2019 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn
Taking you to experience some of Japan's most stunning remote landscapes with the Japan Alps high above you. Short Walks (8-10k) through the villages surrounded by the brilliant autumn colours accentuate the whole scene. Ideal for travellers who love hiking through beautiful scenery.
The 2019 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn takes you into the heart of the Japan Alps the experience of Japan’s stunning alpine autumn colours has to be seen to be beleived. You will be guided on some of the best day hikes in Japan on this 12-day adventure.
Your guide will take you along boardwalks and forested trails through pristine Kamikochi and in to some outstanding national parks not typically visited by international tourists. Along the way, surrounded by mountains, you will stay in villages with natural hot springs, visit centuries-old thatched-roof farmhouses in a UNESCO-listed village and wander the beautifully preserved back streets of feudal-era Takayama.
Not to be missed on any visit to Japan, the tour also incorporates Japan’s most iconic cities: the refined cultural heritage of Kyoto and the modern-day vibrancy of Tokyo. The walking guided tours in these cities are specifically designed to show you the backstreets of ordinary neighbourhoods that most tourists miss.
This tour is suited to fit and active people who love being outdoors and exploring a destination by foot. Guests who also appreciate having time in the schedule to do their own thing and make their own discoveries will also find this tour fitting. The walks on this tour are up to about 8-10 km.
Places visited: Tokyo, Matsumoto, Mt Hotaka & Hirayu, Kamikochi, Norikura Kogen, Takayama, Shirakawa-go & Gokayama and Kyoto
Group size: Min 6, Max 8
Type of tour: Small group tour
Transport: Train, public bus, private minivan and taxi
Accommodation: Minimum 3 - 4 star hotels in Tokyo, Matsumoto, Hirayu and Kyoto, and minshuku in Gokayama (minshuku is a basic accommodation with shared bathroom facilities)
Fitness level: Good (please refer to FAQ)
Tour type: Active
Experience the old and ultra-modern of Tokyo
Hike around the pristine waters and classic views of Kamikochi
Soak in a natural onsen spa in the mountain hamlet of Hirayu
Stay in a rustic farmhouse in UNESCO-listed Gokayama
Explore Japan’s oldest wooden castle in Matsumoto
See the amazing backdrop of the Alps walking through the forests
Take in the fabulous views riding the Mt Hotaka Ropeway
Experience the refined beauty of Kyoto in autumn
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2019 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn.
Day 2: Tokyo
After orientation with your guide, you begin your exploration of Tokyo. A vibrant city of soaring towers and sci-fi streetscapes, Japan’s capital is also steeped in great history and culture, making its mark as the seat of power in 1603 when the new shogun moved here. Our guide will focus on the back-streets, walking Tokyo neighbourhoods which you will not find easily in a guide book or standard tours. In the morning, you will visit an old suburb where you can gain insight into the traditional life of Japanese people.
After lunching at a local restaurant, we will move to a traditional commercial district of Nihonbashi. Nihonbashi Bridge was the starting point of the five major highways during Edo Period. Naturally it flourished as a centre of commerce in Japan with the fish market beside the river and many highly skilled craftsmen opening their shops here. The guided walk takes us through the backstreets, passing by amazing galleries, traditional ware shops and the top-end department stores. We pass right through a department store’s giant basement food hall to see the amazing range of Japanese food and confectionery on display.
The welcome dinner tonight will be at Japanese restaurant high above Tokyo with views of the city and Tokyo bay.
(Total walking distance today - about 10km)
Day 3: Tokyo - Free Day
Today you can visit some of the Tokyo icons such as Asakusa Sensoji temple, Imperial Palace, Sky Tree or Shibuya crossing. You may like to spend the day visiting museums in Ueno, checking out the latest technology in Akihabara, experiencing the cool urban buzz of Shibuya and the night-time neons of Shinjuku, or hiking though the local back streets of this endlessly fascinating city.
Here are some of the suggestions. Let us know what interests you and we will make suggestions and give you the information you need.
