Japan has a long and rich tradition of pilgrimage. Since ancient times pilgrims young and old, rich and poor have followed sacred routes through forests, over mountains and across rivers to find peace, enlightenment and spiritual rebirth. Our Pilgrim's Paths itinerary showcases a selection of the stunning natural environments in which these routes are found, whilst juxtaposing this with two of the nation's most iconic cities.
Your journey starts and ends in Tokyo, Japan's remarkable capital city. Here a visit to bustling Senso-ji Temple, where the smell of incense permeates the air and young and old alike queue to purchase their fortunes, gives a glimpse of a bygone Tokyo seemingly lost today in the steel, glass and neon of a skyscraper world. Contrast this with the über-modern, energy filled districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya where the pace never slows, and new and ever crazier trends spring forth.
A ride on Japan's Shinkansen 'Bullet Train' followed by a scenic local train ride hugging the coastline brings you to the pilgrimage Mecca of Ise. Millions
of Japanese come here every year to see the outer and inner shrines, the latter dedicated to Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. Stroll through the extensive grounds before a traditional lunch in the restored old quarters.
A stay in Yunomine begins your exploration of the Kumano Kodo, a designated World Heritage route. This tiny village is a hidden gem tucked in a steep, wooded valley and home to one of the most unique onsen in Japan. We recommend an expert guide for a day to provide a local's introduction and lead you on a choice of nearby hiking trails. For the journey on to Chikatsuyu-oji you can choose to follow in the steps of the junreisha (pilgrims) and take on the challenging 24km hike through stunning scenery or alternatively, local buses can do some of the work for you!
A full day traversing the valleys and peaks on foot and by bus and you arrive at the mountain top sacred site of Koya-san. Here you'll stay in traditional temple lodgings, surrounded by thick forests and serving meals of shoujin ryori, traditional Buddhist cuisine. The early morning meditation ceremony is a unique experience and we also recommend a twilight walk through the vast Okunoin Cemetery.
Before returning to Tokyo by Shinkansen, the penultimate stop on your pilgrimage across Japan will be a true highlight: Kyoto. Here you will find the very best in arts, crafts, gardens and cuisine, as well as 17 World Heritage sites.
Historic cities, ancient forest paths, the most venerated of Shinto shrines and healing volcanic hot spring waters make this a very special spiritual journey through Japan.
Twin: £2120 Single: £2940
Twin: £3420 Single: £5140
- 14 night's accommodation (7 night's Japanese style)
- 7 evening meals
- Breakfast each morning (Upgrade) or most mornings (Standard)*
- Meet & greet upon arrival
- Most transport between destinations in Japan
- 14 Day Japan Rail Pass
- Airport Transfers
- 8 hours private guide service in Tokyo and Kyoto
- Private guide for 1 day on the Kumano Kodo including lunch
- Private guide in Mt. Koya (1 day)
- Tokyo transport card with 2,500yen of credit
- Kansai Thru and Kansai Wakayama transport passes
- InsideJapan Tours' info-pack
- International Flights
- Some local buses
- Any entrance fees including those for shrines, temples and museums
- Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip
No seasonal supplement
Black Out Dates
There are no black out dates for this trip. However, please be aware that at the busiest times of the year the named accommodation may not be available and in this case the price can not be guaranteed. However, we will always do our best to match the prices you see here as closely as possible.
Included evening meals are in Ise (2), Yunomine (2), Chikatsuyu-Oji (1) and Mount Koya (2)
*Breakfast is included each morning if staying at Upgrade accommodation. If staying at Standard accommodation then breakfast is included 11 out of 14 mornings. This is because the Standard package uses an apartment/residential style hotel in Tokyo (B:conte Asakusa). If you would prefer a hotel that serves breakfast please ask your travel consultant for an alternative.
