Japan: Land of the Rising Sun

Japan Guided Walking Holiday

Tokyo - Japan, Asakusa Temple
Duration: 10 nights
Type: Worldwide Multi-Centre
Walking Grade: 1
from £4,699pp without flights FLIGHTS AVAILABLE

Explore cultural contrasts in the Land of the Rising Sun. Journey through the ages as you explore Kyoto’s gardens, temples, palaces and shrines and wander through Gion, the city’s famous geisha district. Travel in the footsteps of ancient times as you walk in the Japanese Alps along the Nakasendo Path, visiting old post-towns, and along one of Japan’s oldest roads, the Yamanobe no michi in the Nara area. Enjoy the vibrancy and vitality of modern Tokyo and visit the Meiji Shrine, which reflects its more traditional side. In Nara, an ancient capital of Japan, meet the local wildlife and visit UNESCO temples and shrines. A visit to the ‘snow monkeys’ in the hot springs of Yudanaka Onsen is sure to be a highlight. With the chance to stay in ryokan – traditional Japanese inns, which showcase regional cuisine with exquisite meals - you’ll truly be immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage of this fascinating nation.

Holiday Highlights

  • Walk the historic Nakasendo Path through the Japan Alps
  • Explore the gardens and shrines of ancient Kyoto
  • Walk by lakes and mountains in the shadow of Mt Fuji
  • See the modern side of Japan in Tokyo and Kyoto
  • Stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, for an authentic experience
  • Try delicious and varied Japanese food
  • Option to extend your stay with Hiroshima & Miyajima. Please call 020 3974 8865 for more information.

What’s included

  • 10 nights’ accommodation in en-suite rooms (except in the ryokans, which usually have shared facilities*)
  • Half board from dinner on arrival to breakfast on departure, less 1 dinner and plus 2 lunches
  • A full programme of guided walks led by an experienced local leader 
  • All sightseeing and entrance fees
  • Travel by coach/minivan, train and public transport
  • Tips

*Please note on days 4 & 5 we stay in traditional Japanese inns. We cannot guarantee single rooms at these accommodations and guests may be asked to share with someone of the same gender within the group.

Trip Notes

Trip notes are detailed, downloadable PDF’s for each holiday, please click the button below to find the right trip notes for your departure date.

On our Worldwide holidays, our day-by-day descriptions will help you understand where you’ll be exploring and what you’ll be doing. The itineraries are put together carefully to give you the best experience. While every effort will be made to adhere to the described itinerary, we may occasionally vary the sequence shown here or substitute an alternative to suit local conditions or for other operational reasons. In the wake of disruption caused by the Coronavirus outbreak to planning, this is particularly relevant to itineraries in 2022.

On arrival at Narita airport meet your local leader and transfer to central Tokyo (approx. 1½-2 hours, subject to traffic conditions). The rest of the day is at leisure, either to relax or explore the local area before you meet your guide in the lobby at 18:30 for your welcome dinner at 19:00.

Today we enjoy a walking tour of the capital, a huge metropolitan area. Tokyo doesn’t have a real city centre – it is more a collection of districts each with individual character.

As we walk, we see ultramodern Tokyo: neon lights, busy stations with trains running like clockwork, four-way pedestrian crossings, boutiques, grand department stores and the quirky young arts scene.

In contrast, we’ll discover the more tranquil and spiritual side of Tokyo as we walk through the city today. We visit the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji, the first Emperor of modern Japan, and his consort Empress Shoken. The Meiji period of Japan signified the end of Japan’s isolation and the beginning of its modernisation to become a world power.

Located in a lovely wooded area, next to Yoyogi Park, this very traditional setting stands side by side with the trendsetting, fashionable and modern neighbourhood of Harajuku.

We enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Tokyo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building – on clear spring and autumn days, you may catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji. We then visit the Ginza district, home to elegant department stores such as Mitsukoshi and Matsuya. Enjoy window-shopping at traditional craft shops, or at the food sections of these department stores.

Any remaining time today is free for further independent exploration or to relax before we meet again for dinner.

Our journey through rural Japan begins with a drive from Tokyo by bus to this traditional hot spring village, nestled in the mountains of Nagano about three hours northwest of the capital. Our journey takes about 5 hours in total and there’ll be some comfort stops on the way, including a stop for lunch.

