castle has an inner and outer moat, and the central Ninomaru Palace is comprised of separate chambers connected by long halls and built almost entirely of Hinoki Cypress.
After our tour, we'll participate in a tea ceremony and hear about the traditions surrounding this ritual.
Temples of Nara
This morning we travel to Nara, which was Japan's first permanent capital and is second only to Kyoto in significance of cultural legacy. Nara is a compact city known for its eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, many of which are in or near Nara Park. A local guide will lead us on a walk through the park, known for its many spotted deer. According to legend, the god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly-built capital. Ever since, they have been regarded as holy animals and protectors.
We first visit Todai-ji Temple, home to the largest bronze Buddha statue, known as Daibutsu in Japanese. We then begin our hike where we will pass by the Kasuga Taisha Shrine and see its hundreds of stone and bronze lanterns. We'll continue up to Mount Wakakusama, which offers unobstructed views of the city, park, and temple complexes below.
This evening is yours to explore Nara on your own, enjoy dinner, and relax.
Nara HotelNara, Japan
Overlooking Nara Park, the Nara Hotel blends traditional Japanese decor and modern comforts. Features and amenities include beautiful wood ceilings, bamboo blinds, a bar, a lounge, and two restaurants.
Hike Magome to Tsumago
Following breakfast, we travel via bullet train and a short journey on a local bus to Magome, where we begin our hike along sections of the Nakasendo Trail.
The central road through the mountains, the Nakasendo Trail was part of a network of ancient highways and connected Kyoto and Tokyo. Along the way, post towns known as Juku allowed travelers to rest overnight. This tradition is alive and well in its own way; family-run guesthouses, or Minshuku, still exist along the route and offer a chance to experience the Nakasendo Trail as it was walked for centuries.
Today's first hike crosses Magome Pass, one of the most challenging sections. Upon arrival in Tsumago, we will shuttle to our Japanese-style hotel for the evening. Tonight, we have the option of a traditional Japanese bath in the hotel's onsen.
Yamaka no yu RyokanKiso-machi City, Japan
This traditional ryokan boasts views of Mt. Ontake. Rooms are Japanese style with tatami flooring and futon bedding. Relax in a semi-outdoor hot spring bath.
Today we hike around the Kaida Plateau, where we'll walk around a particularly beautiful part of the Nagano Prefecture. These beautiful higher elevation highlands offer views of Mt. Ontake in the distance and are home to native Kiso horses, of which only about 50 remain. Upon our arrival in the town of Kiso-Fukushima, we will visit a local brewery to learn about how sake is made. Sake is only brewed in the winter months, when the delicate koji molds can work their magic and provide the necessary fermentation.
We stay at a hot spring ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, for the next two nights. As is common in ryokans, dinner will be elaborately prepared and presented, highlighting seasonal ingredients in local specialties.
This evening at our inn, we will have another opportunity to enjoy a traditional Japanese bath at the inn's onsen.
Komanoyu RyokanKiso-Fukushima, Japan
This traditional Japanese-style inn has lovely, big onsen baths with indoor and outdoor sections. Rooms are elegantly decorated with tatami matting.
Nagiso to Nojiri
We hike a longer section of the Nakasendo today, which travels through small valleys, forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar, and unspoiled scenery.
We stop for a picnic lunch on the trail before continuing on our way, arriving in Nojiri where we will then transfer to our inn in Kiso-Fukushima. This evening, we'll enjoy a performance of Kisobushi songs — traditional folk songs from the Koso District of the Nagano Prefecture that are about the mountains, river, and people who live there.
Once again, we have the option to enjoy a soak at the inn's traditional Japanese onsen bath before or after dinner this evening.
Hike from Yabuhara to Narai
We begin with a short transfer from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara via train this morning. We'll hike over the challenging Torii pass to Narai, which during the Edo Period marked the halfway point between Kyoto and Edo. Once known as "Narai of 1000 Inns," it was the most prosperous of the 69 post towns along the Nakasendo. Restored homes line the lonstreets, evoking a sense of the wealth that once set this village apart from others.
We'll have time to explore Narai before checking in to a traditional guesthouse for the evening.
Iseya MinshukuNarai, Japan
Originally founded in 1818 as a small general store, this traditional inn features the architectural styles of the late Edo Period. Rooms are bright, cozy, and give an authentic sense "Old Japan" along the Nakasendo Trail.
Sightseeing in Tokyo
After breakfast, we depart for Tokyo, as our time hiking the Nakasendo Trail has come to an end.
We'll end our tour with a day of sightseeing in Japan's capital, visiting the popular Asakusa shopping district seeing the Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa Shrine.
We enjoy our farewell dinner this evening to celebrate our successful journey!
Park Hotel TokyoTokyo, Japan
Located on the 25th floor of the Shiodome Media Tower, the Park Hotel Tokyo offers city views and quality service.
After breakfast this morning you can extend your time in Tokyo and explore the city independently, or transfer to the airport in time for flights home.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
Apr 13-22, 2020
Oct 12-21, 2020
Nov 9-18, 2020
Nov 23-Dec 2, 2020
Take over a date for your group! See "Make It Private" on Dates & Prices tab.
From $6,695 Per Person
First two reserved:$595
See single supplement policy below.
