During daily hikes experience Buddhist traditions during a three-day pilgrimage walk, visit iconic sites and temples in Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto, and explore Japan's rich history and culture off the beaten path. 

Starting at: $7,895 Register Interest or Call 833-254-6678
 Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto  Daibutsu Buddha, Nara  Rice terraces in Asuka  Pilgrims at a temple   Temple lanterns  Stone monuments sponsored by devotees on the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route  Pilgrim prayer slips  Shrine along the Yamanobe-no-michi trail  Shitennoji Temple, Osaka  Hiking amid the landscape near Asuka  Todai-ji Temple, Nara  Buddha at Todai-ji Temple  Entrance to Nijo Castle (detail), Kyoto  Nijo Castle Garden, Kyoto  Pagoda at Kyomizu   Historic street of Sannen-zaka  Traditional kimonos  Room at the Sachiya ryokan  Traditional Udon noodle dish  A Japanese specialty  Traditional Japanese cuisine

Hiking Pilgrimage Trails in Japan

11 days from $7,895

During daily hikes experience Buddhist traditions during a three-day pilgrimage walk, visit iconic sites and temples in Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto, and explore Japan's rich history and culture off the beaten path. 

or Call 833-254-6678

CONTACT OUR ACTIVE JOURNEYS SPECIALISTS

Call Our Active Journeys Specialists at 833-254-6678 (M-F 10 am - 8 pm ET) or Register Your Interest Online. For calls outside of the U.S., please call 510-852-8350.

Overview

Be immersed in Japanese culture during this unique hiking trip. Experience Buddhist traditions on Shikoku Island, Japan’s spiritual heartland, as you hike for three days along a scenic pilgrimage trail—as other followers have for 1,200 years in their quest to reach the island’s 88 Buddhist temples. Visit historic sites and temples here and in the ancient capitals of Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto; explore cultural sites off the beaten path by foot and local transportation; and participate in a traditional tea ceremony. (Hikes of 3 to 10 miles. See a more detailed Activity Level description on the Tour Details tab.)

Highlights Include

  • Shikoku Island and the 88 Temple Pilgrimage Route: During three days of hiking on this sacred pilgrimage route, follow in the footsteps of other pilgrims as you visit important and smaller temples, stay in traditional lodgings, and gain an in-depth understanding of Buddhist values and traditions.
  • Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto: During your journey, enjoy walking tours of cultural and religious areas, such as Osaka’s Shitennoji Temple, site of one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist temples. In the 8th-century capital of Nara, renowned for its shrines and temples, tour Todai-ji Temple and marvel at the Great Buddha, the largest Buddha statue in Japan. In the imperial capital of Kyoto, now the country’s cultural and artistic center, explore Kiyomizu Temple and the Nijo Castle area, former seat of the Tokugawa Shoguns.
  • Cultural Traditions: Learn about Japanese cultural traditions as you enjoy lunch with an apprentice geisha, partake in a traditional formal tea ceremony, and enjoy a cooking class.
  • Small Group Feature: With a small group of no more than 12 people, you'll quickly develop a strong sense of camaraderie with your Adventure Guide and fellow active travelers—resulting in an interesting and enjoyable trip that is also more flexible! 
  • Lodgings: By staying at historic pilgrim lodgings and a ryokan you’ll engage more deeply with the local cultural traditions. Other properties include modern upscale hotels.

Itinerary

Day 1 — Depart the U.S.

Day 2 — Arrive Osaka, Japan

Upon arrival at Kansai International Airport, transfer to the hotel to meet your guide. Enjoy a welcome dinner at a restaurant in the center of the city. (D)

Day 3 — Osaka

This morning, travel through Osaka as residents do—by public transportation. Begin your day with a visit to Shitennoji Temple, site of one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan, located in the south of the city. The temple was originally built in 593 A.D. when Buddhism was still not a common faith in Japan. Prince Shotoku, a Buddhist adherent who commissioned Shitennoji Temple to celebrate a battle victory, was instrumental in the progression of Buddhism in Japan. The buildings have been restored over the centuries, but the site retains national significance.

In the afternoon, visit the Dotonbori Namba and Shinsaibashi areas. Dotonbori is a lively pedestrian thoroughfare lined with restaurants and shops. More traditional surprises await in the back streets behind Dotonbori, such as Hozenji Yokocho, an Edo period alley. Also nearby is Kuramon Ichiba, a local market featuring a variety of foods and a great spot to pick up a picnic lunch. Or, you may wish to try takoyaki – battered octopus balls that are a specialty of the city! Walking 5 miles. (B,D)

Day 4 — Walking the Yamanobe-no-Michi / Nara

This morning, depart Osaka and take the bullet train and local trains to the trailhead of the historic Yamanobe-no-Michi, said to be the oldest road in Japan. This trail winds its way along the base of the hills that mark the edge of Yamato Plain, south of Kyoto and Nara, and is associated with the early Yamato clan, founders of the first unified Japanese state.  The route is dotted with old shrines and burial mounds of the first emperors, as well as small villages, and fields of rice and produce. The area is also famous for the thin Miwa somen noodles, served with a light broth. Small shops sell snacks such as mochi or rice paste cakes covered in kinako, the indigenous word for soya flour, and matcha, the powdered green tea.