When we arrive, we walk to visit the famous ‘snow monkeys’. The Japanese short tail monkeys started coming here to warm themselves in the outdoor hot springs fifty years ago and a local lodge owner, feeling sorry for them in the cold winters, built them their own bath. Distance: 3 ½ miles (6km) with negligible ascent on a gravel path.

Our accommodation in nearby Yudanaka is a long-established ryokan. Here, you’ll enjoy the delights of kaiseki dining: this is a meal which includes lots of small dishes showcasing different styles of cooking; for example, stewing, grilling, frying etc.

This morning we travel into rural Japan and the remote Kiso valley. Nearby are the Japanese Alps, an area of high peaks and volcanoes, fertile valleys, mountain and ski resorts and traditional villages. Our journey to Nagiso will take about 4½ hours, including a lunch stop and comfort breaks.

Over the next two days we walk by day from village to village, staying in small, family-run country inns (minshuku). Our luggage will be sent ahead to Kyoto and we’ll be carrying a daypack with overnight items.

We start near Nagiso, one of the eleven ‘post-towns’ along the Kiso valley section of the Nakasendo. Post-towns were resting places, where travellers could find accommodation and food as they walked between Kyoto and Edo (as Tokyo was then called).

Passing through bamboo forests, we walk to the charming post-town of Tsumago, one of the prettiest towns in the area, before continuing on foot to O-Tsumago for the night. Our lodgings will be an atmospheric and traditional minshuku. Here, you’ll enjoy the peace and quiet of your rural setting. Distance: 4 miles (6½km) with 650 feet (200m) of ascent.

This morning we enjoy a lovely walk to the village of Magome over the Magome Pass. The walk passes through cedar forests and ascends gently through hilly terrain. Distance: 5 miles (8km) with 1,200 feet (365m) of ascent and 590 feet (180m) of descent.

Once in Magome, we have some free time and will have lunch here – we recommend you try the Gohei mochi. Later, we journey by bus or coach and train (including the bullet train) to Kyoto, the western end of the Nakasendo Path, and transfer to our accommodation where our luggage will be waiting for us.

Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the 8th century until 1868 when it was moved to Edo (now Tokyo). It was spared much of the bombing that was inflicted on Tokyo. As such, more historic buildings have survived, and it has more historic buildings and gardens than most other Japanese cities and towns. This has resulted in the listing of the historic monuments of ancient Kyoto as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the morning we enjoy a walk along the Philosopher’s Pathway, a delightful walk beside a canal in eastern Kyoto lined with cherry trees. This is a peaceful walk to Nanzenji temple, which has an excellent example of a zen garden. Along the path we’ll also pass a number of other temples.

Later we explore Gion, Kyoto’s best-known geisha district on foot. In Kyoto, geisha are known as geiko. If luck is with us, we may see a geisha/geiko or maiko (an apprentice geisha, distinctive in the kimono and hairstyles traditionally associated with this revered profession) making her way through the narrow streets.

Today we’ll explore Kyoto on foot and by public transportation. The order of visits may change, but we’ll be sure to spend time at each location. We’ll visit the Myoshin-Ji temple complex, a real hidden gem of Kyoto. Here, we’ll see traditional buildings and shrines and learn more about Buddhism. This is a practicing temple, so it’s likely we’ll see monks while we’re here.

A visit to Kinkakuji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is sure to be highlight. Surrounded by a Japanese garden, it was originally built by the Ashikaga Shogun at the end of the 14th century.

We’ll also visit the beautiful temple complex of Ryoan-ji, a UNESCO heritage site with its famous rock garden of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders. It is not possible to see all fifteen boulders at once from any place in the garden – but, it is said that if do manage this, then you have achieved enlightenment.

Transfers within the city will take around 2 hours in total, but local traffic conditions may mean this is different. There’ll be some free time to relax and refresh before this evening’s dinner.

Today is free to explore Kyoto. Your leader will be happy to help with suggestions for places to visit. Some places we’d recommend, and which may be of interest include:

Nara – A short train journey takes you to a town famous for its UNESCO World Heritage shrines and temples. A visit here simply must include hand-feeding the tame deer.

Fushimi Inari shrine – On the southern fringes of the city you’ll find this Shinto shrine, where hundreds of torii gates snake up the hillside, is easily reached by light rail.

Nijo castle – a fascinating UNESCO site, this palace style of castle (rather than defensive) provides some insight into the days of the shogun in Kyoto.

