When in Japan, walk

By Rai Shamsudin

Anyone who has travelled to Japan will long to visit again. And those who haven’t set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun, will surely have it on their bucket list.

If you’re the kind who dreads touristy spots and prefers to explore the less-visited parts of Japan, now you can with Walk Japan.

Founded in 1992 by Dr Thomas Stanley and Prof Richard Irving, the travel company specialises in tours that immerse visitors into Japanese society and culture, provide great insights into the country and its citizens, and explore little-visited regions off the beaten track.

After 25 years in operation, the duo have become the pioneers of such tours in Japan, rightfully earning the recognition as “one of the 200 Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by National Geographic.

Walk Japan offers private and custom tours tailored to customers’ interests and requirements. Here is a look at some of them.

Kunisaki Retreat

Cleanse your body, mind and soul in the countryside of the Kunisaki Peninsula on Kyushu. Hidden away from city life, not many people, including the Japanese, have heard of this place.

The quiet retreat is lush with forests and paddy fields interspersed with craggy mountains, leaving the fast pace of city life trailing far behind.

Touinryo gallery.

Stay in a family-owned inn adjacent to one of the most simple and elegant Buddhist structures in Japan and start your morning with instructed meditation and yoga sessions before sitting down to a simple yet satisfying authentic Japanese breakfast.

A traditional Japanese breakfast is a sight to behold as well.

Walk along the ancient pilgrimage trails once frequented by monks and the locals while taking in the scenic surroundings of the Kunisaki Peninsula, a village and the grounds of a long-gone temple complex. After the long journey, relax your tired bones in an onsen (thermal hot spring) bath set amidst breathtaking views.

Tranquil Fujiki Temple is a perfect place to meditate.

The tour also includes activities like soba-making (buckwheat noodles), ikebana (flower arranging), chado (tea ceremony) and Japanese taiko drumming.

Making soba noodles.
Chado or tea ceremony.

Snow Country Trek

If you love winter, then look no further. Walk Japan offers a seven-day guided Snow Country Trek tour that takes you through Japan’s snow region, in one of the places that receives the heaviest snowfall in the world.

Wander through the frozen landscape.

Explore the snow-covered grounds accessible only by foot using special bamboo snowshoes called kanjiki.

Special snowshoes or kanjiki.

Take in the mesmerising beauty of the Shinto shrine complex, a set of ancient wooden temples set against the spectacular views of the snow-covered countryside in the northwest of Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

The Zuishinmon gate to Shinto shrine.

You can interact with locals from the farming village, meet a local bear hunter, and eat in a traditional bamboo leaf bento box.

Izu Geo Trail

Located east of the Shizuoka Prefecture, the Izu Peninsula is considered one of the most unique geological spots on earth. Situated only 150 km away from Tokyo, Izu is a world away from the giant metropolises Japan is known for.

This stark contrast makes Izu a popular weekend getaway for city dwellers and a seafood paradise for foodies.

The coastal walk promises you an unforgettable panoramic view of the sea below.
Dip your feet into the cool waters and feel the breeze on your skin.

In this tour, Walk Japan takes you through the peninsula’s east coast and mountainous central spine to its southernmost tip at Cape Irozaki before returning along the west coast to Shuzenji, an exquisite onsen resort town.

Here you can breathe in the crisp onsen air under a waterfall. Incidentally, the inn and its baths have been featured in several Japanese films and television dramas.

Soak in the breathtaking views from the onsen.

In good weather and clear skies, visitors can even catch a glimpse of the majestic Mount Fuji, rising to the heavens from the peninsula’s western coast.

The majestic Mount Fuji seen from Izu Peninsula.

These great tours are ideal for the physically fit and those who seek adventure while learning the rich culture and heritage of Japan.

So pick your season, choose your destination and book your tour with Walk Japan now for a one-of-a-kind travelling experience.

This article first appeared in uppre.com

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.