Explore Japan on foot
Discover the rich culture of Japan
Bike around the country
Meet your guide and other group members at the hotel in Osaka in the evening. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
Meet your guide and other group members at the hotel in Osaka in the evening. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
Meet at the tour hotel in the centre of Kyoto. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
The tour ends today after breakfast. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for travelling to the airport if you have homeward flights, or on onward travel in Japan if you are extending your stay.
Your airport pick up will meet you at Narita or Haneda Airport and will take you to your hotel in Tokyo by public transportation. They will validate your JR Rail Passes, make seat reservations, answer any of your questions and hand you your pocket WIFI devise to use during your trip. In the evening you will be free to have dinner as you like though your airport pick up will make a few recommendations. The train from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station will take approximately 65 minutes.
You arrive in the course of the day at the hotel. Please note that your room may not be available until check-in time at 3pm, however if you arrive early the hotel will keep your luggage secure if you want to do some exploration. Tonight’s dinner is not included. There are plenty of nice restaurants nearby to have your pick
Your Japan Highlights tour officially starts at 9am in the lobby of the hotel: you will meet your guide and fellow Japan Bikers. Please be dressed in cycling gear and have your luggage (suitcase and daypack) ready for the van. After bike fitting it is a short ride to Fushimi Inari shrine with its picturesque rows of red tori gates. After lunch we cycle to Nara. The road winds through green tea fields. In the afternoon we visit the Big Buddha in Todaiji – the biggest wooden structure in the world.
After an early morning visit to the Big Buddha in Todaiji – the biggest wooden structure in the world, we transfer to Onomichi. Onomichi marks the Honshu start of the famous Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road connecting Honshu and Shikoku island. After lunch we set out on this dedicated cycling road. And dedicated means dedicated in Japan: purpose-made ramps with smooth grades lead us up to the bridges with their separate bike lanes offering splendid views of the surrounding islands and the Seto Inland Sea.
We veer off the Shimanami Kaido to take a ferry to Okamura island and the start of the Tobishima Kaido, another fantastic string of islands. In the afternoon we transfer to Hiroshima. Hiroshima (??) is the principal city of the Chugoku Region and home to over a million inhabitants. When the first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the city became known worldwide. The destructive power of the bomb was tremendous and obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometer radius. After the war, great efforts were taken to rebuild the city.
A free morning in Hiroshima to visit the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park and then another transfer to Hita. Hita prospered as Tenryo (direct controlled territory of Edo Shogunate) during the Edo period (1603-1868). It is called “Little Kyoto”, and still has many old merchant residences left.
Today it is all ups and downs in the shadow of Kyushu’s highest mountain, Mt Kuju (1791m). We are on our way to Mount Aso, the world’s largest caldera. Crossing the rim of the vulcano crater we finally get a glimpse of the impressive Aso plain. Legend is that the outer crater was once a lake, but one day the god of the mountain kicked open the only break (through which rail and bus pass) emptying the water and leaving the plain fit for cultivation. We stay at the foot of the climb to Nakadake.
Have a hearty breakfast because the day starts with the climb up Nakadake. If the vulcano is not too active, we are allowed a peak accross the rim. After the descent we sneak through the hole in the caldera and follow the Shirakawa river to the west. The city of Kumamoto is nearing quickly. We stop to visit Kumamoto castle set amid fragrant ancient camphor trees. The castle dates back to 1467 and is considered one of Japan’s top 3 castles (??? Sanmeij?) together with Osaka and Nagoya. If we have time we’ll ride on to Suizenji garden and visit the replica of Mount Fuji.
A leisurely ride on the fertile Yatsushiro plain, crossing the big rivers of Kyushu. Soon we arrive in Hinagu Onsen. This hot spring dates approximately 600 years back. During the Edo era (17th-19 centuries), it was designated as a hot spring run by the Hosokawa domain of Kumamoto. This historic hot spring was even loved by the lord of the Yashiro Castle as well as the lord of Shimazu who temporarily resided in the area. Even today, there are many buildings here that continue to depict the days long past. From the Hinagu Onsen Jinja, a shrine where the god of the hot spring is enshrined, a sweeping view of the hot spring resort and the Shiranui Sea as well as the islands of Amakusa and Shimabara in the distance can be seen. Even today, there are many buildings here that continue to depict the days long past. Such as our ryokan from 1909 with its exquisite wooden interior.