Higashiyama district – In addition to the beautiful ‘Yasaka pagoda’, these atmospheric back lanes offer a wonderful opportunity to shop for traditional crafts and souvenirs.

Kiyomizu temple – While the temple is currently undergoing restoration works and is hidden under tarpaulin, you can still enjoy stunning views over Kyoto from the temple and visit the inside.

This morning we’ll send our luggage ahead by vehicle as we travel by train (approx. 1 hour) to Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital.

Established in 710 and known as Heijo, Nara abounds in cultural heritage – it is home to a number of stunning UNESCO World Heritage temples and shrines - and easy access to wonderful nature. We’ll explore along a route of shops – we may see mochi being made in the traditional way – and visit Todaiji Temple.

This UNESCO-listed temple contains an enormous bronze Buddha, and the wooden temple building is the largest of its kind – even though its current structure is only a fraction of its original size.

We also spend some time in Nara Park, where tame deer – seen as messengers from the gods – wander freely and walk at Wakakusayama. If time permits, we’ll walk the approach to Kasuga Taisha or we may visit the Naramachi district, where we can see craftspeople producing traditional items.


Today we get out to explore the area around Nara with a walk along a section of one of Japan’s oldest roads. Celebrated in the Nihon-shoki – the ancient histories of Japan, similar to the Domesday Book – the Yamanobe no michi skirts the mountains and meanders through villages and past ancient temples and shrines. Walking on a mixture of paved and dirt trails and village roads, we’ll take a step back into another element of Japan’s fascinating heritage. Distance: 6 miles (10km) with negligible ascent.

We return to the hotel, where any remaining time today is at your leisure before our final dinner this evening, where we can share all the amazing experiences we’ve enjoyed together.

After breakfast, we travel by coach as a group to Kansai International Airport – your local guide will not accompany you. The journey time is dependent on local traffic conditions, and plenty of time will be allowed.

For guests joining the Hiroshima & Miyajima extension, you will transfer separately.

Japan Itinerary Map

Shiba Park Hotel, Tokyo - Japan

In Tokyo we stay at the Shiba Park Hotel, a 3-star hotel with a good range of facilities. It is well located in central Toyko, and even walking a few blocks there are interesting things to see to get a taste of modern Tokyo. Near the hotel is Shiba Park, the Tokyo Tower, and the lovely Hama Rikyu Garden, a pleasant oasis in the city on the edge of the bay, looking over to the impressive Rainbow Bridge.

Biya no Yado - Japan

This friendly ryokan was chosen as one of Japan’s ‘Top 25 B&Bs and Inns’ in TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards in 2013.  Rooms have private ensuite bath and toilet.  There are gender-segregated communal onsen hot spring baths, too - one indoor and one outdoor.  The onsen baths are available round the clock, except for 00:30-1:00am when they are closed for cleaning; when they re-open, the men’s and women’s baths switch round.  There are just under fifty guest rooms and ryokan staff will lay out your futon for you in the evening.  Enjoy a wonderful multi-course Japanese feast for dinner.  Wi-Fi is available in the lobby area.

Tsutamaraya, O-Tsumago - Japan

Tsutamuraya occupies a building about one hundred and thirty years old.  The inn has a traditional irori hearth, and once had the honour of welcoming the son of the emperor.  There are nine tatami-mat rooms for guests and you lay out your own futon in the evening.  There are two baths, which guests use privately in turn.  Dinner is served at 6pm.  Your hostess is a warm and friendly person, but speaks little English.  Wi-Fi is available.

Takatsuji Tominokoji, Kyoto - Japan

Takatsuji Tominokoji has 75 rooms arranged over 5 floors. The hotel features a restaurant, free bikes, a bar and shared lounge in Kyoto. Among the facilities at this hotel are a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service, along with free WiFi throughout the property and a garden which guests can make use of.

Hotel Nikko Nara - Japan

Hotel Nikko Nara offers 330 guest rooms with bright and relaxing interiors. Guest rooms offer both air-conditioning and heating facilities. Each room is equipped with a fridge, an electric kettle, free WiFi and a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Tōdai-ji temple and the Nara Park can be reached within a 30-minute walk from the hotel. A public bath, gym, spa and massage facilities are available for guests. Bicycle rental is available for those who wish to explore the area. The property offers Japanese-style breakfast featuring local specialities.