This afternoon, transfer by train to Nara where you visit Todaiji Temple and marvel at the Great Buddha, the largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. Check into your hotel later this afternoon. Hiking 8 miles, 4 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Asuka / Tanzan Shrine

Travel by train to the agricultural community of Asuka, situated on the southern edge of the Yamato Plain in Nara Prefecture. As early as the 5th century, Asuka developed as an important transportation center and was capital of the Japanese state until the early 8th century. Ancient burial mounds and historic sites of cultural importance are scattered across this tranquil rural scenery.

Your visit to Asuka begins with a cooking class where you'll learn to make a local specialty for lunch. Afterward, take a hike along rural roads and steep, forested trails to a wonderful vista over the Nara plain. The route then descends gradually to the atmospheric precincts of Tanzan Shrine. Stop to appreciate Tanzan’s unique character, having served as both a Shinto Shrine and a Buddhist Temple. You’ll then take the bus and train back to Nara. Hiking 10 miles, 5 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Island of Shikoku / 88 Temple Pilgrimage Route

This morning depart Nara, traveling by train to Imabari and the island of ShikokuThe 88 Temple Pilgrimage Route in Shikoku is renowned throughout Japan and still followed by many faithful believers. Pilgrims wear a sash to indicate they are on pilgrimage, and some will wear the conical hat designed to protect pilgrims from the elements. Today, many Japanese travel the pilgrimage route by car or bus, and many still follow the entire route on foot over the course of many visits. During your time on Shikoku you'll be hiking along parts of this trail in the rugged Ehime prefecture (the northwest quadrant of the island), and visit a selection of temples.

Today’s walk gradually passes from urban townscape to rural farming communities before entering a forest with a steady climb to Senyū-ji. You will visit Eifuku-ji and Senyū-ji and, time permitting, extend the walk to explore Taisan-ji. Tonight you’ll stay at Senyū-ji Shukubo, or pilgrim’s lodgings at the temple. With an emphasis on the spiritual rather than the physical, the accommodations are simple, but the hospitality of the monks is warm. Guests will sleep in tatami mat rooms on futon bedding and some rooms may be separated only by shoji screens. Tonight and tomorrow morning, you will dine on shojin-ryori, or Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. Hiking 5 miles, 3 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Iwaya-ji to Daiho-ji

Rise early to experience the morning prayer service at the temple then partake in a breakfast of vegetarian shojin-ryori. Then depart your temple lodgings and travel south by bus to Iwaya-ji, a temple closely linked to Kōbō Daishi, one of Japan's most significant religious leaders and founder of Shingon Buddhism. We'll have the opportunity to climb the iconic ladder to the priest's meditation spot, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding region. Enjoy a lovely forest hike to Daiho-ji, the halfway point on the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage. This afternoon travel by bus to Matsuyama where we will stay in a ryokan in the area. Dinner will consist of many small courses of Japanese specialties. Hiking 7 miles, 4 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Yokomine-ji to Koon-ji

Your last hike in Shikoku takes you between Yokomine-ji and Koon-ji temples. Travel by bus from Matsuyama and make the steep ascent to Yokomine-ji temple. From here, follow the forest trail up Mt. Ishizuchi. The trail ascends as it heads north, eventually reaching a peak of 2,500 feet. The trail then levels off and gently descends with wonderful views over valleys and towns en route to Koon-ji, whose modern architecture is markedly different.

The history of Koon-ji stretches back to the 600s, but the current modern main temple building contrasts with the other temples you have visited, illustrating how Buddhism in Japan continues to evolve with changing times. After the hike, return to Matsuyama. In the late afternoon, delight in the opportunity to visit Dogo Onsen, known for its thermal hot springs. Hiking 8.5 miles, 5 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Kyoto / The Higashiyama District

This morning, depart the island of Shikoku and journey to Kyoto. For many years, Kyoto was home to the governing emperors and Shoguns of Japan. The legacy of this can be seen in the myriad temples in this city surrounded by mountains. In the afternoon, visit the Higashiyama district. Your walk takes you to Kiyomizu Temple, founded in 798. The temple has a large veranda that offers a wide view of Kyoto, and the present buildings were built in 1633 without a single nail. Kiyomizu means ‘clear water’ and refers to a waterfall that is supposed to grant the wishes of anyone who drinks it.

From Kiyomizu Temple, walk down the traditional, charming streets of Kiyomizu-zaka and Sannen-zaka to Gion, a neighborhood renowned for the cultural geisha tradition. Here you'll learn about the strict training undertaken by young women who hope to become geishas. Tonight, you have an opportunity to choose from the many types of cuisine in this city known for its refined dining. And of course, your guide will be able to make dining suggestions. Walking 3 miles, 3 hours. (B,L)

Day 10 — Kyoto

In the morning, visit Nijo castle, former seat of the Tokugawa Shoguns in Kyoto. An interesting security feature of this palace is the "nightingale floors," which were constructed so they would squeak like birds when walked upon in order to notify occupants of intruders or assassins. The rooms have sliding doors decorated by artists of the Kano school. You will also experience sa-do, the "way of tea" as the tea ceremony is known in Japanese. This complex cultural tradition began after tea was first imported into Japan in the 10th century, blending Zen Buddhist and other influences. Over the centuries it has become a highly stylized ritual and a pleasure to watch and take part in.

This afternoon, learn more about the geisha tradition as you enjoy lunch with a maiko, or apprentice geisha. Tonight gather once more to enjoy a farewell dinner and celebrate your journey. Walking 2 miles, 2 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Depart for the U.S.

Your journey concludes this morning. For guests departing Japan today, a transfer is included from your Kyoto hotel to either Kansai or Itami Airports. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)