Save up to £150 per person

Japan Guided Walking Holiday

Tokyo - Japan, Asakusa Temple
Duration: 12 nights
Type: Worldwide Multi-Centre
Walking Grade: 1
from £5,149pp with flights

Journey through the ages as you explore the gardens and geishas of ancient Kyoto, the medieval Nakasendo Path, the iconic Mount Fuji and the vibrant, modern city of Tokyo. With the chance to stay in ryokan – traditional Japanese inns – you’ll be truly 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

What’s included

  • 11 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 3 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

Trip Notes

Trip notes are detailed, downloadable PDFs for each holiday.

Download Trip Notes

Take an overnight flight to Tokyo. After an afternoon arrival and transfer to our accommodation in central Tokyo there will be free time to explore before a welcome dinner.

The following day we include a guided walking tour of Tokyo and its collection of different districts, each with their own individual character. From the ultra-modern to historic temples and gardens, a guided stroll around the city gives us an insight into Japanese life.

Journey through rural Japan to the traditional hot spring village nestled in the mountains of Nagano. A short walk takes us to visit the "snow monkeys", bathing in the hot springs. The monkeys started coming to warm themselves in the outdoor springs here over 40 years ago, and a local lodge owner built them their own bath after feeling sorry for them during the cold winters. Our accommodation in nearby Yudanaka has its own natural hot spings (humans only!), where you can relax this evening

Over the next two days we walk in the remote Kiso valley, exploring rural Japan, an area of the country that few overseas visitors reach. We walk by day from village to village, staying by night in small, family‐run country inns (ryokan) and country guesthouses (minshuku). We carry our overnight items in a small daypack, while our luggage is taken ahead to Kyoto. We start near Nagiso, one of the 11 'post-towns' along the Kiso valley section of the Nakasendo. Post-towns were resting places, where travellers could find accommodation as they walked between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo). In days past this route was used by traders, feudal lords, and samurai as they made their way to and from the imperial capital. We walk to the charming post town of Tsumago.

The next day is a lovely walk from Tsumago to Magome. After some free time to explore Tsumago in the morning, we continue our journey over the Magome Pass, to the small village of Magome. Here we stay overnight in a minshuku, where our friendly host may introduce us to ‘minyo’, traditional rural dances and singing.

After our 2nd day on the Nakasendo Path, we transfer to Kyoto, the western end of the Nakasendo Way and Japan’s former capital, now a World Heritage Site, for a 4 night stay. 

Our first day in Kyoto, we walk the Philosopher's Path, a delightful walk beside a canal in Eastern Kyoto lined with cherry trees. Evening walk in Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district where there is always the possibility of seeing a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) making their way through the narrow streets.

The next day we take a morning guided walking tour to Kinkaku‐ji, the Golden Pavilion, surrounded by a Japanese garden, and originally built by the Ashikaga Shogun at the end of the 14th century.  From there, walk to the nearby Ryoan‐ji to see its famous Zen rock garden. This afternoon walk along the ‘Philosopher’s Path’, a delightful walk beside a canal lined with cherry trees in eastern Kyoto, followed by some free time to explore the area further or shop for crafts.

We also include a free day to explore Kyoto. Your guide will be happy to help with suggestions of places to visit, such as Nijo Castle, the former residence of the Shogun in Kyoto, or Kiyomizu Temple with its wonderful view of Kyoto.

Our tour continues by bullet train to Hakone, a famous hot spring town with wonderful views of Mount Fuji (weather permitting). We stay at a lakeside hotel, with wonderful views of Mount Fuji. The hotel has its own hot spring baths. After checking in, we walk to the Hakone Checkpoint before enjoying some free time before dinner.

The following day begins with a walk along the 'sugi-namiki', lined with Japanese cedar trees, to Lake Ashi-no-ko where we may be able to see demonstrations of Japanese parquetry in the workshops there. We then continue on the old Tokaido highway, once the alternative to the Nakasendo, stopping for lunch along the way.

