If I could, I would … go walking in Japan

Sain'in Quest, Walk Japan, walking in Japan, Washihara Hachimangu Shrine

Walking in Japan

In the ‘If I could, I would go…’ series, we are highlighting places we have either been to before and want to go back to, or looking at places/activities we really would like to do once travel opens up across the globe. Number two in the series, has us hankering to go walking in Japan.

Walk Japan specialises in authentic and enjoyable tours of Japan. Small-group, guided and self-guided walking tours venture through lesser-known areas of the country, and celebrate its culture, rich history and gastronomy. To ensure authentic experiences and support local businesses, Walk Japan takes no more than 12 people, using knowledgeable guides, local transport, and supporting local restaurants, inns and accommodation.

The San’in Quest
9 days/8 nights

The San’in Quest tour begins in graceful Yamaguchi, a city that in the 16th century briefly rivalled Kyoto in pomp and power while also becoming a centre for Jesuit missionaries. From here the tour roams through myriad and fascinating layers of Japanese history and the San’in’s tranquil, almost primordial landscape, back in time to the nation’s origins at Izumo Taisha shrine, before completing the tour in Hiroshima.

En route, you explore old byways, once walked by samurai and commoner alike, and delightful villages that, long overlooked by modern Japan, retain a charming atmosphere of ages past.  You savour the legacy of the ruling local samurai clans whose cultural influence lingers on in a splendid five-storied pagoda, tranquil rock garden, and magnificent castle ruins overlooking the ocean. You visit charming post towns that once provided lodging for travellers on ancient highways; onsen hot springs, which, famed for their therapeutic powers, have been a source of comfort and respite over the millennia; and the UNESCO-registered Iwami Ginzan, in the 16th century one of the world’s largest silver mines and much sought after by intrepid Chinese and European adventurers of the day.

This tour is a fully-guided walking tour for anyone who can walk for four hours or more per day in comfort, through the beautiful, mystical region found in the far west of Honshu, Japan’s main island. The route is mainly on paved surfaces but includes uneven paths and some steeper climbs. Accommodation is in traditional inns with onsen hot spring baths complemented by fabulous regional cuisine.

This tour is scheduled to have several departures in November 2020 and April 2021.

The Izu Geo Trail
7 days/6 nights

The Izu Geo Trail explores the Izu Peninsula, one of the most unique geological areas on Earth. Although only 150km (94 miles) from the giant metropolis of Tokyo, Izu – with its distinctly different landscape and climate akin to a sub-tropical island – is a world away from the capital.

The Izu Geo Trail weaves its way south along the peninsula’s east coast and mountainous central spine to its southernmost tip at Cape Irozaki, before returning north along the west coast to Shuzenji, a charming and atmospheric onsen thermal hot spring resort town. The cobalt-blue Pacific Ocean almost completely surrounds Izu and provides the backdrop to a rugged and intricately carved coastline of bays and soaring precipices.

The surrounding seas vary from shallow coastal waters to depths of 2,000m (6,562ft) or more and provide a rich environment for varied and abundant sea life. Not surprisingly, seafood is a significant part of the local diet, so much so that we cannot recommend the Izu Geo Trail to anyone who does not care for it. For those who do, Izu is a fish-lovers’ paradise and we enjoy some of the freshest available. Depending on the season our meals may include spider crab, squid, lobster, sea bream and many more varieties. All accommodations, most of which sit beside the ocean, incorporate onsen hot spring baths for a delightful and leisurely way to relax before a culinary feast each evening.

There are two departures scheduled, in March and April 2021.

Onsen Gastronomy: Oita & Kumamoto
5 days/4 nights

On an Onsen Gastronomy tour, in the company of an expert Walk Japan tour leader, travellers are immersed in the Japanese way of bathing; stay each evening in delightful Japanese inns, almost always with their own onsen; and enjoy sumptuous meals that satisfy both the eye and the stomach. This is an easy walking tour in rural Oita and Kumamoto Prefectures with strong emphasis on onsen thermal hot springs and Japanese gastronomy.

In flavour, quality of ingredients, range of dishes, health benefits, and sheer artistry of presentation, Japanese cuisine counts amongst the world’s best. In Walk Japan’s Onsen Gastronomy series of tours, this feature is taken to a higher level for a celebration of the quintessential Japanese art of dining. Onsen hot springs, enjoyed on many Walk Japan tours, are found throughout the length and breadth of Japan and are one of its great attractions. Enjoyed over the millennia for their relaxing, curative and restorative powers, onsen were used in Buddhism, which first arrived in Japan in 552, for purification rites. To this day, bathing in Japan remains a ritual, an art distinctly Japanese.

This fully-guided tour visits Oita and the north-east corner of Kumamoto Prefectures in the centre of Kyushu, an area of Japan renowned for its beautiful, richly varied rural landscapes; the high quality of its food sourced from the fertile land, pristine rivers and the surrounding seas; and also for the plethora of onsen hot springs found here.

On the way, travellers savour local food delicacies during the day and every night stay in classic Japanese ryokan inns, and can luxuriate in onsen baths before evening meals, always a lavish feast. The journey concludes in Oita City.

There is one tour scheduled, in April 2021.


Nagano Snow Country
7 days/6 nights

The Nagano Snow Country tour is a fully-guided snowshoeing tour in Japan’s snow country, a region that each year records some of the heaviest snow falls found anywhere on Earth. This tour provides an intimate experience of life in a winter wonderland that can only be accessed using snowshoes: we visit a spectacular Shinto shrine complex; stay in charming farming villages located in deep valleys; and cross spectacular, remote winter landscapes where the only other footprints we see will almost certainly be left by the local wildlife. A highlight is a night walk through a beech forest.

Accommodation includes Shinto pilgrims’ lodgings, wooden cottages buried in deep snow and Japanese inns. On most nights we have the added delight of onsen thermal hot spring baths. This tour is scheduled to have four departures in February 2021.