Konnichiwa! Welcome to Tokyo, Japan. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm tonight. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Have your insurance and next of kin details on hand as we'll be collecting them here. After the meeting, perhaps join your new travel companions for an optional dinner at a local restaurant.
Leave Tokyo in the morning and hop on our first train to Matsumoto. Admire the magnificent Matsumoto castle, one of the oldest castle in Japan with 400 year old history. Nicknamed "Karasujo" (Crow Castle), Matsumoto castle was painted in black to sow fear in the attackers back in 1595. After the visit, hop back on the train and continue to the tranquil town Narai on the famous Nakasendo post way that linked the ancient Tokyo and Kyoto. Narai was once the most wealthy post town along Nakasendo and marked the half way between Kyoto and Edo (ancient name of Tokyo). Wander along the streets in Narai lined by the preserved or restored old houses and rest for the night.
3 Tsumago / Magome (Hiking)
Travel to Tsumago where we'll visit Waki- Honjin, the former inn that served the high-ranking officials back in the days. This is where we get to have a glimpse of what it was like - what their life was like, how the furniture was positioned, even how to use the toilet. Then we'll hike from Tsumago to Magome, part ofthe Nakasendo trail. About 8 km long, this part of the route is well maintained. Enjoy the tranquil Kiso valley with villages dotted among the fields and locals working on them. Arrive at Magome in the afternoon where we'll rest for the night. Today's trekking distance is about 8km, roughly 3 hours.
4 Nakatsugawa / Kyoto
Continue our hike along the Nakasendo trail from Magome to Nakatsugawa (approx. 3 hrs), from where we'll take the train to Kyoto via Nagoya. Originally founded as Heian-kyo (literally “tranquillity and peace capital”) by Emperor Kammu in 794, Kyoto had its golden age during the imperial court's heyday from 794 to 1185. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years (the name means “Capital City”) but the emperor and government are now located in Tokyo. With over 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a great place to get lost in. Arrive at Kyoto, and we'll visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings.
5 Kyoto (Biking)
Today, pick up your rental bikes and start exploring Kyoto on the wheels. First cycle to Tofuku-ji Temple, the head temple of the Tofukuji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, built about 800 years ago. Then cycle along the lanes and streets of Kyoto, passing Toji temple, Nishi Honganji temple, Nijo Castle and then visit Daitokuji Temple. Your lunch is included in the fabulous vegetarian Izusen restaurant in the temple. The delicious and healthy shojin meal (Buddhist vegetarian meal) is not to be missed for your food experience in Kyoto. After lunch, cycle to the glamorous Golden temple, Kinkakuji then bike along the Kamo River before returning the bikes to the shop. Kamo River is the perfect place to get away from the Kyoto crowds and see the locals go about their daily business. Today's cycling distance is about 29km, a roughly 8-hour cycling tour. (L)
Today, we'll visit Ginkakuji, also know as the Silver Pavillion, which was built more than 500 years ago after the model of the Golden Pavillion Kinkakuji. Then perhaps take the optional walk down the Philosopher pass through Nanzenji big gates to Heihan Jingu Tori gates. Enjoy a free afternoon in Kyoto. Make the best of your time here in this charming ancient capital. Encounter a Geisha in the Gion district, enjoy a tea ceremony or continue your spiritual quest in one of the many temples in the city.
7 Shingu / Koguchi
We continue our journey on the train to Shingu. Visit Shingu shrine, one of the 3 main shrines that are part of the Kumano kodo network. Then we'll visit Kamikura Shrine, one of the oldest sacred shrine in Shingu which has a stunning view over the Shingu city and out to the Pacific ocean. Change to a local public bus here to Koguchi, where we'll rest for the night and get ready for tomorrow's hike.
8 Kumado Kodo / Kii Katsuura (Hiking)
Early start! Today we'll hike part of the famous Kumano Kodo, one of the only two UNESCO listed pilgrim route. The Kumano Kodo is a network of ancient pilgrimage routes that connect three major religious sites - known collectively as the Kumano Sanzan. Through centuries, the pilgrim route has been used by the royal families, the Samurai and the common crowds as part of their practice of the Buddhism, what is essentially a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and Shinto. For the first 2. 5h to 3h it is an uphill climb up that rises over 800 meters. After reaching the Echizen toge, we will follow the forest ridge for another couple of kilometers until reach the highest point, Funami-jaya teahouse at 868m. From here its another 4. 4km to Nachi Taisha, mostly downhill. Visit the Nachi Taisha, one of the 3 Kumano shrines, and the Nachi falls, then we'll take taxis down to Kii Katsuura for the night. Today's hiking distance is about 15km, roughly 7-8km.
9 Ise Shima
Head to the biggest Tuna market in Japan in the morning. Nachikatsuura claims to have the highest volume of tuna fish hauls in all of Japan and the tuna which are caught in the coastal waters by longline fishing are sold at auctions here. Then we'll take the train to Ise Shima. The Shima Peninsula is home to Japan's most sacred Shinto shrines, the Ise Shrines, and is a popular leisure resort area among the urban population of Nagoya and Osaka. We will have a free afternoon in Toba where people can visit the famous Mikimoto Pearl Island. Toba's claim to fame is as the birthplace of the cultured pearl industry and there's also a chance to see the Japan famous female Ama Pearl divers.
10 Ise Shima (Biking & Kayaking)
In the morning, a short train ride takes us to Shima-Yokoyama. Take in the great view of the Ago bay at the Shima Yokoyama Observation Deck, before we explore the island's intricate coastline, with the sea cliffs and coastal caves on a bike. After lunch we'll take our kayaks and kayak along the beautiful Ago Bay. Paddle towards an uninhabited island, and then move on to the inhabited island of Masakijima where we can disembark and wander on the island. Today's cycling distance is about 13km, roughly 2 hours. Kayaking tour is about 2 hours.
In the morning, hop back on the train and return to Osaka. Arrive Osaka around lunch time and go on a walking tour with your leader to the famous Dotombori district which is a popular shopping, food and entertainment district of the city. At night it is lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanized signs, including the famous Glico Running Man sign and Kani Doraku crab sign.
Our tour comes to an end today. There are no activity planned. You may depart your accommodation at any time of the day.