Imperial Pilgrimage Route

This was the first tour we ran in 2003, and has always been very popular. We have continuously improved the itinerary, concentrating on the very best bits; looking for better walking routes, better places to eat and to stay, and new opportunities for cultural experiences. We honestly believe this is is one of the best tours of its type in Japan today.

Although less dramatic than the Japan Alps, the forested mountains of the Kii Peninsula, south of Nara, have for centuries been regarded as sacred. We’ll hike a pilgrimage route to Kumano Sanzan shrines as well as doing other walks, stay at wonderful onsen, enjoy delicious food, and explore Yoshino, Asuka, Nara, and Kyoto.


The Kii Peninsula and the many sites in it are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Historically and culturally as important as anywhere in Japan, the mountains have long been considered sacred.
Several onsen, including one of the very oldest in Japan.
Pilgrimage routes connect Mount Koya, Kumano, Yoshino, and other temples, including the 88 temple pilgirimage route in the Kansai.
Japanese food culture is a highlight of this tour.
Lively Osaka and cosmopolitan Kyoto.
Day 1

Meet at Osaka city centre hotel in the early evening. Your guide will join you and give some insights on the journey ahead. Dinner at a local restaurant.

Overnight hotel.


Day 2

Transfer to Mount Koya monastery by train. Afternoon walk the Nyonin no Michi around the rim of low hills surrounding the many temples. This is as close as women could approach to the centre of what is seen as a lotus flower whose petals are the surrounding peaks.

Overnight temple on Mount Koya.

Day 3

Guided walking tour of Mount Koya. After lunch we’ll drive south from Mount Koya, along the Koya-Ryujin Skyline, to an historic ryokan in Ryujin Onsen. Delicious seasonal delicacies will

be served for dinner.

Overnight ryokan.

Day 4

Start of hike along the old Nakaheji pilgrimage path through the mountains to Kumano. Wayside shrines encourage regular rest stops. The small shrine at Chikatsuyu marks the end of the first day of the walk. Stay at hot spring inn.

Overnight ryokan.

Day 5

The walk along the Nakaheji continues to Kumano Hongu, the first of the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano.

Overnight ryokan.

Day 6

Today we’ll travel to Nachi and walk to the temple and shrine overlooking the highest waterfall in Japan.

Overnight hotel

Day 7

We’ll drive north today, heading for the Odaigahara Plateau, an important conservation area in the UNESCO Mount Odaigahara, Mount Omine and Osugidani Biosphere Reserve.

We’ll have a hike in the afternoon before continuing on to Yoshinoyama and our family-run inn.

Overnight ryokan

Day 8

A day exploring the ridge-top village, including the Zaodo Hall at Kinpusenji Temple, the head temple of the Shugendo School of ascetic mountain priests. Delicious lunch featuring noodles made using the fine local kuzu starch.

Overnight Ryokan

Day 9

A short drive to Asuka. Asuka gives an idea of what the countryside looked like before many of the modern developments which changed the face of Japan.

We’ll explore the village and surrounding countryside, hiring either bicycles or small electric vehicles. En route there’ll an opportunity to experience the meditative practice of sutra copying, tracing Japanese characters in the peace of a temple. Sites visited will include some of the oldest archaeological remains excavated in Japan, and a modern centre where one can learn more about the culture in which the Manyoshu, an important poetry collection, was compiled.

Wonderful dinner at our lodging.

Modern inn.

Day 10

Today we’ll hike the Yamanobe no Michi (literally ‘the road beside the mountains’), a 12km route through undulating countryside and farmland. The path passes many large imperial mounds of the type which are dotted all over this part of the Nara Prefecture, most of which remain unopened.

From the shrine at the end of the walk we’ll go the short distance by road to Nara.

Overnight hotel.


Day 11

A day gaining insights into Nara, its important culture and history, with a local expert. We’ll also experience the tea ceremony, and have a sushi-making session. A fascinating day!

Overnight hotel.

Day 12

After breakfast, we’ll travel by local train to Kyoto. We’ll take advantage of any special seasonal events or highlights, as well as the interests of members, when planning what we do today and tomorrow in Kyoto itinerary.

Overnight hotel.


Day 13

A second, full day in and around Kyoto. Avoiding the worst of the crowds, we’ll explorer the quieter, often more interesting, parts of the city.

Farewell celebration dinner.

Overnight hotel

Day 14

The tour ends after breakfast. Onward travel.

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"Quest Japan pride themselves on taking smaller groups, enabling them to source a more intimate experience than one might expect ... What a privilege to get so close to day to day living, one that would certainly not be available to larger tour groups." - Steven, England

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