Hike sacred Kumano Kodo trails, bike along the impressive Shimanami Kaido and through historic Kyoto and kayak Japan’s Inland Sea.

Embark on an insightful cultural (and physical) workout with a 12-day active adventure across Japan’s ancient history, religious sites and natural wonder. Beginning in Tokyo, leave the crowds behind for a hike through post towns dotted along the Nakasendo Way, then continue to the Seto Inland Sea for a biking and kayaking adventure along the Shimanami Kaido. Stop by historic Kyoto before tackling the mother of all pilgrimages along sections of the historic Kumano Kodo. With the opportunity to explore diverse neighbourhoods and experience real hospitality along your way, discover the secrets, past and present, of an enchanting Japan.


Start
Tokyo, Japan
Finish
Osaka, Japan
Destination
Japan
Style
Original
Theme
Active Adventures
Code
CJXH
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Hike between the preserved post towns of the Nakasendo Way – reconnect with the Edo history on this ancient trail connecting Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto.

  • Discover one of Japan's best cycling routes - the Shimanami Kaido which links Honshu with Shikoku across the scenic Inland Sea - and enjoy a cycling and kayaking experience

  • Temple-hop through the historic city of Kyoto with a guided ride past some of the major religious sites in the city - a perfect active way to explore this ancient capital.

  • The Kumano Kodo is one of only two World Heritage-listed pilgrimage trails in the world. Hike a section of the ancient route, arriving at spectacular Nachi Falls and Nachi Taisha Shrine.

  • Never lose sight of the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka. With options to extend your travel before or after your trip, you can continue your fascinating adventure through Japan at your own pace.

Is this trip right for you?

  • The active nature of this trip means that the fitter you are, the more you will be able to enjoy it. It is expected that travellers joining this trip will have had some experience hiking and cycling before joining this tour, and can swim. On some hikes you will need to be able to carry your overnight pack on the trail because we will forward your luggage to the next destination. Hiking distances vary from 3-15km per day with no more elevation change than 60-900m on one hike and cycling distances are around 30 km each. Please see the details of hiking, cycling and kayaking activities in each day’s itinerary.

  • The hikes on the Kumano Kodo and Nakasendo Way include sections rather than the whole trail, which gives you an experience of the trails without needing to commit to multiple days of strenuous trekking.

  • In some destinations you may be staying in a ryokan, which is a Japanese-style inn with shared facilities. It’s a great taste of tradition, but not everyone finds futon mattresses on the tatami mat floor, small bathrooms and proximity to other guests as comfortable as more Western-style hotels and beds. Read more about ryokans in our ‘Accommodation’ section of the Essential Trip Information.

