While Japan has long been known for its dynamic cities, only recently has the beauty and culture of the Japanese countryside begun to gain attention. On this trip we experience both, spending time in the beginning in Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan, and at the end in Tokyo, a mixture of ancient and modern. In between we will hike some of the best parts of the Nakasendo Way, which linked the two cities during Japan's feudal period. It was the 'road through the mountains' travelled by feudal lords and their retinues, samurai, merchants, and travelers. Each day we will walk a different section of this ancient route, avoiding those parts that have become busy roads. Each evening we will stay in one of the small "post" towns where we'll enjoy the warm hospitality of a traditional country inn, feasting on freshly prepared dishes from the regional cuisine. If you have been wanting an in depth introduction to Japan's history, nature, and culture, please join us. Maximum group size: 12
What's not included: Travel to and from Japan, airport transfer outside referenced group transfers, beverages at meals, snacks, 1 lunch and 2 dinners, guide gratuities, travel insurance.
This trip is designed for women who want to combine hiking off the beaten track in the Japanese countryside, visits to two of the main cities, and learning about Japanese history and culture while enjoying fresh regional cuisine. Women should be in good physical condition and able to hike for three to five hours a day with elevation gains between 550 - 1000 feet; and one longer day with elevation over 2,000 feet. Rating: 1 2 4 5
This is a hiking and sightseeing trip, where our emphasis is more on experiencing Japan's history and culture than on covering miles. In several places on the Nakasendo Way we will avoid more built up parts by taking taxis or buses.
We will be staying in three different types of accommodation. In Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo, we will stay in modern Western-style hotels (6 nights). While rooms are generally smaller than in the US and Canada, all have en-suite facilities. In Kiso-Fukushima we will stay at a hot springs ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style inn, usually older wooden buildings with rooms in the Japanese style with tatami (straw) matting and futons laid out in the evening by the ryokan staff. Evening meals are served communally in the dining room, and are exquisitely prepared multi- course meals. Many ryokan have both en suite bathrooms (with the exception of some older buildings) and communal hot spring style baths (segregated by sex). In two towns we stay in Minshuku, which are smaller family-run inns. At these smaller family-run inns the bathrooms will be downstairs or down the hallway from the sleeping rooms. Both Ryokan and Minkushu are classic Japanese experiences. Please note: Vegetarian options are available, but limited. Strict vegetarian diets, vegan diets, or gluten free diets will be not be possible to accommodate due to the pervasiveness of the fish-based stock dashi and the use of soy sauce and miso in Japanese cuisine. There will not be much if any fresh fruits and/or vegetables. Most of the vegetables will be pickled, fried or cooked in soup.
Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.
I absolutely LOVED the itinerary because it exposed us to both Japanese city life and the countryside. It was a perfect mix of modern and traditional.
First time with AGC and one of the best trips I have ever been on. Our guide, Emi, was the highlight of the trip with her extensive knowledge of the culture and religions. Hiking different sections of the Nakasendo Way with colorful fall leaves; and staying at inns in small towns. Tasting a variety of traditional and modern Japanese dishes. I found the people we met along the way to be friendly and helpful. I definitely will return again for another trip.
The candor and cultural input provided by our Japanese guide elevated this hiking oriented trip. The time of year was perfect as autumn leaves were at their peak. The pace of experiences throughout the week was good, though I felt at times that too much time was spent commuting on multiple trains when a van could have been more time-efficient.
So many! The hiking and traditional inns were my favorite part.
Hiking with a smaller portion of the larger group through Torii Pass; the food (even though salty!), the mix of urban and rural experiences; the guides (Yuki and Ann) being able to adapt to the various interests among the group; using the baths both at the urban hotels and the rural inns.
Perfect weather, hiking in the mountains, the little mountain towns
A nice mix of the country and city. Good hikes planned. Very good and very knowledgeable guides.
The hikes were wonderful! Participants and guides were also wonderful! Experiencing the inns and the post towns along the trail was incredibly special. Shortcomings for me was (1) the need to pack so often and to not have our suitcases for much of the trip (which I understand may be a logistical hurdle that is difficult to overcome in Japan), (2) the food (while some of the food was wonderful, notably at the organic farm, I was disappointed that there was not more sashimi and/or sushi --- not sure if this was a price issue), and (3) too much time spent on crowded commuter trains (for me, ANY time spent on a crowded commuter train is too much!)
The highlight of the trip was learning about a totally new culture. Yuki is a good ambassador for Japan. She was clear and knowledgeable about what she knew and was clear about what she didn't know. The hiking was great. I trust your ratings and this was rated accurately. Gotta say the bathrooms were a highlight!!!
Experiencing the post towns along the Nakosendo Way; staying in ryokans where traditional Japanese culture is beautifully shared through the very special meals and the tatami mat/shojii screen/ futon/onsen aspects are unforgettable.
While it was a cultural and hiking trip rated 3, I experienced more culture due to an injury. I fell in love with Japan, and will definitely return. I missed out on the hiking and that is my only regret but I can return. An alternative itinerary was made daily for those that could not hike or choose not to and I am so grateful for the thoughtfulness and inclusiveness, the "go with the flow" and "roll with the punches" frame of mind. Japan is really interesting to me, a completely different culture with ancient crafts, skills, food and traditions. It is the cleanest country I have ever been too, overall so impressed with the attention to detail there.
Great mix of hiking and culture.
Would have preferred more hiking
Hiking was a highlight. Beautiful scenery, uncrowded trails. Fun group, great guides.
Great hiking through cypress forests. Japanese guide, Uki was fabulous as was Debra.
Would have liked more, or longer hikes because the forests were so beautiful. So glad I didn't try to go to Japan on my own. Not many English characters on signs. Everything is spotless. Train stations, airports, and streets surprisingly quiet. Appreciated the history I learned from Yuki. Liked all the quirky (to me) shoe rules, hot bath routines, learning how to used chopsticks, eating Italian food midweek, trying new foods, staying at the big Japanese tourist hotel and little ones too, having restaurants to ourselves, picking vegetables on the farm (cooking lesson a little lame but food good), seeing the Buddhist temple with zen gardens, pretty much liked everything!
Walking through the countryside was what I hoped for. The accommodations were great - from the well-situated Hearton in Kyoto to the variety of roykans in the small towns. The biggest disappointment was the ratio of hiking to time spent on mass transit. The trains