2020 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn

This tour takes you to experience some of Japan's most pristine and stunning remote landscapes with the Japan Alps high above you. A variety of short walks (8-10km) through the national parks and small villages is the best way to absorb the brilliant autumn colours. Ideal for travellers who love hiking through beautiful scenery and cultural experiences.

12AU$6,7501 October 2020Available

Tour Outline

The 2020 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn takes you into the heart of the Japan Alps. Japan’s stunning alpine autumn colours have to be seen to be believed. Our expert local guides lead intimate groups of up to 8 travellers on some of the best day hikes in Japan on this 12-day adventure.

Walk along boardwalks and forested trails through pristine Kamikochi and in 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 everyday neighbourhoods that most tourists miss.

This tour aims to see the colours in higher altitudes in early autumn.

This tour is suited to fit and active people who love being outdoors and exploring a destination by foot. Plenty of free time is included for those who love to make their own discoveries. The walks on this tour are maximum of about 8-10 km a day.

  • 1 October Tour
    Price: AU$6,750 per person twin share (single supplement AU$1,250)
    Tour Code: GHA-20
    Start: Thursday 1st October 2020 in Tokyo
    End: Monday 12th October 2020 in Kyoto

Places visited: Tokyo, Matsumoto, Mt Hotaka & Hirayu, Kamikochi, Norikura Kogen, Takayama, Shirakawa-go & Gokayama and Kyoto

Group size: Maximum 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

Tour Highlights

Hamarikyu Tokyo 500x500
Experience the old and ultra-modern of Tokyo
Kamikochi in Autumn
Hike around the pristine waters and classic views of Kamikochi
Soak in a natural onsen spa in the mountain hamlet of Hirayu
Wild West
Stay in a rustic farmhouse in UNESCO-listed Gokayama
Matsumoto Castle - Photo: Jim Wilson
Explore Japan’s oldest wooden castle in Matsumoto
Mt Norikura Autumn
See the amazing backdrop of the Alps walking through the forests
Mt Hotaka Ropeway Autumn
Take in the fabulous views riding the Mt Hotaka Ropeway
Golden Pavillion 500x500
Walk through the refined beauty of Kyoto


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 2020 Walking Tour of Japan Alps in Autumn.

Tokyo (Park Hotel Tokyo or similar)
No meals
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 of Tokyo neighbourhoods where you will find hidden gems which can only be discovered through walking. In the morning, you will visit Tokyo's Marunouchi area in between the beautifully restored 100 year old Tokyo Station and Imperial Palace Plaza.

After lunching at a restaurant among the Japanese office workers of Marunouchi, we will move to an old Tokyo suburb, Yanaka. Having survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and air-raids during WWII, Yanaka retains many traditional wooden houses and the old charm of Japanese suburbs. It is also popular with artists and craftspeople, and is dotted with lovely tiny shops in every corner. This afternoon, we will wander through Yanaka before heading back to our hotel in the late afternoon.

The welcome dinner tonight will be at a Japanese restaurant high above Tokyo with views of the city and Tokyo Bay.

(Total walking distance today - about 10 km)

Tokyo (Park Hotel Tokyo or similar)
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Tokyo (Free Day)

Today has been set aside for you to visit some of the Tokyo icons such as Asakusa Sensoji temple, Sky Tree or Shibuya crossing at your own pace. 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.

Here are some of the suggestions. Let us know what interests you and we will make recommendations 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 → Takeshita-dori Street for pop culture → Omotesando (aka Champs Elysee of Tokyo) for the latest fashion and architecture → Nezu Museum of Art for contrasting peace and beauty of ancient oriental art

Suggestion 2: Walk through Asakusa and Ueno for iconic Tokyo scenery.

Suggestion 3: Mount Takao (the city of Hachiōji, Tokyo) is a popular hiking spot for Tokyo people especially in early autumn. The walk is varied and interesting, dotted with little shrines, temples and tea houses. On a clear day you can see Mt Fuji from the top.

Tokyo (Park Hotel Tokyo or similar)
Day 4: Matsumoto

Today you leave Tokyo by Japan’s impressive bullet train - the shinkansen - to Nagano, then onto Matsumoto. Matsumoto is situated in the 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 five castles designated as National Treasures. Still in impeccable original condition, you will have a chance to explore its wooden interior and climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret. You will also stroll around the moat to view this magnificent castle from multiple angles. We walk back through Matsumoto's merchant district where streets are lined with nicely preserved old buildings from the Edo period. Tonight you enjoy fine Italian style fusion cuisine for dinner, prepared from some of Matsumoto’s freshest local produce.

(Total walking distance today - about 6 km)

Matsumoto (Matsumoto Marunouchi Hotel or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5: Mt Norikura and Hirayu

This morning we travel by private mini 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 walk amongst 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 10 km)

Hirayu (Hirayu-No-Mori or similar – room with private toilet & basin, and public bath house)

Breakfast, Dinner
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 4 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 5-10 km)

Hirayu (Hirayu-No-Mori or similar – room with private toilet & basin, and public bath house)
Day 7: Mt Hotaka and Takayama

Today you head further into the heart of the Japan Alps by a private mini 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)

Takayama (Best Western Hotel Takayama or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
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 the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, and wandering the photogenic narrow streets of the old merchant district with their old timber buildings.

The afternoon and evening are 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 7 km)

Takayama (Best Western Hotel Takayama or similar)

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-zukuri).

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.

We will move on by a 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 homemade 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 rustic farmhouse hand-built from wood fallen from the surrounding forests!

(Total walking distance today - about 7 km)

Gokayama (Gassho Minshuku Nakaya or similar) - Japanese style room with futon, with shared bathroom facility

Breakfast, Dinner
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. 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.

At the historic geisha precinct of Gion near the Kamo-gawa River we wander down atmospheric streets lined with traditional tea houses 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.

This evening is for you to explore this wonderful city at your own pace. You may like to choose a place to eat from the plethora of restaurants, or simply relax and wander the streets.

(Total walking distance today - about 6 km)

Kyoto (The Royal Park Hotel Sanjo or similar)
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. We can provide you with copies of a variety of well documented walks throughout 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.

Kyoto (The Royal Park Hotel Sanjo or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12: Kyoto and Bon-Voyage

This morning after breakfast your 2020 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.

Airport transfer on departure is not a part of the tour (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), however, we are happy to arrange your departure transfer. Ask the team at Journey to the East for assistance. And of course we will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan, too.


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