Japan: Ancient Pilgrim Trails - 27th September to 9th October 2018

Japanese Temple

We begin this fascinating tour in the bustling hub of Tokyo, spending the first night of our trip in the capital, before setting off by bullet train and local express train into the mountains. Here, we arrive at the starting point of our walk along the Nakasendo Trail and the Kumano Kodo Trail - two of Japan’s famous Pilgrim Trails. The tour ends in the cultural city of Kyoto, with return flights from Osaka.

  • Nakasendo Trail - hiking from village to village in preserved historic towns of the Kiso Valley past rice fields, bamboo groves and cedars
  • The Kumano Kodo - A UNESCO World Heritage route of pilgrimage - centuries old and travelling between shrines of pilgrimage, previously followed by the emperors
  • Tokyo - Japan's bustling capital
  • Kyoto - home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Stay in traditional Japanese inns along the trail
  • Visits to shrines of pilgrimage on the Kumano Kodo
  • Travel by bullet train, or shinkansen, a sleek high-speed train that reaches speeds of up to 200 miles per hour

Our walk connects village to village, as we follow The Nakasendo Trail that linked Tokyo to Kyoto during Japan’s feudal period. It was the ‘road through the mountains’ travelled by feudal lords and their retinues, samurai, merchants, and travellers. Along the route were 69 ‘post towns’, where weary travellers could rest before continuing on to the next leg. Our destination is the historical city of Kyoto – a city that houses much of Japan’s cultural heritage and 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Historic Japan

After the Nakasendo Trail we head south to the Kumano region, to discover the mystical ‘Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range’ – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Over six days we follow in the footsteps of Emperors along the 1000-year old pilgrimage route known as the Kumano Kodo – the Old Road of Kumano.

Accommodation along the trails is in traditional, small family run Japanese-style inns called ryokan and minshaku. Here, we can look forward to a warm welcome and dine on the freshest local ingredients – quite a refined way to end each day of hiking, especially when coupled with a natural hot spring bath! The tour is accompanied throughout by our own tour leader and a highly experienced English-speaking Japanese guide.


Arrive at the airport under your own arrangementsfor the flight to Tokyo. Please check-in three hours before departure time, using your passport and e-ticket. Flights are the latest known and subject to confirmation. All times are local.



Met on arrival by our agents and transferred by private coach to our hotel. Our local, English-speaking guide will meet us on arrival.

Welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Overnight at the Shiba Park Hotel, Tokyo.


Hiking the Nakasendo Trail

SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – Nakasendo Hiking Magome to Tsumago (BD)

This morning, we send our main luggage ahead to Kiso-Fukushima. Unencumbered, we can travel light and start walking without delay. We travel by bullet train and local express train and local bus to Magome.

Our first walk on the Nakasendo Trail is from Magome to Tsumago over the Magome-toge Pass, one of the most challenging parts of the Nakasendo, 801m above sea level.  The Nakasendo Trail had 69 post towns; beginning at Edo (Tokyo), with Magome being the 43rd. Tsumago is the 42nd Nakasendo post town and is truly evocative of a traditional Nakasendo post town from the late Edo period.


Walking: 8.3km / 5.2 miles, 326m / 1069 ft ascent, 430m / 1410 ft descent, 3 hours.


Accommodation: Hotel Kisoji


Tsumago to Nojiril

SUNDAY 30 SEPTEMBER - Nakasendo Hiking Tsumago to Nojiri (BD)

Leaving Tsumago, we meet some of the more natural, wilder scenery of our tour, as the trail cuts through small valleys and past forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar. We continue by train to Kiso-Fukushima and stay overnight at a lovely hot spring ryokan - set in a valley above the town. Our bags, sent ahead from Kyoto, will be waiting for us on arrival in Kiso Fukushima.


Walking, 18.4 km / 11.5 miles, 723m / 2275 ft ascent, 644m / 2112 ft descent, 6 hours


Accommodation: Ryokan Komanoyu




Yabuhara to Narai

MONDAY 1 OCTOBER - Nakasendo Hiking Yabuhara to Narai (BD)

This morning we send our bags ahead to Yunomine Onsen. We travel by train from Kiso Fukushima to Yabuhara, the start for today’s Nakasendo Trail walk. Yabuhara flourished as a post town during the feudal Edo period, though almost no original buildings remain due to repeated fires in the past.  Between Yabuhara and your destination, Narai, the trail climbs the Torii-toge Pass, one of the hardest parts of the Nakasendo. 

Narai was once known as “Narai of 1000 inns,” as this was the most prosperous of the 69 post towns along the Nakasendo Trail. Travellers prepared or recovered in the many inns here before and after tackling the steep Torii-toge. In contrast with Yabuhara, residents of Narai chose to renovate their historic houses and impose strict rules on ownership and use.


Walking, 6.2 km / 3.9 miles, 344m / 1128 ft ascent, 270m / 885 ft descent, 3 hours


Accommodation: Minshuku, Iseya


TUESDAY 2 OCTOBER - Train to Kyoto (B)

This morning we travel by train and bullet train to Kyoto, arriving in the early afternoon.

