A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The first few steps may determine the rest of one’s walk, as the saying goes. Exploring a new city by foot is the best way to feel the pulse of a country. Among Asian countries, Japan is usually at the top of a list of countries built for long walks. Coincidentally, the Japanese have an indomitable passion for walking, leading to a booming market on guided walking tours in their country. These tours not only promote total well-being by exercising, they also aim to make visitors appreciate nature as art. Walking tours have certainly been refined to a fine art form to cater to different interests.
Join in the walk wagon by trying any of these three walking routes. Take note of the tips to optimise your time better during your vacation in Japan. Read on.
1. Nakahechi Route
If you are more into brisk walks for more “stop-and-let-me-stare-at-the-world” moments, choose the Nakahechi Route, part of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. The walk is a tradition which began way back Japan’s 10th century. During the tour, you can opt for short walks or treks leading to many recommended inn accommodations and hot springs of Yunomine Onsen. This popular walk route tends to be suitable for anyone who has a moderate level of fitness and stamina for two-three hours of walking. You can also opt to go on a self-guided tour in Kumano Kodo if you’re up for some fun and thrill.
2. Basho Tour
The Basho Tour is a 10-day, 9-night tour which begins in Tokyo and ends in Kyoto. Perfect for tourists who look forward to walking for about three to four hours per day, you can expect picture perfect sceneries and some steep climbs. Some of the routes pass through forest and mountain trails, bringing to life dramatic sceneries reminisce of a story-telling journey about the rise and fall of Japan’s northern regions.
If you are travelling in a small group, look out for tour operators who guarantee to start the tour without a minimum number of participants. If you have a big group, check out whether discounts are available. The Basho Tour is a great opportunity for couples or families to spend quality time with each other. Unlike Nakahechi, Basho is a full-guided tour. Prices range from JPY18,000 to JPY484,000 depending on what’s included such as accommodation, meals and baggage fees. Check with tour operators ahead of time if they allow single person occupancy for inns that they are affiliated with.
3. Nakasendo Way
One of the most splendid things about the Nakasendo route is a sudden shift of environment. The tour begins in Kyoto, known for its ancient culture and preserved mountain paths then slowly moving to the modern world of Tokyo. For visitors, this experience gives them the benefit of being immersed with different people, food and way of life. No trekking here, though; just gentle inclines. The walk averages 10-26 kilometres per day. Mainly focusing on the ancient and traditional towns it passes through, step into the past as you catch a glimpse of old Japan.One important tip: in the light of immersing in the Japanese culture, you should be aware of some of their local norms, such as rooms that should be shared by two people. Single room availability is only offered upon the discretion of the inn owners. If you are travelling solo and prefer your own room, do request for it prior to booking the tour. As for the price, some tour operators offer special packages in which travellers can just choose one between the Kyoto Tour (JPY18,000 to JPY72,000) and the Tokyo Tour (JPY26,000 to JPY76,000) with some meals included.
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