2022 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn
The 2022 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn takes you into the heart of the Japan Alps amid stunning alpine autumn colours. Our expert local guides lead intimate group of up to 8 travellers on some of the best day walks in Japan on this 14-day adventure.
Hikes are along boardwalks and forested trails through pristine Kamikochi and other outstanding national parks not typically visited by international tourists. You will stay in natural hot springs resort towns, centuries-old thatched-roof farmhouses in a UNESCO-listed village and in Takayama during its Autumn Festival. This tour aims to see the colours in higher altitudes in early autumn.
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 will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2022 Walking Tour of Japan Alps 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 the old Tokyo suburb of 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: Nagano
Today you leave Tokyo aboard the shinkansen (bullet train) heading for Nagano. Nagano is in the center of Japan's main island, Honshu, and at the base of the Japan Alps. For the next two nights, we will stay at a hotel conveniently located at a central business district of Nagano City to give us good access to many attractions around. Firstly we must visit the magnificent Zenkoji temple complex, a National Treasure and one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Japan. We will also taste local specialities of soba noodle and apples today. Most importantly, once you are in Nagano, you will feel the fresh air of Japan Alps surrounds you.
Day 4: Togakushi
Today we make a day trip to Togakushi area. Mt. Togakushi is one of Japan's sacred peaks; its forests and shrine are steeped in legend going back some 2,000 years. Quite inaccessible until modern times, and hundreds of years Mt. Togakushi was a haven of esoteric Buddhist practice. It was frequented by mountain ascetics. Today, Togakushi-jinja Shrine is famous as a power spot where visitors can absorb the earth's energy of old. Nearby Kagami Ike pond is known as one of the best autumn scenery in Japan.
Day 5: Obuse/Shibu Onsen
Today, you take an overnight bag and venture further into the pristine countryside. Stop at the small town of Obuse and visit the Hokusai Museum (Hokusai was one of the most accomplished ukiyoe style painters), some local sake breweries and craft shops, and enjoy a lunch here too. Then, continue travelling on a local train to tonight destination Shibu Onsen. Shibu Onsen is a quintessential Japanese onsen town where you can stroll in yukata and take a bath hopping between lovely local bath houses. You will stay at one of the Japanese style inns called ryokan tonight and enjoy a kaiseki dinner and sleeping on futon bedding on tatami floor.
Day 6: Shibu Onsen to Matsumoto
This morning before the daytrippers arrive, walk to Jigokudani Yaen Park where snow monkeys are enjoying their hot spring bath. The 30 -minute walk among the tall cedar trees is very fresh and invigorating. Then, you cannot stop taking photos once you see those cute monkeys come into view. In the afternoon, transfer by train to tonight destination, Matsumoto. (Total walking distance today - about 10 km)
Day 7: Matsumoto
Today you have a guided tour of Matsumoto. Developed as a castle town from the 8th century, today the city is popular for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, galleries and stunning alpine setting. Matsumoto Castle is Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of the nation’s five castles designated as National Treasures. Still in impeccable original condition, you will have a chance to explore its wooden interior and climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret. You will also stroll around the moat to view this magnificent castle from multiple angles. Today we also explore more of Matsumoto as we walk back through Matsumoto's merchant district where streets are lined with nicely preserved old buildings from the Edo period. (Total walking distance today - about 6 km)
Day 8: Kamikochi
A local coach takes us to Kamikochi, literally translated as “where the gods descend”. True to its name, the Kamikochi alpine plateau is surrounded by mountain ranges exceeding 3,000 metres above sea-level. In the morning our guide will take you on a 4 km hike along boardwalks, which criss-cross mossy ponds and streams, and then wind through virgin beech forests ablaze in stunning autumn colour. In the afternoon, you can simply relax and soak up the mountain atmosphere or join another hike with our guide into the mountains and walk under the autumn colours. (Total walking distance today - about 5-10 km)
Day 9: Kamikochi to Hirayu Onsen
After spending most of the day in Kamikochi, you will transfer to our next destination, the pretty mountain hamlet of Hirayu Onsen, a traditional natural hot springs town. After an exhilarating day in the fresh air, you can enjoy the open-air bath looking up to the mountains bursting with colours. A fantastic way to relax. Beware you will be hooked if you try the onsen! (Total walking distance today - about 10 km)
Day 10: Mt Hotaka
Today you head further into the heart of the Japan Alps by a private minibus to the Mt Hotaka region. Here we take the Shin Hotaka Ropeway, the longest in Japan, to the observation deck at the mountain’s peak to enjoy the panoramic views. Our guide will take us on one of the hiking trails to explore the area and enjoy the spectacular autumn scenery. We will stay one more night in Hirayu Onsen tonight. (Total walking distance today - about 6 km)
Day 11: Norikura and Takayama
This morning we travel by private minibus towards Mt Norikura for one last chance of amongst the autumn foliage and view the snowy peaks of the Japan Alps. Then in the afternoon, you will transfer to Takayama, heart of the rugged Hida Region. A compact, atmospheric town surrounded by mountains, Takayama is known for its beautifully preserved streets of timber merchant houses dating from the late 17th century. In Takayama our guide will then take you on a guided walking tour of this historic town, visiting Takayama Jinya (once the prefectural office for the Tokugawa shogunate in feudal times) and wandering the photogenic narrow streets of the old merchant district with their old timber buildings. (Total walking distance today - about 7 km)
Day 12: Shirakawago
This morning, you will visit Takayama's morning market (with a heritage going back some 200 years!) to check out its farm-fresh produce and handmade crafts. After that, we will visit the exquisite UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Shirakawa-go. Surrounded by mountains, these rural villages feature the traditional thatched-roof farmhouses unique to Japan’s alpine regions. With their steeply-slanted roofs built to withstand heavy snowfalls, they resemble “hands clasped together in prayer” (hence their name, gassho-zukuri). (Total walking distance today - about 6 km)
Day 13: Kyoto
This morning, we will take a scenic express train from Takayama to our final destination, Kyoto. After arrival at Kyoto, we will have a guided walk of the backstreet of Kyoto. The central part of Kyoto is still a little too early for autumn colouring in early October, but Kyoto is ever so attractive to anybody who visit here. At our farewell dinner, you will have a private dinner with a maiko (young geisha) joining us and performing some Japanese dances. Enjoy the last meal together reminiscing the beautiful sceneries you experienced on this trip.
Day 14: Kyoto and Bon-Voyage
This morning after breakfast, your 2022 Walking Tour of Japan Alps 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. Have a look at our Extension Model Itineraries for 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.
- 13 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)