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Top Japan walks: where to go

Guided or self-guided, discover Japan's best hiking routes

Walk ancient trails, eat your way around like a local, stay in traditional, locally-run Japanese inns and gain insight into the humbling hospitality and culture that Japan is renowned for. With over 20 years experience offering walking tours in Japan, our hikes take outdoor enthusiasts along iconic and less crowded trails – beyond Mount Fuji.

From the Kii Hanto muntains following the ancient Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail to the popular Nakasendo Way on a route that encompasses both the country's old and new capitals, experience Japan's beautiful wilderness and historic treasures with your own two feet on our BIG adventures with a small footprint.

Plan on exploring parts of Japan for a few days or over two weeks? Find your ideal walking holiday below on a self-guided route, or opt for a fully-supported guided adventure with like-minded walkers. Hike the path less travelled on these Japan walking trails.

Kumano Kodo Hiking Trail

Hike cobblestone routes through the remote and sacred forested mountain ranges of UNESCO-listed Kii Hanto. Home to centuries old pilgrimage trails leading to the three Grand Shrines of Kumano – Yoshin and Omine, Kumano Sanzan and Koyosan, this hike follows the footsteps of Emperors that link the capitals of Nara and Kyoto.

Traversing the mountain landscape to Hongu shrine, Japan's Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Trail is a sublime way to discover Japan's cultural past while immersing in cedar forestry, efflorescent valleys, hot springs and scenic waterfalls. The trail's finale will lead you to the Kumano Nachi Taisha, a Shinto shrine on Nachi mountain; and if you've already walked the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago), you will be honoured with a Dual Pilgrim badge and certificate.

Misty morning hiking the Kumano Kodo

The Nakasendo Way

This short multi-day walk travels on Japan's historic routes which connect the country's old and new capitals. The self-guided trail follows forest paths through the central mountains to the picturesque Kiso Valley and the alpine Karuizawa town.

Passing villages, you'll experience Japan's peaceful countryside and scenic post towns for a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and history. The complete walk is five days, but there are options to explore the trail who are shorter on time. A trip highlight, you ask? Soaking in the thermal waters at a hot spring ryokan.

Forest temple along the Nakasendo Way
Climb Mount Daimonji

Looking to step outside of Kyoto's bustling hub for a greener scenery? Stretch your legs on a day hike to the summit of Daimonji-yama (or more colloquially, Daimonji) for a mise en scène of low lying plains and river landscapes of the Kyoto Basin – the stage for some of the most edifying and poignant episodes in Japanese lore.

Gain a bird’s eye view of the expansive city from a stunning lookout point – it's so high up that on a clear day, Osaka's skyscrapers can be seen in the distance. The hike itself is around two hours return. For those who prefer to stay at base level, there is the option of walking along the Philosophers’ Path.

Historical pagoda in Kyoto Japan
Dorogawa Walking Trails

Hike around the onsen townscape of Dorogawa. This secluded area is famous for its sweet spring water and traditional herb and fungus medicines. Scenically located, the village has paths along riverside trails and mountain passes. Head to places such as to Ryusen-ji Temple, with its bright red maple trees, stunning gardens and legendary dragon tales. Also pay a visit to the country town's central waterfall, where pilgrims cleanse before visiting the sacred mountain of Omine which dominates the town.

After a day's hike, relax in an onsen at a comfortable ryokan inn.

Yoshino Village, Kii Mountains Nara |  <i>Janelle Williams</i>
Walk along Japan's old forest trails, past rice paddies and bamboo groves, cycle and paddle the Izu Peninsula coastline, see geishas in the streets of the old Gion district of Kyoto, visit World Heritage shrines and temples, soak in natural hot springs, sample fresh local foods and experience legendary hospitality and the subtlety of Japanese culture.

What to expect on our Japan walking tours

Your safety and enjoyment is our top priority: Hikers are met the day before their Japan walking adventures begins for a thorough briefing by our experienced trip coordinator  receive details of the practicalities of the hike, map routes, timetables of local transports to take when on a self-guided hike, cultural considerations to keep in mind, as well as local tips along the way.

20+ years of experience leading Japan adventures: We're the first Australian company to offer commercial trekking groups in Japan back in 1997 and only utilise high quality services sought out by our local and knowledgeable logistics team. We want your trip to be seamless and things, such as not having to worry about carrying your luggage to and from accommodations between hiking days, are all taken care of with local support every step of the way.

Taste of Japanese culture and hospitality: Stay in quality inns typically situated in natural environments for an authentic Japanese experience. You can also experience overnight stays in traditional ryokans or minshuku with futon bedding arrangements. A highlight by many of our travellers is how delicious the meals are, many of which are prepared by these locally-run establishments.

All-inclusive value: Focus on the adventure ahead by enjoying the all-inclusive value of our high quality Japan walking tours, which take care of the hassle of logistics and planning. Meals, accommodation, local transportation by bus or train, information packs including route notes and topographical maps for self-guided routes, an expert bilingual guide for our guided adventures and luggage transfers are included in the trip cost. Plus, solo travellers don't pay extra. Instead we match you with another traveller of the same gender so you enjoy the best price with plenty of inclusions.

Tailored walks designed by walkers: Diverse terrain means you will need to feel comfortable in variable mountain conditions – on trails such as the Kumano Kodo, expect steep ascents and descents. Our adventure experts at the time of booking can help you choose the right hike for you based on your fitness level and interest. You can also refer to our grading guide.

Thoughtful travel practices: As leaders in responsible travel, our Japan itineraries are designed to minimise the amount of carbon produced and use small, locally-owned accommodation to support the local economy and encourage communities to preserve their traditions. What's more, by joining onto our Japan walking tours you are directly supporting Positive Impact Projects that address the UN Sustainable Development Goals, like reducing poverty, affordable and clean energy, reducing hunger, clean water and climate action.

Adventure inspiration and tips from our blog

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