A morning boat ride across Lake Ashi-no-ko, to travel on a series of funicular railways through the Hakone volcanic ranges. We walk to see the volcanic fumaroles bubble up, before enjoying lunch on the other side of the mountain. As Owakudani is an area with volcanic fumaroles, it may not be possible to visit if air conditions do not allow and the area is closed to the public. Should Owakudani not be available, you will instead have time to visit the renowned Hakone Open Air Museum.

After lunch we take the bus back to Tokyo for the evening. The following day we have a morning transfer for our return flight.

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.

Yudanaka Onsen, Nakasendo Path - Japan

Ryokan are traditional Japanese-style inns, though these may be in a modern building. The rooms are in the Japanese style with tatami (straw) matting and futons laid out in the evening by the ryokan staff. Evening meals are served together, usually in the dining room, and are exquisitely prepared multi-course meals. The ryokan has its own onsen, natural hot spring baths (communal, but divided by sex). You can relax in large bathrooms, indoor and outdoor, completely hidden from other parts of the facility. Guests are given cotton yukata robes to wear around the ryokan during your stay, both indoors and outdoors and to meals; they can also be worn as pyjamas, and their versatility allows you to pack lightly for the walking sections.

MInshuku, Nakasendo Path - Japan

Minshuku are family-run Japanese-style guest houses. The rooms are Japanese style with tatami mats and futons are laid out yourself in the evening. The buildings are 200-year-old historical machiya, former merchants’ houses, which have been restored. Guestrooms do not have en suite bathrooms, however communal bathing and washing areas are a short walk from each room. The group will be split between two minshuku inO-Tsumago. Breakfast and dinner are in the dining area, and all food is locally sourced. Guests will be given cotton yukata robes which they can use around the inn. Minshuku have smaller rooms and the service is less formal than ryokan, but you are assured a very personal welcome and a very traditional Japanese experience.

Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo, Kyoto - Japan

The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo is a modern hotel with a boutique feel and is in a great location. 

Shin Miyako Hotel, Kyoto - Japan

Shin Miyako is a large modern hotel with ample facilities including restaurants and shops. Rooms are modern featuring designs inspired by traditional Kyoto style. Both hotels are conveniently located to walk or travel by public transport to Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu Temple, Kinkakuji Temple, Ginkakuji Temple and the Imperial Palace.

Yumoto Fujiya Hotel, Hakone - Japan

The Yumoto Fuijya Hotel is a Japanese style resort hotel with both indoor and outdoor hot springs.

Yama no Hotel, Hakone - Japan

The Hakone Hotel & Hakone Yama no Hotelhas an  excellent location on the shores of the picturesque Lake Ashi with views towards Mount Fuji from the grounds.

What to Bring

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 and prices are subject to change.
Non-member associate fee: £10 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) Version Price Status Trip Notes Book
15 Oct - 27 Oct 2019 Itinerary £5,799 Unavailable
07 Apr - 18 Apr 2020 Itinerary £5,299 Available Book Now
12 May - 23 May 2020 Itinerary £5,299 £5,149 SAVE £150 PER PERSON Book Now
26 May - 06 Jun 2020 Itinerary £5,299 Available Book Now
22 Sep - 03 Oct 2020 Itinerary £5,299 Available Book Now
13 Oct - 24 Oct 2020 Itinerary £5,299 Available Book Now
Date (Start - End) Version Price Status Trip Notes Book
16 Oct - 27 Oct 2019 Itinerary £4,999 Unavailable
08 Apr - 18 Apr 2020 Itinerary £4,499 Available Book Now
13 May - 23 May 2020 Itinerary £4,499 £4,349 SAVE £150 PER PERSON Book Now
27 May - 06 Jun 2020 Itinerary £4,499 Available Book Now
23 Sep - 03 Oct 2020 Itinerary £4,499 Available Book Now
14 Oct - 24 Oct 2020 Itinerary £4,499 Available Book Now

Important Information

  • Single room supplement: £775
12 nights
Worldwide Multi-Centre
Walking Grade:

12 nights from £5,149pp with flights

Save up to £150 per person

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