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2023 Walking Tour of Central Japan in Autumn

2023 Walking Tour of Central Japan in Autumn

An unforgettable hiking experience along the Nakasendo Way – Japan’s most famous walking route. You also delve deeper into less explored walks in the iconic cities of Kamakura, Kyoto and Takayama.


12 days

Group size

Min 4

Max 8

Tour Overview

For those who love exploring a destination on foot, the 2023 Walking Tour of Central Japan in Autumn takes you on many short-guided hikes through Central Japan at autumn time.

The tour suits fit and active people who are comfortable hiking up to 10 – 15 km a day. Each of the daily walking tours has been designed to highlight cultural and historical interest points, traditional architecture and the local way of life – providing unforgettable insights into Japan and its people.

The highlight of the tour is well-paced daily walks along the Nakasendo Way – part of Japan’s ancient mountain highway between Tokyo and Kyoto – travelled by feudal lords, merchants and pilgrims for centuries. This historic walk looks much as it did all those years ago and takes you through mountains covered in autumn colour to the unbelievably picturesque post towns of Tsumago, Magome and Narai. Along the way, you’ll sample regional cuisine, stay in rustic country-style inns and soak in thermal hot springs.

You’ll also explore an ancient seaside capital of Kamakura, the charming feudal town of Takayama with its beautifully preserved merchant quarter, and the refined imperial capital of Kyoto with its contemplative temples and exquisite gardens.

The tour starts in Kamakura (near Tokyo) and ends in Kyoto, and includes guided walking tours in these cities specifically designed to show you the backstreets of everyday neighbourhoods that most tourists miss. We highly recommend you spend a few more days of your own at the beginning and/or the end of the group tour to discover endless attractions of Tokyo and Kyoto areas especially if you are first-time visitors of Japan. Journey to the East will be delighted to plan your private itinerary and provide information to suit your interests.

Dates & Prices

2023 Walking Tour of Central Japan in Autumn

Per person twin share:

Single supplement



Day 1: Arrival

Welcome to Japan! On arrival at Narita or Haneda International Airport, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by an Narita Express train.

Today is an arrival day and no group program is scheduled. Your hotel is located in the middle of attractive Kamakura. Why not take a stroll and relax, ready to start the first full day of your 2023 Walking Tour of Central Japan in Autumn.

*Many of our guests arrive a day or so early to settle in before the tour starts. We can arrange your additional nights accommodation in the same room as the tour. Kamakura is one hour away by train from Tokyo, and is a great base if you would like to make a day trip to the country's capital.

Kamakura (Hotel Metropolitan Kamakura)
No meals
Day 2: Kamakura

Today you begin your exploration on a quaint little local train - Enoden, then start your walk of Daibutsu Hiking Course with a highlight of Kotoku-in Temple where Kamakura's Great Buddha statue resides.

This walk has plenty to interest you visiting some significant cultural sites as well as small intriguing spots such as;

  • Sasuke Inari Shrine (with many red gates and flags), and
  • Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine, which is known for money-washing ritual (to increase your wealth!).

It is a well-paced full day walk lots of stops. At the end of the walk, you will come out at the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, a symbol of Kamakura. Walking through a charming Komachi Street and back to your hotel, check out some local crafts and food.

A "welcome to Japan dinner" is at a local restaurant with your fellow travelers tonight.

(Total walking distance today - about 15 km)

Kamakura (Hotel Metropolitan Kamakura)
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Kamakura

Another interesting hiking day in Kamakura. Today, you will walk to the eastern side of the town including Hokokuji Temple with beautiful bamboo grove, and Jomyoji where you can enjoy Japanese style matcha tea.

In the afternoon, you have some free time to explore the ever so attractive Kamakura at your own pace. Kamakura is not only historically significant; it is very popular as a place to live with modern Japanese people because of its relaxed coastal environment. Why not walk down to the beach, stroll around the residential areas, and check out little cafes and craft shops.

(Total walking distance today - about 7 km)

Kamakura (Hotel Metropolitan Kamakura)
Day 4: Magome

You leave the Greater Tokyo region today, whisked away by Japan’s shinkansen bullet-train down to the city of Nagoya.

Here we transfer to a local train and begin the climb into the foothills of Japan’s central mountain region to the small town of Nakatsugawa in the delightful Kiso Valley.

This afternoon, putting on your walking shoes you begin the first leg of our hike along the Nakasendo Way, one of Japan’s most scenic routes. The Nakasendo was one of the old highways connecting Edo (today's Tokyo) with Kyoto and the historic route takes you through forested mountains and beautifully preserved post towns.

Our first stop is the village of Magome and here we stay at a charming minshuku guest house and sleep in a traditional Japanese room with futon bedding.

Tonight, dinner is a hearty family meal at the minshuku.

(Total walking distance today - about 7 km)

Magome (Tajimaya - private room with shared bathroom facility)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5: Tsumago

After a hearty homemade breakfast at minshuku, you are back on the Nakasendo Way and walk the 7.8km Magome - Tsumago trail – one of the most popular sections of the route. Tsumago is a particularly well-preserved town, with old lattice-clad buildings in dark wood fronting both sides of its long main street.

In the afternoon, you transfer to your hotel in the mountain. Tonight, you sleep on western bed, but still with the Japanese style hospitality together with outdoor onsen bath under the gorgeous stars! Soaking in a natural hot springs bath after a day in the fresh air, you’ll soon realise why visiting an onsen remains one of the ultimate pastime for the Japanese!