Suggestion 1: Start at Meiji Jingu Shrine (surrounded by a forest of evergreen trees and stroll gardens, this impressive Shinto shrine complex provides a peaceful oasis in an otherwise bustling city) -> Takeshitadori Street for pop culture -> Omotesando (AKA Champs Elysee of Tokyo for the latest fashion and architecture) where you hike from the shrine to the tree-lined avenue of Omotesando for some modern-day culture. On this walk you will see the world’s super-brands sit comfortably alongside edgy Japanese designers, avant-garde architecture, all flanked by Harajuku’s teen pop-culture.
Suggestion 2: Walk through Asakusa, Yanaka, Sendagi and Ueno
Suggestion 3: Takaosan ( Mount Takao, the city of Hachiōji, Tokyo). There are seven routes in Mount Takao the best includes the cable car to about half way.
Day 4: Matsumoto
Today you leave Tokyo by Japan’s impressive super-express train – the shinkansen - to Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture, heartland of the Japan Alps. Surrounded by mountains, Matsumoto’s own beginnings go back to the 8th century, later becoming an important castle town ruled by a powerful local clan during Japan’s feudal period. Today the city is popular for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, galleries, and stunning alpine setting. It’s also home to the impressive Matsumoto Castle, Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of the nation’s four castles designated as National Treasures. Still in impeccable original condition, you will have the chance to explore its wooden interior and climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret. Tonight you enjoy fine Italian food for dinner, prepared from some of Matsumoto’s freshest local produce.
Day 5: Mt Norikura and Hirayu
This morning we travel by bus towards Mt Norikura through Norikura Kogen, the highland of the Norikura alpine region. It is blessed by pristine natural scenery, hiking trails through wooded paths, and cascading waterfalls. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the autumn foliage and view the snowy peaks of the mountains around you.
In the afternoon we head to the pretty mountain hamlet of Hirayu Onsen, a traditional natural hot springs town. After an exhilarating day in the fresh air, you will experience your first onsen bath, a fantastic way to relax. Our guide will talk you through the ritual and etiquette of the Japanese bath and explain why a visit to an onsen remains one of the nation’s most popular pastimes (beware you will be hooked if you try the onsen!) .
This region’s specialty is Hida beef and tonight we’ll enjoy a sumptuous meal of local marbled beef for dinner.
(Total walking distance today - about 8 km)
Day 6: Kamikochi
A local coach takes us to Kamikochi (literally translated as “where the gods descend”). True to its name, the Kamikochi alpine plateau is surrounded by mountain ranges exceeding 3,000 metres above sea-level. In the morning our guide will take you on a 8-9 km hike along boardwalks, which criss-cross mossy ponds and streams and then wind through virgin beech forests ablaze in stunning autumn colour.
After lunch, you have your own time to relax and soak up the mountain atmosphere or join another hike with our guide along one of the hiking trails. You return to Hirayu Onsen in the late afternoon for a tranquil evening at our hotel and perhaps another restorative soak in the hotel’s natural hot spring baths.
(Total walking distance today - about 10 km)
Day 7: Mt Hotaka and Takayama
Today you head further into the heart of the Japan Alps by local bus to the Mt Hotaka region. Here we take the Shin Hotaka Ropeway, the longest in Japan, to the observation deck at the mountain’s peak to enjoy the panoramic views. Our guide will take us on one of the hiking trails to explore the area and enjoy the spectacular autumn scenery.
We leave this area for Takayama, heart of the rugged Hida Region. A compact, atmospheric town surrounded by mountains, Takayama is known for its beautifully preserved streets of timber merchant houses dating from the late 17th century.
(Total walking distance today - about 6 km)
Day 8: Takayama
We set out in the morning to visit Takayama’s morning market (with a heritage going back some 200 years!) to check out its farm-fresh produce and handmade crafts. Our guide will then take you on a guided walking tour of this historic town, visiting Takayama Jinya (once the prefectural office for the Tokugawa shogunate in feudal times), inspecting the elaborately decorated festival floats housed in Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, and wandering the photogenic narrow streets of the old merchant district with their old timber buildings.