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at Narita Airport you will be met by your driver who will be taking you by shuttle bus to your hotel in the historic Asakusa district of Tokyo. Journey time is just 45 minutes and you will also be given taxi vouchers for the final five minute transfer to your hotel. Situated on the banks of the Sumida River, Asakusa is Tokyo’s most historic area and home to the magnificent Senso-ji Temple. With the colourful carnival of market stalls, food vendors and traditional ryokan, Asakusa’s relaxed down-to-earth atmosphere offers a glimpse of Tokyo life before the neon-spangled skyscrapers arrived.
Day 2 Tokyo
Today you will have a knowledgeable local guide at your disposal for eight hours. Tokyo is packed with sightseeing opportunities so let the guide do the hard work and lead you to the highlights. Itineraries are not fixed in advance, so if you have any special requests the guide would be happy to incorporate these into the day. You will move around the capital by public transport as the Tokyoites do, to experience Japan’s capital up close with the guide on hand to answer all your Japan questions.
Please note breakfast is not included at the Standard accommodation in Tokyo (days 2-4) as it is a residential/apartment style hotel. If this is a problem then please ask your travel consultant for an alternative hotel. Breakfast is included every morning at the Upgrade accommodation
Day 3 Tokyo
There are almost endless possibilities for your free day today. Get up early and sample Japan’s freshest sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market or take a gentle cruise along the Sumida River. Marvel at the crazy fashions on display in Harajuku or take in the elaborate costumes and high drama of a kabuki performance. Your complimentary Info-Pack and a good Tokyo map will fully equip you to get the most out of the sights, sounds and tastes that make Tokyo such a vibrant metropolis.
Day 4 Ise
Today you will start your journey through Japan taking the high speed Shinkansen to Nagoya and then changing for a scenic local train to Ise. Home to two of the most important shrines in the Japanese Shinto tradition, Ise is the perfect way to start your travels. Explore the inner and outer shrine as well as some of the town's unspoilt old streets. Accommodation is at a traditional inn with meals included.
Day 5 Ise
A full day in Ise and the chance to visit nearby Kashikojima Island and the nature reserves of the Ise Shima National Park if you wish. You can also explore nearby Toba, famous for pearl cultivation and home to the Mikimoto pearl company.
Day 6 Yunomine Onsen
The Ltd Express train will carry you on around the southern coast of Wakayama prefecture today. You could make an optional stop off for a whale watching trip if you wished (from Kushimoto - April to October) before heading inland to Yunomine Onsen. Hot spring baths towns such as Yunomine have always made an ideal staging point for explorers of the Kumano Kodo and your inn here will have its own great baths for you to try.
Day 7 Yunomine Onsen
A full day in Yunomine gives the chance to take one of the Kumano Kodo trails. Recently registered as a World Heritage site, the pilgrimage route links Kumano Hongu shrine with Kyoto and Osaka as well as Ise. There are numerous trails to take - from easy to challenging and we will provide a local expert guide for you today. Some fantasic vistas and beautiful rural landscapes unfold before your eyes as you make your way to Kumano Hongu main shrine.
Day 8 Chikatsuyu Oji
You'll be following the footsteps of pilgrims along the ancient path from Kumano Hongu Taisha to Chikatsuyu-oji. Today's section is around 24km and does involve some fairly steep climbs. You'll need to make an early start as the walk will take between 8 and 10 hours. If the weather is bad or you want to shorten the walk you can do so by taking a bus part of the way. One option is to take the bus to Hosshinmon-oji and begin walking there. This cuts of about 6km and 2-3hrs of walking (including quite a bit of uphill). Alternatively you could take the bus to Kobira-toge. From here the walk to Chikatsuyu-oji is only about 7km along a section of quiet paved road. The Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage network is the most popular trail to Kumano and has been used extensively since the 10th century, when Japan's Imperial ancestors first began the tradition.
Day 9 Mt Koya
Should you feel like a light hike today you can set off after breakfast and hike for 30-40 minutes to Gyubadoji-guchi or you can simply take the bus today from in front of your lodgings.