Itinerary

Konnichiwa! Welcome to Tokyo – bursting with contemporary urban culture, this chaotic city has fascinating museums and world-class shopping as well as neighbourhoods full of restaurants and karaoke bars. As this trip spends very little time in Tokyo, we recommend you arrive a few extra days before your trip if you want to experience all it has to offer. Your Japan active adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight, but before then, you can arrive at any time during the day. If you do have time, you might like to check out the mania of Shibuya Crossing, or stroll around the hip Harajuku neighbourhood – it’s up to you! After the meeting, why not get some of your travel crew together for an optional dinner at a local restaurant – your group leader will know of some delicious places to go.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Tokyo - Tokyo After 5 Urban Adventure - JPY13157
  • Tokyo - Kanpai Tokyo: Shinjuku Drinks and Neon Nights Urban Adventure - JPY11065
  • Tokyo - A Tour Through Tokyo’s Kitchen (with World's Largest Fish Market) Urban Adventure - JPY8321
  • Tokyo - Made In Japan Shopping Tour: Cultural Curiosities Urban Adventure - JPY11065
  • Tokyo - Get in the Spirit: Tokyo’s Temples & Shrines Urban Adventure - JPY7660
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Say goodbye to Tokyo this morning and hop on a train towards the Nakasendo Way (approximately 3.5 hours). The Nakasendo is a historic network connecting post stations, or shukuba, between Tokyo and Kyoto in the Edo period. Today, you’ll tackle a section between two of these post towns – Tsumago and Magome. You’ll walk a well-maintained and marked trail through forested countryside and right past traditional houses of the time. Both Tsumago and Magome were towns where weary travellers would rest during their journey along the Nakasendo Way, and tonight you’ll get the chance to stay in a local guesthouse in town.
Accommodation
  • Ryokan (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tsumago - Waki Honjin
  • Nakasendo Trail - Magome to Tsumago hiking
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today’s hiking distance is approximately 9 kilometers and will take about 2.5 hours at an easy pace.
Your luggage will be forwarded from Tokyo to Onomichi today so you'll need to take an overnight bag with you for your stay tonight.
Please note that today you may either stay at Tsumago or Magome depending on the availability of the guesthouses in the area.
An early morning start today take you on a short hike along another section of the Nakasendo trail to Nagiso station. Then take a regional train plus a shinkansen (bullet train) to Furukawa, connecting to a local train bound for Onomichi (total travel time approximately 5 hours). Onomichi is the beginning of the famous Shimanami Kaido cycling track and the town is associated with a great number of great Japanese literary figures. There are various temples, pagodas and parks that you can explore on a couple of pleasant walks that connect them, the most popular being Temple Way. After arriving mid afternoon in the city, you might like to get your cultural fix with a walk along Temple Way, or instead head to Senkoji Park, where you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the city and the Inland Sea. If you’re lucky enough to be in Japan in the springtime, cherry blossoms bloom in the parks here! Tonight, why not head into town and grab a ramen dinner in one of the laneway restaurants – these delicious soupy noodles are what Onomichi is known for.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The morning hike along the Nakasendo Trail is about 5 km (approx. 1-1.5 hours)
Wake up in Onomichi ready to take on a section of the Shimanami Kaido. This 60 km cycle path connects 6 small islands on the Inland Sea between Honshu and Shikoku. Today, you’ll ride across three of the connecting islands, arriving on Ikuchijima around midday. The cycling paths are well established, and you’ll pass by cafes, shrines, small beaches, getting to see the stunning vistas of the dotted islands and tiny fishing villages on the Setouchi Inland Sea. In the afternoon, swap your bike for a kayak and start paddling from the Sunshine Beach area of the island. Later on, catch a ferry back through to Onomichi Port (approximately 40 mins), before a relaxing evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Onomichi - Shimanami Kaido cycling
  • Ikuchijima Island- Sea Kayaking
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s cycling distance is approximately 35 kilometres, and you will stop along the way to visit sections of the islands. The sea kayaking activity will take approximately 1.5 hours.
Continue your Japanese journey with a local train and shinkansen to Kyoto (approximately 3 hours). Originally founded as Heian-kyo – ‘tranquility and peace capital’ – in AD794, Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years before the emperor and government relocated to Tokyo. Because of this, Kyoto is rich in history, with over 2000 temples, shrines and gardens. After dropping your bags off at the accommodation, head with your group to Fushimi Inari Shrine – one of the quintessential images of Japan. Famous for its thousands of reddish coloured torii gates, get lost in one of the network of trails, and be sure to snap a few artistic shots. Follow your leader to hike up the hill, away from most of the crowds, so you get the best view and most peaceful feel of the place. Later on, join your leader on a visit to the historic Gion area of town, where you might spot a geisha!
Accommodation
  • Hotel/Ryokan (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kyoto - Fushimi Inari-Taisha
  • Kyoto - Gion District walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The Fushimi Inari hike is a 5 km round trip
Head with your group to Ginkakuji, also known as the Silver Pavilion. Built more than 500 years ago, this structure, surrounded by intricate Japanese landscape architecture, was modelled off the Golden Pavilion, Kinakuji. From Ginkakuji, get more active for a hike up Mt Daimonji-yama – one of the best short hikes in Kyoto. From the top, you’ll get a panoramic vista of the city and, on a clear day, a view all the way over to Yoshida-yama Hill. Once you’re back in town, the afternoon is yours to choose your own adventure, however active or relaxing that may be. Perhaps check out Kyoto’s Kitchen at Nishiki food markets, take a visit to Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace, or get lost in the zigzagging lanes of the traditional Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka districts. Better yet, rest up in one of the sentos (traditional bath houses) in the city – an experience you must have at least once in Japan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel/Ryokan (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kyoto - Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion)
  • Kyoto - Mt. Daimonji-yama hike
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s hike will take approximately 2.5 hours (return).
It's cycling time again! Pick up your rental bikes and start exploring Kyoto on two wheels. Stop at Tofukuji Temple first, then cycle along the beautiful Kamogawa river to Demachiyanangi, stopping at Daitokuji Temple. Learn about Zen Buddhism and get your zen on here, before hopping back on the saddle and continuing to the Kinkakuji Temple – also known as the Golden Pavllion. Finish today's cycling after rejoining with Kamogawa river on the way and back to the bike shop.
Accommodation
  • Hotel/Ryokan (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kyoto - Kyoto Cycling
  • Kyoto - Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Kyoto - Daitokuji Temple
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today's cycling distance is approximately 29 kilometres and will take about 8 hours in total.
Swap the bike for Japan's rail network and continue on the train to Shingu. Visit Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine – one of the 3 main shrines that are part of the Kumano Kodo network. After you've had a look around, visit Kamikura Shrine – one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in Shingu, which has a stunning view over Shingu city and out to the Pacific ocean. Change to a local public bus here to Koguchi, where you will rest for the night and get ready for tomorrow's hike.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Shingu - Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that your luggage will be forwarded from Kyoto to Kii Katsuura today so you'll need to take an overnight night pack with you for tonight.
It'll be an early start, as today you'll hike part of the famous Kumano Kodo, one of the only two World Heritage-listed pilgrim routes in the world. The Kumano Kodo is a network of ancient pilgrimage routes that connect three major religious sites – known collectively as the Kumano Sanzan. Throughout the centuries, the pilgrim route has been used by imperial families and the nobility, warriors and common folk as part of their spiritual practice, and reflects a mixture of indigenous Shinto beliefs as well as Buddhist influences. For the first 2.5-3 hours, it's an uphill climb up that rises over 800 metres. After reaching the Echizen-toge Pass, follow the forest ridge for another couple of kilometres until you reach the highest point, Funami-jaya teahouse at 868 m. From here, it is another 4.4 km to Nachi Taisha, which is mostly downhill. Once you've arrived, take visit to Nachi Taisha – another of the 3 Kumano shrines, as well as Nachi Falls. Then, take a bus down to Kii Katsuura for the night.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kumano Kudo - Hiking
  • Kumano Kodo - Kumano Nachi Taisha
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
Today’s hiking distance is approximately 15 kilometres on mountain trails and will take about 7-8 hours.
This is a challenging hike, known to locals as a 'body breaking slope'. If you are not up to the hike today, there's an option to take the local bus to Nachi Falls, explore that area by yourself and meet the group when they get there. Once you start the hike, it will be very difficult to turn back.
Head to Japan's biggest tuna market in the morning – Nachikatsuura – which claims to have the highest volume of tuna fish hauls in all of Japan. The tuna, which are caught in the coastal waters by longline fishing, are sold at auctions here. Afterwards, take the train to Toba. Toba is the perfect place to wind down after a few days hard work of hiking, cycling and kayaking. On arrival, your leader will take you on a short orientation walk in the old town of Toba and give you the option to have a fresh seafood barbecue for lunch – oysters, anyone? In the afternoon, visit the famous Mikimoto Pearl Island Museum. Toba's claim to fame is as the birthplace of the cultured pearl industry and here you'll be able to witness how Ama divers (female pearl divers) collect pearls in the traditional way. In the evening, maybe check out the onsen in your hotel – there's no better way to relax tense muscles than soaking yourself in hot springs with an amazing view over the bay area.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Toba - Mikimoto Pearl Island Museum
  • Kii Katsuura - Tuna Market
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, hop back on the train and return to Osaka. Arrive Osaka around lunch time and go on a walking tour with your leader to the famous Dotombori district which is a popular shopping, food and entertainment district of the city. At night it is lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanized signs, including the famous Glico Running Man sign and Kani Doraku crab sign.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Osaka - Dotombori District walking tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
With no activities planned for today, you are free to depart at any time of the day. Hotel check-out time is usually around 10 am, however if you have later onward connections, you will be able to store your luggage at the hotel reception during the day.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