10+ Guests: $6,895 per person
4 to 9 Guests: $7,595 per person
Make it Private price is based on Land Cost only, and a guarantee of the specified number of guests in double occupancy. For groups smaller than the numbers shown, or those requiring single occupancy, we reserve the right to adjust the per person price. Additionally, some trips have minimum group sizes. Please call 1-800-941-8010 for details.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. This trip is rated 2+, easy to moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). Japan's fertile landscapes, rolling hills, and forest paths offer elevations ranging from sea level to 5,000 feet. Our walks and hikes range from 1 to 5 hours (3 to 6 miles), on well-established trails and paved city streets. Elevation changes range from negligable amounts on our city walks, to an approximate 2,500' ascent and 1,900' descent on our most challenging days.
Our group will meet at the Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo on Day 1 of the tour
The tour ends after breakfast on day 10 in Tokyo.
International Airfare (into Osaka and out of Tokyo) is not included in the price of your trip. Please contact your local travel agency or the airlines directly to make any arrangements you may need. If you would like assistance booking airfare, Boundless Journeys can request flights from our travel agency partner.
Japan's average temperatures and weather patterns can vary greatly, with mountain climates and surrounding warm seas bringing rain and snow. Meanwhile, the western coasts are often rainy and windy while the Pacific coast sees dry, clear days. Summer is monsoon season, while spring and autumn tend to be the most pleasant.
The following are average temperatures you can expect during this tour.
You may obtain more detailed weather information at www. weatherbase.com.
Spring and autumn are generally the best times to visit Japan, when there is little rainfall and temperatures are mild. The delicate cherry blossoms in the spring and vivid hues of autumn leaves are visually stunning against the landscape.
Most meals will be Japanese cuisine, though breakfast options in Western-style hotels may include more familiar choices. The base ingredient of most Japanese dishes is sticky white rice. Soybeans are another staple, as they are used in miso soup, tofu, bean curd, and soy sauce. Donburi is a common dish that translates literally to "rice bowl," and refers to a bowl of fried rice with a topping such as a deep-fried pork cutlet with an egg, or beef and onion. Bowls of soba or udon noodles are also popular, often served in broth with egg, onion, and deep-fried tofu. Perhaps Japan's most well-know food export, sushi (with rice) and sashimi (fresh sliced raw fish) are also quite popular, though relatively more expensive and therefore eaten less frequently. Grilled and fried meat dishes are a more recent addition to Japanese cuisine; beef, pork, and chicken are now common in tempura dishes, which are batter fried, and in teppanyaki, which refers to meat grilled on a hot plate. Western-inspired dishes are also popular even in rural areas. Vegetarian options are available, but may be limited. Strict vegan or gluten-free diets may not be able to be accommodated due to the prevalence of dashi, miso, and soy sauce.
Atsuko was born in Osaka, an old merchant city, and grew up in Kamakura, an ancient capital of the samurais. From the time she was a child, she visited many temples and shrines, which fostered her love for Japanese culture at a young age. She attended Sophia University in Tokyo, where she studied French. Atsuko then spent time exploring the world, and lived in Los Angeles, Bangkok, London, and Paris. After returning to Japan, she discovered a passion for introducing Japanese culture to foreign visitors, and worked in the Edo-Tokyo Museum as a volunteer guide for seven years. Now she works as a tour guide, and leads active walking and cultural tours in both English and French. Throughout her tours, she always tries her best to show guests the real beauty of Japan and help them connect with the Japanese way of thinking and living. Atsuko looks forward to welcoming you to her country!
Hiroko lives in her native home in the Chiba prefecture. She began her career in tourism when she worked on an island in the Maldives as a tour operator in the late 1980’s. Hiroko returned to Japan and became a tour leader for Japanese group tours overseas, thereby gaining practical experience and communication skills working in different cultures. Hiroko briefly worked in education, but came back to tourism with an earnest desire to spend time with travelers from all over the world! Her goals as a guide are to facilitate memorable experiences full of interactive opportunities and for her guests. In her free time, Hiroko loves to cook, read, and visit rustic Onsen (hot spring) places in the countryside after trail walks. In recent years, she has enjoyed growing organic rice with her close friends.
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work—the mark of a truly great leader—our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own. Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Easy to moderate walking and hiking, 3-6 hours per day.
This trip can be your own adventure by taking over one of our scheduled dates, or we can request a fresh one.
By: Katya d'Angelo
In this digital age, it's easy to be an armchair traveler—browsing travel magazines on an iPad, scrolling through photos on social media, or reading a blog on the newest undiscovered…
Read This Article
- or -
See Related Articles
October and November are great months to travel. It's the shoulder season in many places, which means there are fewer crowds. These months also offer fabulous hiking weather—it's not as hot as…
The internet is awash with lists for 2019 – from “New Year, New You” healthy living plans to the latest interior design trends. Our favorites, of course, are those that…
Our dedicated team of travel experts are here to help.
Top 5 World's Best Tour OperatorsMulti-year Recipient
50 Tours Of A LifetimeMulti-year Recipient
Best Adventure Travel Company Winner
Save 5% on any 2020 scheduled tour—DOUBLE your savings to 10% by paying in full at time of reservation! Reserve directly with us by November 30th, 2019. Conditions apply. Call 1-800-941-8010 for more information or to reserve.