We dance a tango with the little railroad and continue along the Shiranui Sea. Mitachimisaki and Ashikita Beach merit a stop. As well as Minamata with its harrowing museum dedicated to the victims of the Minamata disease. Without noticing we arrive in Izumi, winter resting grounds for Siberian cranes and home to Japan Biking. And the end point of our trip.
We travel by train along the scenic Nankai Railway Line to Mount Koya, a bowl-shaped valley filled with cedars high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Mount Koya is the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, founded in 9th centurey by the monk Kobo Daishi, father of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Pilgrims on the Shikoku 88 Temple route traditionally visit Mount Koya to pray and ask Kobo Daishi to bless their journey; we will follow the tradition. We stay in one of the elegant temples and dine on shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine). We walk through the Okuno-in cemetery and see Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum.
Today we travel by train to Nakatsugawa, one of the old post-towns on the Nakasendo Trail. The original main road through the town retains its Edo-Period heritage with traditional sake shops, restaurants in period wooden buildings and old storehouses. We start our walk here and head towards the next post-town of Ochiai. From Ochiai we ascend through cedar forests and traverse a section of the trail whose cobblestones date right back to the Edo Period. Over the next four days we explore the best-preserved portions of the ancient Nakasendo Trail through villages and hamlets, all set against the magical winter scenery. Our lodging tonight is a charming family-run inn in the post town of Magome.
Your private local guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and will show you Tokyo. They will take you to sights that interest you and will also make suggestions. We can work on the sightseeing itinerary before you go to Tokyo to better tailor your sightseeing. Some places you might enjoy are Shinjuku, Harajuku, Asakura or many other options. Your guide will also make suggestions for things to do in the evening and the following day. Meals included: Breakfast
From Magome, we walk to Tsumago along one of the prettiest and best-preserved parts of the Nakasendo Trail. We'll likely encounter snow over the Magome Pass with fine opportunities for photographs. After the walk, there's time for lunch in Tsumago and then an afternoon to explore the many small shops along the picturesque main street with its lovely old wooden architecture. Try gohei-mochi, skewered sticky rice covered in a sweet paste of miso, sesame and walnuts. Tsumago is a living museum, which is still home to local residents whose families might have lived here for generations. We stay overnight in Tsumago at a family-run inn with a real sense of history.
One of the best ways to experience a culture is just to wander around and allow things to happen. Your guide from day 2 will give you some suggestions about where to go and what to do. They may even suggest a few places to eat for lunch. For dinner we can arrange for you to have dinner at one of Tokyo's many wonderful restaurants and you may want to try one of their many Michelin starred one.
This morning we continue our exploration of Tsumago including a visit to the Wakihonjin museum housed in a building which dates back to the 19th century. Today's walk begins after lunch and is a short but enjoyable stroll from Tsumago to Nagiso along country lanes. From Nagiso we board a local train for the brief journey to Kiso-Fukushima, a delightful post- town which was once an important Sekisho checkpoint on the Nakasendo. We stroll through the town before heading out to our comfortable Ryokan inn on the outskirts of the community. The Ryokan prides itself on its wonderful cuisine and its terrific indoor and outdoor thermal baths - a perfect way to warm up on a winter evening.
After breakfast you will be going to Hakone, which is one of the finest hot spring resorts in Japan. This area has been popular as a hot spring resort for hundreds of years. Its natural beauty and abundance of hot spring baths make it an ideal spot to relax after spending time in the capital, just as feudal lords did hundreds of years ago. While in Hakone you will have the chance to walk parts of the old Tokaido highway which connected Edo (Tokyo) with Kyoto in times past, ride the scenic Tozan Railway through the mountains, and visit the breathtaking Lake Ashinoko. The train from Tokyo Station to Hakone Yumoto Station will take approximately 1 hour. Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner
On our fourth day on the Nakasendo Trail, we walk from Yabuhara to Narai over the Torii Pass. This section is likely to have the deepest snow on the tour and if the snow is deep enough, we'll provide snow shoes to make the crossing of the pass easier. This is a rewarding journey through trees to the charming village of Narai. We arrive in time to explore Narai and have lunch at one of the small local restaurants. Our overnight accommodation is in Narai at a family-run inn in the village.
