2022 Autumn Walking Tour of Central Japan
For those who love exploring a destination by foot, the 2022 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 – 12 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 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 Tokyo and ends in Kyoto, and includes walking guided tours in these cities specifically designed to show you the backstreets of everyday neighbourhoods that most tourists miss. However, 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.
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you’ll be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel. After a good night’s sleep, you’ll be ready to start the first full day of your 2022 Walking Tour of Central Japan in Autumn.
Day 2: Tokyo
On today's guided tour of Tokyo, our guide will focus on the back-streets of Tokyo neighbourhoods where you will find hidden gems which can only be discovered on foot. In the morning, you will visit Tokyo's Marunouchi area in between the beautifully restored 100-year-old Tokyo Station and Imperial Palace Plaza. After lunching at a restaurant among the Japanese office workers of Marunouchi, we will move to walk through an old Tokyo suburb, Yanaka. Having survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and air-raids during WWII, Yanaka retains many traditional wooden houses and the old charm of Japanese suburbs. It is also popular with artists and craftspeople, and is dotted with lovely tiny shops in every corner. The welcome dinner tonight will be at a Japanese restaurant high above Tokyo with views of the city and Tokyo Bay. (Total walking distance today - about 10 km)
Day 3: Kamakura
A day trip takes us hiking through the historic seaside town of Kamakura today, just south of Tokyo’s sprawling metropolis. Capital for a brief 150 years from 1185, Kamakura retains its strong Buddhist heritage and contemplative atmosphere. Your guide will take you through small forested hills to reveal some hidden treasures – meditative Zen Buddhist temples, centuries-old tea houses in tranquil gardens, bamboo groves and delightful cafes in quiet backstreets. Kamakura's points of interest also include Japan’s second tallest Buddha statue, which has been serenely surveying the surrounding countryside since 1252. In the late afternoon before catching the train back to Tokyo, we pause at popular Komachi Street near the station. Full of craft shops and art galleries, it’s well worth a wander if you’re interested in high-quality, handmade wares. Evening is at your leisure. Why not experience the colourful nightlife in Tokyo. (Total walking distance today - about 12 km)
Day 4: Magome - The Nakasendo Trail
We escape 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. Putting on our walking shoes we 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)
Day 5: Kiso-Fukushima - The Nakasendo Trail
This morning you have the chance to try a typical Japanese-style breakfast – a nutritious, protein-rich mix of grilled fish, miso soup, tofu, rice, and pickles! Back on the Nakasendo Way, we 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. We transfer here to Kiso-Fukushima, where our accommodation tonight is a traditional Japanese ryokan. You will stay in a Japanese tatami-mat room and experience Japanese hospitality at its very best: futon bedding, hot springs onsen bath and a delicious kaiseki banquet. 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 pastimes for the Japanese! (Total walking distance today - about 12 km)
Day 6: Narai - The Nakasendo Trail
A local train transports us to the township of Yabuhara, where we begin our hike along a high mountain pass covered in autumn colour and down a valley to the village of Narai. Another beautifully-preserved post town, you have the afternoon free to explore its charming streetscape at your leisure or simply relax in our 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)
Day 7: Matsumoto and 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. We 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 Italian fusion cuisine at a local restaurant. (Total walking distance today - about 10 km)
Day 8: Takayama
Takayama’s 200-year old morning market is our first stop to check out its farm-fresh produce and handmade crafts. Our guide then takes you on a walking tour of the township, visiting Takayama Jinya, once the prefectural office of the Tokugawa shogunate in feudal times and the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall to see its elaborately decorated festival floats. You will walk along the impossibly photogenic narrow streets of the old merchant quarter and past some of the unusual sculptures that adorn the streets. Evening is at your leisure to sample many of the Takayama specialties including Hida wagyu beef. (Total walking distance today - about 7 km)
Day 9: Takayama (Free Day)
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’re interested in the region’s unique thatched-roof architecture, then Hida Folk Village is worth a visit. For the more active, Takayama offers some lovely rural cycling and walking paths in the hills surrounding the town. Or, for those with gastronomic interests, there’s a number of half-day cooking classes available as well. Let us know what interests you and we’ll make the necessary arrangements.
Day 10: Kyoto
After a few days exploring mountain life, we 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, our guide takes us 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)
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. We 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 (Okusaga), we explore some hidden Buddhist temples to experience the rustic simplicity and serenity of a mountain temple away from the tourist crowds. For lunch, you can sample Kyoto’s traditional tofu cuisine, a local speciality which has its roots in Kyoto’s Buddhist vegetarian past. We return to central Kyoto for a farewell dinner at a shabu shabu restaurant serving wagyu beef, where we have a maiko (apprentice geisha) join us for a private performance. It is an 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)
Day 12: Kyoto - Bon Voyage
This morning after breakfast, your 2022 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.
- 11 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- Meals as specified
- 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
- Most 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)
Our first trip to Japan was an amazing experience. It was the perfect mix of autumn foliage viewing, active walking, trying Japanese food and accommodation styles and learning about Japanese history, culture and environment from Journey to the East fantastic guides. We will definitely book another active tour with them in the future.