We have included a walking tour of the famous Gion neighbourhood. This traditional neighbourhood is home to a number of tea houses where geisha and apprentice geisha (known in Kyoto as geiko and maiko), train and perform. With luck, we will see one glide by on her way to an appointment! This evening we are at leisure in Kyoto.


Accommodation: Royal Park Hotel: The Kyoto   


Kyoto to Kii Peninsula

WEDNESDAY 3 OCTOBER -   Travel from Kyoto to the Kii Peninsula, Hiking from Takijiri to Takahara (BD)

Travel south from Kyoto along the coast by train to Tanabe (about 3 hours), then transfer by local bus (about 40 minutes) to Takijiri. The village is at the beginning of the Nakahechi, part of the network of ancient pilgrimage trails known as the Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Kumano Kodo became popular from the 11th century as a place of pilgrimage from Kyoto by Emperors.. It is also the site of the three sacred shrines of Kumano, the Kumano Sanzan.

Continue with a 2-hour hike to the small mountain-top village of Takahara, where we stop for the night. Our accommodation is a delightful Japanese-style ryokan built by local carpenters with rooms affording a spectacular view over the surrounding mountains. There are hot-spring baths and the sumptuous evening meal is made with organic locally-sourced ingredients.


Walking: 4.5 km / 2.8 miles, 370 m / 1,200 ft ascent, 175m / f75 ft descent; about 2 hours


Accommodation: Japanese style lodge - Organic Hotel Kirinosato


THURSDAY 4 OCTOBER - Walk from Takahara to Chikatsuyu (BD)

Starting from Takahara, we continue eastwards along the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail. Along the path we pass small jizo bodhisattva statues, placed there by locals to protect travellers. Here we also find the sites of old cha-ya (tea houses), which provided rest to pilgrims right up until the early 20th century.

Descend to the village of Chikatsuyu, and continue on to Yunomine Onsen by bus for our accommodation for tonight, a hot springs inn in Yunomine Onsen. Our bags are sent ahead from Kiso Fukushima and will be waiting for us at Yunomine Onsen.  


Walking: 10.1 km / 6.5 miles; 4 hours; 480 m / 1,575 ft ascent; 520 m / 1,700 ft descent


Accommodation: Hot springs ryokan – Yunominesou  


Grand shrine at Hongu

FRIDAY 5 OCTOBER - Walk from Chikatsuyu to the Grand Shrine at Hongu (BD)

From Chikatsuyu, the trail continues through the mountains to Hongu. The trail passes through small villages and forest trails over the Kii Mountains to the Kumano shrine at Hongu, one of the three ‘Grand Shrines of Kumano’. At the heart of these sacred mountains, Kumano was said to be the entrance to the land of Yomi, the ‘other world' which spirits travelled to in Japanese mythology. From the Kumano shrine at Hongu, a short bus ride brings you to Yunomine Onsen.


Enjoy a relaxing soak in a Japanese bath before or after your delicious, multi-course dinner.


Walking: 7 hours (15km / 9 miles); 820m / 2,700 feet of ascent and 1140m / 3,740 feet of descent.


Accommodation: Hot springs ryokan – Yunominesou  


Nachi Taisha

SATURDAY 6 OCTOBER – Travel to Nachi, walk the Daimonzaka to Nachi Taisha (BD)

This morning, we send our bags ahead of us from Yunomine Onsen to Kyoto.  Today we travel by bus and train from Yunomine to the Daimonzaka, the traditional approach to Nachi san.  We plan to visit the Nachi Taisha and to see the waterfall befor returning to Kii Katuura – an active fishing port town that looks out over an island known as studded bay.


Walking: 1 hour, 2.2 km / 1.3 miles, approximately 150 m – many stairs


Accommodation: Hot Springs Hotel Urashima


SUNDAY 7 OCTOBER - Kii Katsuura fishing port. Travel by train to Kyoto (B)

This morning we travel by train to Kyoto – those rising early may have time to visit the tuna market before our departure. Continue on to Kyoto where we visit Fushimi Inari shrine, one of the most visually striking shrines of Kyoto with its many torii gates that snake up the hillside. The titular spirit, the Inari or fox, is associated with business, and also with the production of sake. Our bags, sent from Yunomine Onsen, will be waiting at our hotel on arrival.

Tonight is at leisure and your guide is on hand to make dining suggestions.

Accommodation: Hotel TBC Kyoto


MONDAY 8 OCTOBER – Sightseeing in Kyoto, Farewell Dinner (BD)

This morning, we have the opportunity to walk the Philosopher’s pathway in Northern Higashiyama.

Free time in the afternoon to make your own discoveries of the city and perhaps to purchase a souvenir from the many traditional craft shops in the city. 

This evening we gather together once more to proceed to our farewell dinner in a local restaurant where we can reminisce about the tour and our adventures together.

Accommodation: Hotel Royal Park Hotel the Kyoto, Kyoto.