The evening is yours to enjoy the town at your leisure and as always our guides are on hand to provide advice and restaurant recommendations.
(Total walking distance today - about 4 km)
Day 9: Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
We spend today exploring the exquisite UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Gokayama and Shirakawa-go. Surrounded by mountains, these rural villages feature the traditional thatched-roof farmhouses unique to Japan’s alpine regions. With their steeply-slanted roofs built to withstand heavy snowfalls, they resemble “hands clasped together in prayer” (hence their name, gassho-tsukuri). In Shirakawa-go, some of these farmhouses have been made into museums and places to demonstrate traditional crafts such as silk harvesting, while others have been converted into delightfully rustic cafes.
Moving on by private minivan to the less-visited region of Gokayama where we stay in one of the village’s original thatched-roof farmhouses. We enjoy a very special night, chatting over Farm dinner with the host and hearing stories of the house’s history, construction, and ongoing cultural preservation efforts. Tonight you have the opportunity to enjoy authentic Japanese-style hospitality – futon bedding on tatami mat floor in a beautiful farmhouse hand-built from wood felled from the surrounding forests!
(Total walking distance today - about 5 km)
Day 10: Kyoto
After a few days exploring mountain life, we change focus by taking a train trip down Japan’s western coast to Kyoto, that most iconic of cities. Here we transfer to a shinkansen bullet-train for our next destination – Kyoto, that most iconic of cities. With 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan and the guardian of many of its ancient traditions. Originally made capital in 794, present-day Kyoto offers an endless range of traditional craft shops, superb restaurants, ancient temples and Shinto shrines, contemplative gardens, and other-worldly cultural performances by noh actors, geisha, and tea-ceremony devotees.
In the afternoon we take a guided walking tour to some of Kyoto’s most stunning temples through their gardens resplendent in autumn colours.
At the historic geisha precinct of Gion near the Kamo-gawa River we wander down atmospheric streets lined with traditional teahouses built some 300 years ago. Here we may glimpse a geisha on her way to work. You have the evening at your leisure to explore the many food options available in the city.
(Total walking distance today - about 5 km)
Day 11: Kyoto (free day)
Today is yours to explore this ancient capital on your own. You may like to spend more time exploring Kyoto’s temples or try a class in paper-making, indigo-dying, cooking or sake-tasting, or visiting Kyoto’s traditional food and textile markets. Or you may prefer to wander around Kyoto’s great range of craft and speciality shops for some last-minute shopping. There are numerous well documents walks through Kyoto too. Let us know if we can help organise anything specific for you.
At our farewell dinner at a shabu shabu restaurant serving wagyu-beef, we will have a maiko (apprentice geisha) join us for a private performance. You have the unique opportunity to engage with her in conversation and learn more about this centuries-old art form and the life of a modern-day geisha.
Day 12: Kyoto and Bon-Voyage
This morning you will check out of your hotel after breakfast and your 2019 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn concludes. You can return to Tokyo by train or air to fly home, or depart from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, or perhaps linger in Japan for a little longer. Ask Journey to the East to help you plan your personal tour extension.
Please note that there may be slight changes to the itinerary described above to accommodate changes in train timetables, opening hours, and hotel and restaurant availability.
All photographs on this web site are representative and are not a commitment to what may be on view on the day.
- 11 nights accommodation with daily breakfast
- Lunches & dinners as specified
- All public and private transport for the group itinerary
- Airport meet & greet on arrival and escorted transfer to hotel by airport coach or train
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
- Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport when not travelling with the group
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)
Had a fabulous time with a great group of people. I loved the country, the culture, the people and everything about the tour – hope to do another tour with JTTE – maybe Hokkaido or Kyushu next time
Vivien Hewitt, Western Australia
This was my first trip with JTTE and already I am looking at the program for next year thinking about another one. I liked the fact that it was a small group, the organisation was spot on and the food everywhere was outstanding.
Dee Mason – NSW Australia