Walks in the Heart of Japan (2)

A guided walking tour including a wonderful, quite challenging climb up the Osugidani valley to the Odaigahara Plateau, described by LP as a ‘stunning hike’. We then visit some of the culturally and historically most important sites in Japan: Yoshinoyama, Asuka, and Nara and hike the Yamanobe no Michi connecting Miwa Jinja Shrine and Isonokami Jingu Shrine.

It was here that early Japanese culture flourished under a succession of emperors and empresses as their centres of power moved from Fujiwarakyo (today known as Asuka), to Heijoykyo (today known as Nara), and then to Heiankyo (Kyoto).

Highlights

The pilgrimate routes to Kumano and routes used by Shugendo monks focused on Yoshinoyama.
The Kii Mountains and Odaigahara.
Many onsen and one of the oldest hot spring villages in Japan - Yunomine Onsen.
Country walks in lovely countryside.
Cultural capitals of Asuka, Nara, and Kyoto, as well as the historical pilgrimage routes.
Osaka and Kyoto.
The deeply forested Kii Peninsula, shimmering green in summer, ablaze in autumn.
Fine regional food.
Day 1

The group will meet in Nagoya where we’ll spend the first night. Dinner.

Overnight hotel.

Day 2

Earlyish start by train from Nagoya and then a drive to the trailhead. The hike to our lodgings, a hut nestled in the Osugidani gorge, will take about 5 hours. Today and tomorrow we’ll pass a succession of waterfalls and pools along the heavily forested gorge.

Overnight mountain hut.

Day 3

The hike continues, the climb to the highest point on Odaigahara Plateau taking about 7 hours. We’ll take the steep ascent through the forested slopes steadily. There’s no hurry on our hiking tours!

From Odaigahara we’ll transfer by road to Yoshinoyama village. Dinner at ryokan.

Overnight ryokan.

Day 4

We’ll spend today exploring the village, hiking to the great Zaodo Hall at Kinpusenji Temple.

Delicious lunch featuring local kuzu starch noodles. Some free time to stroll around in the afternoon before baths and dinner.

Overnight ryokan.

Day 5

A short drive, after breakfast, to Asuka. We’ll spend the day exploring this rural village and its very important cultural and historical sites, including the excavated imperial tombs. There’ll also be an opportunity to experience the meditative practice of sutra copying at a temple. We’ll get around Asuka using hired bicycle or two-seater electric vehicles.

Dinner at our lovely lodgings.

Overnight modern inn.

Day 6

There’s a 12km gentle hike today through fairly flat countryside with short hill or two, from Miwa Shrine to Isonokami Jingu Shrine. The path goes from village to village, passing a number of sacred sites and several large imperial tomb mounds known as kofun.

At the end of the hike we’ll travel by road into Nara.

Overnight hotel.

Day 7

A full day with an expert local guide who’ll introduce the history and culture of Nara, taking us to the most important sites. During the day we’ll also have a sushi-making class, and take part in a Japanese tea ceremony. A most interesting day.

Overnight hotel.

Day 8

The journey continues by train, after breakfast, from Nara to Kyoto, a short hop of about 50 minutes. Places we’ll visit include the Nishikikoji covered market, and the old imperial palace and gardens.

Overnight hotel.

Day 9

The whole day dedicated to discovering more of Kyoto. The itinerary will depend partly on the season the group happens to be visiting. There should be time at the end for some shopping in the bustling heart of the city. The department stores are worth checking out.

Farewell celebration dinner.

Overnight hotel.

Day 10

Tour ends. Onward travel after breakfast.

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Reviews

"We had a great time with you on the road. We got to places that we wouldn't have got to, and insights into the culture, we would have missed traveling around on our own. We’ll have great memories of the places we stayed. So, thank you for all your efforts - you did a great job." - Patrick, Scotland

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