TUESDAY 9 OCTOBER - Depart from Kyoto (B)

The tour ends today. Your departure transfer to Kansai International Airport or Itami (Osaka International Airport) is by shared taxi service.         


B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner

Hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto

Modern western-style hotels. The rooms are generally smaller than equivalent hotels in the West. Our city hotels have en-suite facilities, air-conditioning and TV; most have fridges in rooms.

Ryokan and Minshuku

Ryokan and minshuku are traditional Japanese-style inns. They may be in modern or older wooden buildings but the rooms are typically in the Japanese style with tatami (straw) matting and futons laid out in the evening. Dinners are served together, usually in the dining room, and are exquisitely prepared multi-course meals. Some ryokans have en-suite bathrooms (though older buildings generally offer shared facilities) and communal hot spring style baths, segregated by gender. They are typical of the classic Japanese experience. In minshukus you may lay out your own futon. In ryokans, the futon is laid out for you.

We offer the option of a single room in Tokyo and Kyoto. Single rooms may not be available in ryokans. At the small family run inns on the trail we may ask solo travellers to share a room with another member of the group of the same sex.



Most meals will be Japanese cuisine. Vegetarian options are available but limited. Strict vegetarian or vegan diets or gluten free diets may not be accommodated due the prevalence of dashi, miso, and soy sauce in Japanese cuisine. Alcoholic drinks are not included. Tips are not required in Japan. Small family run inns on the trail are proud of their set meals that showcase the local cuisine. Dinners are composed of many smaller dishes of regional specialties and a set meal is served to all guests at the accommodation. Optional lunches may be packed lunches or taken in small cafes or restaurants.


During the tour, we send larger items of luggage ahead by courier to make the long-distance transfers by bus and train more relaxed. This means you do not have to handle your larger items of luggage through railway stations and on trains. However, those larger items of luggage do not rejoin us on the same day; and you will not have access to them on certain nights. So please bring a backpack to carry your overnight items. All the Japanese inns on the intervening nights provide soap, shampoo, towels, slippers and cotton robes called yukata, which are worn inside after you check-in. It is normal in Japan to wear yukata to eat dinner, to relax in your room and when walking about. Hairdryers are provided in the regular hotels and in the public bathrooms in Ryokans. They are usually available in minshukus.

PRICE Per person

Price per person, sharing a twin/double room                     £5250.00         

Single person supplement                                               £460.00


Supplement for Business Class flight upgrade                    £1500.00 *


Price reduction excluding international flights are available on request          


*Please note that the price of this holiday has been calculated on the price of Economy and Business Class flights at the time of printing this brochure.  


What the price includes

  • International flights from UK to Tokyo returning from Osaka, Economy Class
  • Welcome reception
  • Accommodation in hotels, Japanese-style inns (ryokan and minshuku)
  • Services and back up of our local agents in Japan.
  • Airport transfers by private coach or taxis
  • Meals are included as marked the itinerary
  • Transportation between tour locations. This will normally be by train, local bus and sometimes taxi.
  • Accompanying Langdale Walking Holidays tour leader
  • Full-time services of an English-speaking Japanese guide
  • Entrance to museums, temples, etc. as indicated on the itinerary
  • Overnight baggage transfer of one large bag
  • Water and snacks
  • Local taxes
  • Airport taxes
  • ATOL Protection and ATOL Protection Contribution (APC)
  • Gratuities are not necessary in Japan


Please Note: For reasons of safety, weather conditions and unforeseen circumstances, it may be necessary to make changes to the programme without advance notice. Every effort will be made to avoid this if at all possible.


Arrive at the airport under your own arrangementsfor the flight to Tokyo. Please check-in three hours before departure time, using your passport and e-ticket. Flights are the latest known and subject to confirmation. All times are local.

Heathrow Passengers – Air France

Depart Heathrow                       AF1581                         11:50

Arrive Paris                                                                   14:10

Depart Paris                             AF272                          17:20

Arrive Tokyo Haneda                                                     12:15 (+1)                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Manchester Passengers – Air France

Depart Manchester                   AF5011                         11:25

Arrive Paris                                                                   14:00

Depart Paris                             AF272                          17:20

Arrive Tokyo Haneda                                                     12:15 (+1)


The tour ends today. Your departure transfer to Kansai International Airport or Itami (Osaka International Airport) is by shared taxi service.         

Heathrow Passengers – Air France


Depart Osaka               AF291              10:30

Arrive Paris                                           16:15

Depart Paris                 AF1080             18:15

Arrive Heathrow                                    18:30


Manchester Passengers – Air France/KLM


Depart Osaka            KL868                  10:20

Arrive Amsterdam                                 15:00

Depart Amsterdam     KL1095                18:50

Arrive Manchester                                 19:50



Although weather varies across the country, with weather patterns differing considerably in mountain and coastal areas, generally late spring and autmn are the best times to visit. During the summer, visitors may find the humidity Japan experiences uncomfortable, and winter is also prone to heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures.


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