Essential Information

What to wear 

Casual clothing would be suitable throughout for this tour, even for dining in cities. Japanese sized slippers (sometimes small for guests with larger feet) are often supplied at the inns. Guests may wish to bring comfortable socks to use inside Japanese accommodation
Yukata (simple cotton kimonos) are provided at each accommodation, and you can wear this during your stay in the Japanese style accommodation both indoors and outdoors. Yukata and slippers provided by regular hotels are normally only used in the private rooms. This will allow you to pack lightly for the walking sections.
Bathing suits cannot be used in the public bathrooms or onsen. Bathing is done naked. There are separate onsen for men and women
Spring and autumn tours: Long sleeves are recommended during the Nakasendo walking, but you will not need heavy sweaters. You should have a light windbreaker or rain jacket.
Summer tours (September): We recommend light long sleeves during the Nakasendo walking as the sun can be strong, however short sleeves are better for the cities where it is more humid. You should have a light windbreaker or a rain jacket.

As you’ll be carrying your own luggage at airports and between your transport and hotels we recommend you try to keep your luggage to a minimum. These items are a general suggestion of what to pack for an active outdoor and walking holiday; depending on your destination, you may need more of some things and less – or none! – of others. You’ll know best what you prefer to wear when out walking or while taking part in other outdoor activities.

Suggested Kit List

  • Walking boots (worn in), with good ankle support and spare bootlaces
  • Walking socks
  • Walking sandals
  • Lightweight fleece, waterproof trousers and jacket
  • Shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts
  • Long trousers and long-sleeved lightcoloured shirts with collars to protect from the sun.
    Your clothing should ideally be pre-treated with insect repellent and in-built sun protection (available from specialist clothing stores such as Rohan, Cotswold Outdoor).
  • Warm fleece, scarf/buff hat and gloves
  • Torch
  • Comfortable clothes and shoes for evenings and sightseeing
  • Sun protection – sun hat, sunglasses, high factor sunscreen and lip protection
  • Water bottle – at least 2-litre capacity
  • Lightweight survival bag
  • Small/medium rucksack (30 litre) and a liner or cover to keep contents dry
  • Insect repellent
  • Universal travel plug
  • Personal first aid kit including: personal medication, tissues, plasters, blister kit, painkillers, antiseptic wipes, Imodium, rehydration sachets

Essential Equipment

  • Passport (and copies)
  • booking confirmation
  • insurance cover note
  • HF Holidays’ registration form.

Please ensure you have access to emergency funds should you need them; carrying a credit card is probably the most convenient method.

Optional Equipment

  • Trekking poles (especially if you find these useful for descents)
  • camera
  • umbrella
  • binoculars
  • high energy food bars.

Please note that the HF Holidays’ leader reserves the right to refuse to take any guest on a walk should they consider that a lack of suitable clothing/footwear may affect safety

Guest Reviews

All holidays are subject to availability. Prices are subject to change.
Prices based on two people sharing. Supplements may apply.
Non-member fee: £30 per person.

These departure dates can be booked with flights or as land only holiday options. All packages that include flights are ATOL protected. Advertised flight prices are based on UK flights departing from London. Regional departures and/or connections to London, if available, can be requested. Cabin upgrades may also be available on request.

Date (Start - End) Nights Itinerary Price Status Trip Notes Book
11 Oct - 22 Oct 2022
10 Itinerary £4,699 Trip Notes Book Now
04 Apr - 15 Apr 2023
10 Itinerary £5,559 Unavailable to Book Unavailable Trip Notes
09 May - 20 May 2023
10 Itinerary £5,559 Trip Notes Book Now
10 Oct - 21 Oct 2023
10 Itinerary £5,559 Trip Notes Book Now
Date (Start - End) Nights Itinerary Price Status Trip Notes Book
11 Oct - 22 Oct 2022
10 Itinerary £4,699 Trip Notes Book Now
04 Apr - 15 Apr 2023
10 Itinerary £4,699 Unavailable to Book Unavailable Trip Notes
09 May - 20 May 2023
10 Itinerary £4,699 Trip Notes Book Now
10 Oct - 21 Oct 2023
10 Itinerary £4,699 Trip Notes Book Now

Important Information

  • Single room supplement: £83 per night
10 nights
Worldwide Multi-Centre
Walking Grade:

10 nights from £4,699pp
without flights

...or call 020 3974 8865

For group bookings of 10+ people click here

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