Either way, you will be travelling by bus via Kii-Tanabe to Koya-san, one of Japan's most sacred points. The history of Mt. Koya stretches back some 1200 years to the 9th Century when a monastic retreat was set up atop the mountain to serve members of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. This sect of Buddhism was founded by Kobo Daishi and his body is now enshrined in the Okunoin cemetery. Today you will travel here by local bus and cable car and arrive in time for the afternoon ceremony at your temple lodging (Shukubo) accommodation. The evening meals here are traditional vegetarian Buddhist Shojin Ryori.
Day 10 Mt Koya
A full day in Koya-san today with a private guide to explore the intriguing Okuno-in cemetery as well as the beautiful gardens of Kongosan-mai temple which was founded in 1223 by Hojo Masako the widow of Minamoto Yoritomo who was head of the Genji clan. The temple was built in memory of her husband and is decorated with beautiful depictions of elephants, lions and a flock of exotic birds. This is also a chance for quiet reflection and relaxation.
Day 11 Kyoto
After morning ceremony and breakfast, depart the temple lodgings today and head to Kyoto, for many the highlight of their stay in Japan. On first glimpse, Kyoto is a very modern city. Your arrival is heralded by Kyoto Station, one of the largest buildings in Japan, a triumph of futuristic architecture and worth a few hours exploration. Yet at it’s heart, Kyoto reveals the true history, culture and tradition of Japan. Today you will have a free afternoon to begin exploring some of Japan’s finest temples and shrines. Drink a cup of green tea at the picturesque Golden Pavilion, contemplate Zen at Ryoan-ji Temple’s rock garden or wander through the thousands of vermillion shrine gates that line the paths of Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Day 12 Kyoto
This morning you will be met at your hotel by a local guide who will guide you through the maze of Kyoto's backstreets to the most famous sights as well as some more hidden gems. Kyoto was Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years and with such a rich history the guide will have plenty of stories to tell! Kiyomizu-dera is one of Japan’s best loved temples with a high wooden terrace crafted without nails that overlooks the city. Meaning ‘pure water temple’, a taste of the spring water at Kiyomizu-dera is said to have healing power. For those looking to be lucky in love, successfully walking blindfolded between the two love stones placed near the main hall is said to improve your romantic chances! The narrow lanes around Kiyomizu-dera are a warren of little craft shops and tea houses. As dusk falls, head to Gion to catch a glimpse of Kyoto’s secretive geisha as they scurry to their evening appointments adorned in luxurious kimono.
Day 13 Kyoto
You may wish to spend another day exploring Kyoto or alternatively take advantage of your included Japan Rail Pass for an excursion outside the city. Just 40 minutes away by train is Nara, famous for the huge bronze statue of Buddha at Todai-ji. The temple is in a beautiful location in the centre of a rambling park – just watch out for the inquisitive sacred deer! The electric metropolis of Osaka is a 30 minute journey and Hiroshima, infamous for the atomic bomb attack at the end of World War Two, is two hours by Shinkansen and makes a very worthwhile day trip.
Day 14 Tokyo
From Kyoto you will travel back to Tokyo today by Shinkansen. Your included Japan Rail Passes offer you some flexibility here: You could choose to spend the best part of the day sightseeing in Kyoto and take a late train to Tokyo, or head to the capital in the morning for some last minute shopping perhaps. For your final night in Japan you will be based in the futuristic Shinjuku of the city. This is a very different Tokyo to Asakusa; bright lights, busy department stores, lively restaurants and karaoke bars offer a dramatic scene to remember Japan by.
Day 15 Depart
Sadly all good things must come to an end. You will make the transfer to Narita Airport by the comfortable and direct Airport Limousine Bus.
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|Standard Price:||£2120 (Single Price: £2940)|
|Upgrade Price:||£3420 (Single Price: £5140)|
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