Japan walking holiday, North from Tokyo

“A 13 day guided walking holiday off the tourist trail into northern Japan, staying in traditional inns, walking through ancient valleys and trails, with a small group. ”


Tokyo | Nikko | Tosho-gu shrines | Oze Marshlands of Nikko NP | Dewa Sanzan | Kakunodate | Nyuto hot spring | Tono Valley | Staying in traditional inns

Description of Japan walking holiday, North from Tokyo

This Japan walking holiday starts in Tokyo and heads north, off the traditional tourist trail and into serene, spiritual natural and cultural landscapes. There are some classic sites en route, however, such as the UNESCO Toshogu shrine at Nikko, a stunning area protected by national park status. We continue to the three sacred peaks of Dewa Sanzan where pilgrims gather, and where we have a chance to stay at a shukubo, or temple lodging.

As well as divine hiking in Nikko NP, the Oze Marshlands and Tono Valley make for superb treks here in the north, a region portrayed beautifully by Matsuo Basho, one of Japan’s most important haiku poets from the 17th century. Staying in traditional ryokan or minshuku rural inns, the serene simplicity of Japanese life is always a highlight for our guests, enjoying not only traditional baths, or onsen, but also superb food made with fine local produce.

Travelling in a small group, with an expert, English-speaking Japanese guide, this carefully crafted walking itinerary really takes you into the heart of ancient, rural Japan. With a bit of Tokyo thrown in, of course.

Day-by-day experiences

Day 1:The walking holiday starts in Tokyo, where we meet fellow group members and the guide in a central Tokyo hotel. Followed by the first of many fine Japanese dinners on this trip.
Day 2:Walking tour of Tokyo.
Day 3:Take train to Nikko, followed by a walking tour of Nikko’s World Heritage Site, featuring the Toshogu and Futarasan-jinja shrines and the Rinnoji temple. Of great historical importance, this is where the remains of the Tokugawa shoguns are preserved. Stay in a traditional ryokan inn.
Day 4-5:Two days spent hiking around the national park’s Oze Marshlands, enveloped by the Nikko Mountains. A rare type of wetland, as it is at a significant elevation, and so flora such as alpine lilies thrive. Close to Tokyo this natural phenomenon, created by a lava flow, is a stunning sight. And our stay in a lakeside mountain lodge brings beautiful views at dusk and dawn.
Day 6-7:With two whole days to hike the terrain around the three sacred peaks of Dewa Sanzan, it is fitting that our accommodation is attached to a temple. It is all very Zen, as is our visit to the gardens, and also a real deal tea ceremony.
Day 8:Today we travel on to the ancient feudal town of Kakunodate, famous for its stunning restorations of Samurai homesteads. In keeping with tradition, we stay at a ryokan inn.
Day 9:A day to really immerse yourself in Japan’s most loved tradition: The hot spring bath or onsen, and Nyoto’s Onsen are some of the best, surrounded by mountains and volcanic terrain.
Day 10:Today we explore the Tono Valley, surrounded by the Kitakami Range. An ancient trading route, it is also famous for its folklore traditions, and storytelling. Stay overnight in a local minshuku inn, in a restored old farmhouse.
Day 11:After a morning of cycling in the Tono Valley, we take the bullet train back to Tokyo.
Day 12:Free day to explore Tokyo, be it shops, museums or just people watching. Followed by a final dinner in one of our favourite restaurants.
Day 13:Last day of tour and onward journey to airport, with our tour guide helping you arrange all necessary travel.

Travel Team

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Check dates, prices & availability

27 Aug 2021
excluding flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 27 Aug 2021 departure
11 Sep 2021
excluding flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 11 Sep 2021 departure

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

1. Protection of Local environment
Our tours are all small-group, both avoiding the need for large vehicles and hotels, and ensuring we don’t overwhelm the places we visit.
Where our tours use mountain or countryside trails, we ensure that we don’t damage vegetation by using only established trails. We leave what we find, so no taking of plants, rocks, archaeological artefacts, etc.

2. Wild life
We respect wildlife by avoiding quick movements, loud noises, getting too close and feeding animals. We help with the preservation of local culture by educating visitors about local traditions and crafts, and making the history and culture a central theme of their visit.

3. Waste
We follow the principles of ‘Leave no Trace’ on our walking tours. We do not leave behind any waste on our tours. On our walking tours we dispose of all waste properly to avoid contamination of water sources. We avoid as much the use of paper, and do as much of our marketing as possible on-line, using internet fax and avoid printing out paper. When we do print we use double side as much as possible.

4. Transport
Our tours use local public transport as much as possible where this is an option, lessening the environmental impact of extra vehicles on small country roads. We encourage our employees to walk or cycle to the office.

The Impacts of this Trip

1. A fair deal
We work only with small local businesses rather than international chains, and where possible we source goods and supplies locally, using only small, locally-owned and run accommodation and restaurants. This ensures that as much as possible of the money remains within the local economy. On this tour we stay at restored traditional 'magariya' farmhouse, typical of northern Japan. A family run inn maintaining it's traditional form of building. A small fire is made in the irori (sunken hearth) each evening and fresh char (a river fish common in Japan) is grilled, as part of the large dinner which focuses on fish and uses local vegetables. Our tours often visit the lesser-known (but equally enchanting) areas of the countries we visit, and this helps to spread the economic benefit of tourism more evenly.

We higher local staff and provide sickness and holidays benefits. The local staff is given full responsibility of tour operations encouraging great responsibility and fostering management skills.

Small group tourism encourages young people who would otherwise leave to find work in the cities to stay and start small-scale sustainable enterprises that cater to visitors. We try to avoid the destinations that cater to mass-market tourism, taking our guest to the lesser-known but if not more rewarding places that larger tour companies tend to avoid due to their unsuitability for large groups. This means our clients money will end up in small community that may have little in the way of work for its young people.

2. Local Crafts & Culture
To offer unique, engaging and educative tours which take visitors to lesser-known countries and regions, and introduce them to the culture, history and traditions of the people who live there. We provide cultural classes which help spread and preserve the culture, knowledge and traditions of the locals. We also encourage our tour leaders to have a deep knowledge of the local people and culture. They have often lived and worked locally for many years. By travelling the quieter backroads and encouraging personal contact with the local people, we reveal a side of these countries that most visitors never see.


1 Reviews of Japan walking holiday, North from Tokyo

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 29 Oct 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It was all memorable

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be prepared for all the travel and be aware you go to places that are not so well-known - it really is like this - but it is great to have the opportunity to do this.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes - sometimes - eg the smallish guest house on Yokoshima, the train journey in aid of victims of the earthquake a few years before in Kyush.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

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