4 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Transport

Boat, Public bus, Metro, Bullet Train, Train, Taxi, walking, bike, Kayak

Accommodation

Hotel/Ryokan (11 nights)

Included activities

  • Tsumago - Waki Honjin
  • Nakasendo Trail - Magome to Tsumago hiking
  • Onomichi - Shimanami Kaido cycling
  • Ikuchijima Island- Sea Kayaking
  • Kyoto - Fushimi Inari-Taisha
  • Kyoto - Gion District walk
  • Kyoto - Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion)
  • Kyoto - Mt. Daimonji-yama hike
  • Kyoto - Kyoto Cycling
  • Kyoto - Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)
  • Kyoto - Daitokuji Temple
  • Shingu - Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine
  • Kumano Kudo - Hiking
  • Kumano Kodo - Kumano Nachi Taisha
  • Toba - Mikimoto Pearl Island Museum
  • Kii Katsuura - Tuna Market
  • Osaka - Dotombori District walking tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. As this is an active, multi-activity trip you will need to have an excellent level of fitness. Please read the itinerary carefully to make sure that you'll be able to make the most of the activities on this trip and enjoy an active adventure in Japan.
2. Your luggage will be forwarded to the next destination at different points of the trip, but you'll still need to be able carry a small day pack during the hiking. 
3. Due to the rapid increase in tourism in Japan and in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics it has been necessary to go outside our traditional tour leader sources. As a result our passionate, professional and trained tour leaders may be local Japanese or long term foreign residents in Japan.
4. A Single Supplement is currently not available for this trip due to limited rooms at many of our properties.
5. We are currently unable to book pre or post tour accommodation at our start & finish point hotels due to limited room availability. We recommend booking a hotel of your choice through your travel agent or an online booking engine if you are planning to stay longer in Japan.
6. This trip does not include a Japan Rail Pass. If you are planning to travel in Japan before or after your trip you will need to purchase your own Japan Rail Pass in advance or individual tickets in country.
7. It is essential you pack light and compact for rail travel in Japan. From May 2020 there will be size restrictions for luggage on Shinkansen trains. Luggage over 160-250cm may require an additional 1000 JPY oversize luggage fee per train journey. Luggage over 251cm will NOT be permitted on the Shinkansen trains at all. Please notify your tour leader at your Welcome Meeting if your luggage is over 160-250cm so they can make the necessary arrangements.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

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