Exploring a country on foot can be therapeutic and eye-opening, giving you the opportunity to discover elements of a place – from spectacular untouched landscapes to ancient historical rituals – that your everyday tourist won’t experience. If you’re into authentic and immersive escapes, and Japan is on your must-visit list, take a look at the itineraries of Walk Japan, a pioneering operator of walking tours. Here are 10 of the highlights.
#1 A food lover’s paradise
Japan is, of course, one of the world’s top gourmet destinations. So you can look forward to culinary adventures galore in every Walk Japan tour. Think authentic inns and restaurants, local sake tasting and more! The Izu Geo Trail showcases some of the freshest seafood from the Izu Peninsula – from spider crab to squid, lobster, sea bream and more – while Hokkaido’s famous scallops feature in the Hokkaido Hike.
#2 Insta-worthy scenery
This island nation is the perfect backdrop for your Instagram or Facebook feed – from the snowcapped mountains and pristine forests of the Snow Country Trek, to the picturesque old post towns and seasonal cherry blossoms along the Nakasendo Way.
#3 Digital detox
Then again, maybe you’re looking to escape the constant presence of social media. If so, the Kunisaki Peninsula, at the western end of Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, provides a quiet rural haven. Walk Japan’s Kunisaki Retreat includes calming meditation and yoga sessions, relaxation in onsen thermal hot springs, soba buckwheat noodle master classes, ikebana flower arranging, chado tea ceremonies and taiko drumming.
#4 Culture vultures
History, culture and literature are a key focus of Walk Japan’s unique Basho Tour: Narrow Road to the North, which follows in the footsteps of 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. While travelling along quiet country lanes, forest trails and mountain footpaths, you’ll learn of the tough spirit of the people of Japan’s northerly regions.
#5 Unique encounters with fascinating people
As you walk the country’s trails, you’ll encounter a range of personalities, offering insights into local societies and traditions. In the Okinawan Voyage, for example, you’ll learn the secret to the Okinawan people’s famed longevity and hear captivating life stories of local craftsmen and fishermen. The Kunisaki Retreat, meanwhile, includes meditation led by the abbot-in-waiting of Fuki-ji temple.
#6 City secrets
Along with revealing remote rural hideaways, Walk Japan also brings you to the back streets of Tokyo and Kyoto. Their city tours uncover more about the history and culture of these cities than you’ll get from a guidebook!
#7 Social conscience
Walk Japan aims to leave a positive impact on all areas that their tours touch upon. In addition to supporting family-run and local businesses, they’ve established a Community Project in Kunisaki to help preserve the environment and provide a prosperous future through farming and reforestation initiatives. The project employs local residents and gives Walk Japan employees and walking guests the opportunity to get involved at the end of each Kunisaki Retreat or Kunisaki Trek.
#8 Adventure junkies
For outdoor and adventure enthusiasts, Yaeyama: Okinawa Voyage goes beyond walking. It includes kayaking across rivers, mangroves and the open sea, and also snorkelling coral reefs. Ishigaki’s aquatic paradise is home to over 300 species of tropical fish; you might even catch a glimpse of a sea turtle as it makes it way from beach to sea. Those seeking higher altitudes can trek some of Hokkaido’s highest mountains on the Hokkaido Hike. The itinerary includes Mount Asahidake, Mount Tokachidake and nearby volcanoes.
#9 Led by the best
Walk Japan’s tour guides are experts in Japanese culture, food and geography. They’re also proficient in both Japanese and English, and have an intimate knowledge of Japan and its people. Tour leaders have included individuals with extensive experience across the country’s media, agriculture, commerce, arts, finance, academia and tourism sectors.
Self-guided tours are an incredible way to immerse yourself in the Japanese countryside if you’re planning on travelling solo. Walk Japan will provide you with the essential logistics and route support, along with a Route Booklet covering a mix of historical relevance and modern cultural know-how for entirely independent touring of the roads less travelled in Japan.
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