(Total walking distance today - about 12 km)

Tsumago (Fuki-no-mori)
Breakfast (Japanese style), Dinner
Day 6: Narai

A local train transports you to the township of Yabuhara, where you begin your hike along a high mountain pass covered in autumn colour and down a valley to the village of Narai.

In another beautifully-preserved post town, you have the afternoon free to explore its charming streetscape at your leisure or simply relax in your minshuku-style accommodation.

Dinner will be mountain cuisine at our minshuku made fresh that day from locally-sourced produce.

(Total walking distance today - about 10 km)

Narai (Iseya- private room with shared bathroom facility)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7: Matsumoto to Takayama

We leave the Nakasendo today and head by train to the city of Matsumoto in the heartland of the Japan Alps.

Matsumoto’s beginnings go back to the 8th century, later becoming an important castle town ruled by a powerful clan during Japan’s feudal period. Today, the city is popular for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and galleries.

It’s also home to the impressive Matsumoto Castle, Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of five castles designated as National Treasures. Still in impeccable original condition, you’ll explore its wooden interior and climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret.

You then hop on a local coach for Takayama. An atmospheric town surrounded by mountains and beautiful autumn foliage, Takayama is known for its beautifully preserved streets of merchant houses dating from the late 17th century.

Dinner tonight is at a local izakaya restaurant.

(Total walking distance today - about 10 km)

Takayama (Tokyu Stay Hida-Takayama Musubi-no-yu)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8: Takayama & Shirakawago

Takayama’s 200-year old Morning Market is your first stop to check out its farm-fresh produce and handmade crafts.

Next stop on the walking guided tour is Takayama Jinya, once the government office of the Tokugawa shogunate in feudal times. You also visit Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall to see its elaborately decorated festival floats. Walking through the impossibly photogenic narrow streets of the old merchant quarter you will pass some of the unusual sculptures that adorn the streets.

In the afternoon you visit a nearby UNESCO World Heritage listed farming village of Shirakawa-go exploring this charming rural village surrounded by mountains and autumn colours. The village’s famous thatched-roof farmhouses are known as gassho-zukuri (meaning “hands clasped together in prayer”). Their steeply-slanted roofs are built to withstand the region’s heavy snowfalls. You will go inside one of the houses to study the interior and learn about their history and snowbound countryside.

Tonight you will sample Takayama specialty, Hida wagyu beef at a yakiniku restaurant.

(Total walking distance today - about 10 km)

Takayama (Tokyu Stay Hida-Takayama Musubi-no-yu)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9: Takayama

Today is yours to explore Takayama at your leisure. You may like to simply linger in the old merchant district and wander through its old buildings converted into small museums, boutique sake breweries and craft shops selling high-quality woodwork, lacquer ware and textiles.

If you are interested in more nature walks, we recommend a guided walk along the Utsue Forty-Eight Waterfalls. The other active option is a half-day guided cycling through rice paddy of Hida region.

The evening is also free for you to sample some of Takayama's fine restaurants.

Takayama (Tokyu Stay Hida Takayama Musubi-no-yu)
Day 10: Kyoto

After a few days exploring mountain life, you change focus and take a scenic train trip down a river valley to Nagoya. Here we transfer to the shinkansen and head to our next destination – Kyoto, that most iconic of cities.

With 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan and the guardian of many of its ancient traditions. Originally made capital in 794, present-day Kyoto offers an endless range of traditional craft shops, superb restaurants, ancient temples and shrines, and some of Japan’s most beautiful gardens and great walks.

On arrival in the afternoon, your guide takes you on a walking tour of Philosopher's Path to enjoy the serenity and magnificent autumn leaves in sublime temple gardens.

(Total walking distance today - about 6 km)

Kyoto (The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11: Arashiyama

In Arashiyama and Sagano, at the foot of the mountains to Kyoto’s west, you visit superb examples of Japanese garden design.

You take the time to walk through the bamboo grove of Arashiyama, famous for its extensive forest of thick bamboo and ethereal light. Proceeding deeper into Sagano, you explore some hidden Buddhist temples to experience the rustic simplicity and serenity of a mountain temple away from the tourist crowds.

For lunch, you sample Kyoto’s traditional tofu cuisine, a local speciality which has its roots in Kyoto’s Buddhist vegetarian past.

Returning to the central Kyoto for a farewell dinner at a shabu shabu restaurant serving wagyu beef, you have a maiko (apprentice geisha) join you for a private performance. It is a unique opportunity to engage with her in person and learn more about this centuries-old art form and the life of a modern-day geisha.

(Total walking distance today - about 12 km)

Kyoto (The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12: Bon Voyage

This morning after breakfast, your 2023 Walking Tour of Central Japan in Autumn concludes.

You can return to Tokyo by train or air to fly home, or depart from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. Perhaps you might like to linger in Japan for a little longer. We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan. Please see our Extension Model Itineraries for some inspirations!

Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), but we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.


Accommodation listed in itineraries at the time of publishing is an indicative choice only and we may select a similar alternative.



  • 11 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
  • 11 breakfast, 3 lunches, 8 dinners
  • Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
  • All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
  • Pre-loaded Suica card
  • Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
  • Cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
  • Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)


  • International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
  • Transfer on the last day
  • Travel insurance
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
  • Transport during free time
  • Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
  • Visa (if required)

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Have a question about this tour? Get in touch with our staff directly.