Walking through Japan

Posted by Elise Kirsten on 10 August 2018

If you are planning to visit Japan next year to watch the 2019 World Cup Rugby, you may want to see more than just stadiums. Why not explore the country on foot?

Ladies in kimonos, near a temple, on the Basho Tour. Image supplied.

Walk Japan offers guided and self-guided walking tours to diverse regions of the nation, often off the beaten track – although city tours like the Tokyo tour are also on offer.

Basho Wayfarer – self-guided

Basho Tour, Hagurosan. Image: supplied.

The Basho Wayfarer is the latest in Walk Japan’s series of self-guided walking tours. It’s is a 6-day, 5-night tour that explores Japan’s northerly Tohoku region.

This tour begins in Sendai, the largest city in northern Japan and takes its inspiration from the itnierant travels of poet Matsuo Basho and and his travelogue Oku-no-hosomichi, or Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Matsushima Bay. Image: supplied.

From Sendai you’ll journey via the site of a ruined fortress at Tagajo to Matsushima Bay with its and pine-laden islands. The Basho Wayfarer then continues to the Hiraizumi temple complex, a World Heritage Site; Yamadera, a temple dramatically poised on a cliff; and Hojin-no-Ie, a thatched building, which is the only structure that remains to this day where Basho is known to have stayed.

Accommodation is mostly Japanese-style hotels and family-run inns, some with the distinctive and traditional Japanese elements including paper sliding shoji doors and straw tatami mat flooring. Each day this tour brings you to onsen (hot springs), where you can unwind after the day’s walking. Hosts provide home-cooked, local cuisine ‘that appeals both to the eye and the palate’.

The Basho Tour visits a number of ‘onsen’ (Japanese for ‘hot spring’). Image: supplied.

The Basho Wayfarer includes easy-to-follow, detailed instructions. Daily walking distances are between 5-14km and your luggage is transported between accommodation points for you. Also included in the tour are: a JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) for rail transport during the tour; and three transfers by private vehicle to the start and from the end of more remote walking trails.

A fireplace in the only structure that remains to this day where Basho is known to have stayed. Image: supplied.

Price: From JPY212,000 per person sharing (Around R26,500).

This includes a pre-tour pack, a Wayfarer route booklet, 5-nights’ accommodation, 5 breakfasts, and 4 dinners, main baggage transfer between accommodation, JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) for rail transport during the tour, three private vehicle transfers and 24-hour English-language emergency support.

The Inland Sea Odyssey– Guided

One of Walk Japan’s new additions to its guided tours is The Inland Sea Odyssey, which the company describes as its ‘gentlest walking tour suitable for the most leisurely walker through one of the most intriguing regions of water in the world.’

Looking over Seto Inland Sea. Image: supplied.

The Inland Sea Odyssey is an easy walking, fully-guided tour that takes you through Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, a serene body of water that was at the furthest eastern extent of the Silk Road and at the heart of Japan’s earliest history. The Inland Sea is a 450km long body of water surrounded by Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, three of Japan’s four main islands. Dotted with an archipelago of islands, the region was called the Aegean of the East by 19th Century explorers.

Villages of closely clustered clapboard houses, which seem to have been largely bypassed by modern Japan, lie on the shores of larger islands. Here and there simple, elegant Shinto shrines stand on promontories overlooking the sea protecting fishermen and sailors. The hushed solitude of the Inland Sea and its islands are in great contrast to the elegant and fascinating cities, including Takamatsu, Hiroshima and Onomichi, that cluster on the sea’s coastal periphery. The tour will take you from island to island to explore the landscape, meet locals, and muse on Japanese history, society and culture.

Seto Inland Sea and Set Ohashi Bridge. Image: supplied.

Although the tour includes exploration of some of Japan’s more remote islands, each night’s accommodation is in comfortable urban hotels, except for one night’s traditional accommodation with onsen hot spring baths. Walking is approximately 3 – 7km each day and can be accomplished by the most leisurely walker.

Price: From JPY580,000 (about R72,500)
This includes: fully guided tour including local travel from tour meeting point to finishing point; accommodation for 9 nights; 9 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 9 evening meals, baggage transfers, and entrance fees.

For more information or to see other walking-tour options, visit walkjapan.com

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