Walks in the Heart of Japan (1)

Highlights

Excellent food.
Country walks.
Areas of important historical interest. Asuka, Nara, Kyoto, and beyond.
Osaka and Kyoto.
Day 1

Meet at city centre hotel in Osaka. Welcome dinner at local restaurant.

Day 2

By train (about 80 minutes) to Mount Koya. After lunch, walk the Nyonin no Michi which connects the seven gates on the perimeter or closest points to the sacred Shingon Buddhist temple precincts women who made the pilgrimage to Mount Koya were traditionally permitted to reach.

Buddhist vegetarian meal (shojin ryori) at our temple, then a stroll to view the floodlit gate and Konpon Daito stupa before an early night.
Overnight Buddhist temple.

Day 3

Early rise and sutra reading and prayers before breakfast. Our local guide will then lead a walk following a route which will include a visit Kongobuji, the head Shingon Sect temple, the immense cemetery with its towering cedar trees, and Okunoin, the inner sanctuary where it is believed Kobo Daishi, the founder, sits in eternal meditation.

After lunch we’ll travel by road to Yoshinoyama.

Overnight ryokan.

Day 4

Today we’ll explore Yoshino, walking from the priest Saigyo’s hut through the town, visiting interesting spots along the way. Sites we’ll visit include the imposing Zaodo Hall at Kinpusenji, head temple of the Shugendo Sect of Buddhism. Home to mountain priests and their tough spiritual practices, Yoshino is situated at the start of the challenging Omine Okugake Pilgrimage route which leads through the Kii Mountains south to Kumano.

Delicious lunch featuring noodles made using local kuzu starch.

There’ll then be free time to wander or relax before we enjoy the large hot tubs in the ryokan before dinner.

Overnight ryokan.

Day 5

A short drive to the Asuka, a small village in a conservation area. Asuka give an idea of what the countryside looked like before the modern developments which changed the face of Japan took place.

Day 6

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 7

Our local guide will join the group after breakfast for a full day in and around Nara. The guide brings the history and culture of Nara alive as we visit several of the most important sites. We’ll also experience the tea ceremony, and have a sushi-making session. A fascinating day!

Celebration farewell dinner.

Overnight hotel.

Day 8

The tour will end after breakfast. It’s a short hop by train to both Kyoto and Osaka, or one can transfer by limousine bus from Nara directly to Kansai International Airport.

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Reviews

"I’d like to be sending useful, critical feedback, but the reality is I wouldn't change a thing. You were the most generous possible guide, and most responsive to our numerous needs. The choices you made - the variety and standard of lodgings and food were extremely well crafted, and having considered prices for our previous trips, brilliant value!" - Josie, USA

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