Hiroshima was the first city to ever experience an atomic bomb which physically destroyed it. The people of Hiroshima, however, rebuilt the city, filling it with charm and history. Hiroshima is also famous for its food, specifically Okonomiyaki which is a must try inexpensive lunch or dinner. While in Hiroshima you can visit the Peace Museum and Park, Shukkeien Garden, or the Hondori Shopping Arcade. The bullet train from Hakone to Hiroshima will take approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes. Meals included: Breakfast
Our walk on the Nakasendo Trail ends today with a short stroll from Narai to Kiso Hirasawa. Kiso-Hirasawa is famous for its locally-produced lacquerware. The walk takes around an hour and there may be a chance to see the craftsmen at work. We then travel by train to Matsumoto, a castle town nestled in the central alps region. We visit Matsumoto Castle, one of four castles designated as National Treasures of Japan before boarding a local bus to nearby Asama Onsen. The spa town has a history dating back 1,300 years and we stay overnight at one of the most elegant, authentic Ryokan inns, with beautiful wooden architecture from the Meiji era.
You will take a train and ferry to Miyajima, which literally means "shrine island", located in the Seto Inland Sea. It is considered to be a sacred place and it provides a stunning example of the ability of the Japanese people to seamlessly blend architecture with natural beauty. Deer and monkeys wander freely around Miyajima, especially on Mt. Misen, the tallest mountain on the island, where there is a good view of the Seto Sea. Here you will stay in a ryokan inn and be served a seafood kaiseki meal featuring oysters from the local sea. The train from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Port will take approximately 30 minutes. Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner
After breakfast, we leave Asama Onsen and travel by train to Tokyo. We leave our luggage at the city-centre hotel and enjoy a half-day walking tour of Tokyo, visiting Hama-Rikyu gardens, located near the mouth of the Sumida-gawa river. There is a striking contrast between the gardens and the gleaming towers of the new Shiodome business area beyond. Next we visit Nihonbashi (the ‘Japan Bridge’) considered to be the ‘centre of Japan’ and the zero marker point for all Japan’s main roads since the Edo period. This is where the Nakasendo Trail would once have finished. In the evening, there is a Farewell Dinner with your guide.
Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan, is where the traditional Japanese ‘high arts’ flourished like tea ceremony, calligraphy, poetry, philosophy and religion. Numerous temples and shrines are located throughout the city and walking along canals, next to traditional wooden houses and through the small streets really gives you an idea of the ancient imperial culture. Kyoto also famous for its crafts: textile, kimono and pottery. Meals included: Breakfast
Your private local guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and will show you Kyoto. Your guide will take you to Japan's most beautiful and historic temples and shrines, and you will walk down ancient streets where Japanese nobles strolled. There is too much to see and do but you want want to focus on Higashiyama to see Kiyomizudera, Gion to see geisha walking to their next appointment or head north to Kinkakuji. Your guide will work with you so you see the sights you are most interested in visiting. We can work on the sightseeing itinerary before you go to Kyoto to better tailor your sightseeing. Meals included: Breakfast
Nara is located in the central west of Honshu, the Japanese main island. Formerly known as Heijo-kyo, this city occupies an important position in the history of Japan as the first capital from 710 until 784. During this period, a large number of shrines and temples were erected under the protection of the imperial family and aristocrats. However, when the monks in the surrounding hills started gaining too much influence and eventually tried to seize power, it was decided to move the capital to Heian-kyo, nowadays known as Kyoto. Many of the temples built at the height of Heijo-kyo, like the Todai-ji and Horyuji temples, are currently registered as World Heritage Sites. Both Japanese and foreign tourists visit the city to see these temples, to walk among the free-roaming deer of Nara park or to visit some of the beautiful scenic mountains surrounding the city. The train from Kyoto Station to Nara Station will take about 45 minutes. Meals included: Breakfast
Osaka is most famous for its inhabitants and local cuisine. The people of Osaka are widely known for their outgoing spirit and friendliness and the local dialect has been adapted as the standard for stand-up comedians and actors. Osaka’s regional cuisine is thought to be the best in Japan. Dishes include okonomiyaki (a pancake-based dish containing vegetables, meat, and/or seafood), takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and udon noodles. The train from Kyoto to Osaka will take about 40 minutes.
Your private local guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and will show you Osaka. This city is filled with hidden gems that most tourists have no idea they exist like Doguyasuji Street for restaurant owners, Kuromon Ichiba local market street and Amemura. We can work on the sightseeing itinerary before you go to Osaka to better tailor your sightseeing.
Today you will take a train to Kansai Airport and then home with memories you will have for a lifetime. Meals included: Breakfast