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: $7,595 Register Interest or Call 833-254-6678
 Daibutsu Buddha, Nara  Rice terraces in Asuka  Pilgrims at a temple   Temple lanterns in Shikoku  Stone monuments sponsored by devotees on the Shikoku Pilgrimage route  Pilgrims prayer slips  Shrine along the Yamanobe no michi  Hiking amid the landscape near Asuka  Room at the Sachiya ryokan  Traditional kimonos  The Todaiji Temple, Nara  Entrance to Nijo Castle (detail), Kyoto  Nijo Castle Garden, Kyoto  Traditional sushi platter  Sushi-making lesson  Learning to make traditional sushi

Hiking Pilgrimage Trails in Japan

11 days from $7,595

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 the scenic Pilgrimage Trail—as other followers have for 1,200 years, in their quest to pray at the island’s 88 Buddhist temples. Visit iconic sites and temples here and in the ancient capitals of Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto stay in temple lodgings and a traditional ryokan; explore off the beaten path, and participate in a traditional tea ceremony (Hikes of 5 to 10 miles).

Highlights Include

  • Discover the rich history and culture of the ancient capitals of Japanese emperors
  • Enjoy a traditional cooking class in the town of Asuka.
  • Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims along the 88 Temple Trail
  • Visit the cultural stronghold of Kyoto and enjoy lunch with an apprentice geisha.

To see itinerary, please click on an option below.

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 the city as residents do, by public transportation. Begin your day with a visit to Shitennoji Temple, located in the south of the city, site of one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan. The temple was originally built in 593 A.D. when Buddhism was still not a common faith in Japan and was an import religion from China. 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. In the back streets behind Dotonbori, more traditional surprises await, like 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 — Nara Plain / Walking the Yamanobe no Michi

This morning, following breakfast at the hotel, transfer by bullet train and local trains to the trailhead to walk along the historic Yamanobe-no-Michi, said to be the oldest road in Japan. This trail winds its way along the base of the hills which mark the edge of Yamato Plain, south of Kyoto and Nara, 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. In between are small villages, fields or rice, vegetables, strawberries and other fruits. Also famous are 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 which is powdered green tea. This afternoon, visit Todaiji Temple and marvel at the Great Buddha, the largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. Transfer by train to Nara where you will visit Todaiji Temple and marvel at the Great Buddha, the largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan before checking into your hotel. Hiking 8 miles, 4 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Asuka / Tanzan Shrine

Today, travel by train to the agricultural community of Asuka. It is situated on the southern edge of the Yamato Plain in Nara Prefecture. As early as the 5th century it 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.

Our day in Asuka starts with a cooking class where you will learn to make a local specialty for lunch. Afterwards, today’s hike follows 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 5 miles, 3 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Ehime Walk / Eifuku-ji to Senyu-ji

This morning travel by train to Imabari on the island of Shikoku. You’ll enjoy a gentle introduction and begin your hike to Eifuku-ji. The 88 Temple pilgrimage route in Shikoku is 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, but there remain many who follow the entire route on foot over the course of many visits. Visit a selection of temples in rugged Ehime prefecture.

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. Some rooms may be separated 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

This morning rise early to experience the morning prayer service at the temple before partaking in a breakfast of vegetarian shojin ryori. You then travel south by bus to Iwaya-ji, a temple closely linked to Kōbō Daishi, the priest who founded Shingon Buddhism, and Mount Koya. You’ll have an opportunity to climb the iconic ladder to his meditation spot with its spectacular views over the surrounding region.

From Iwaya-ji, we enjoy a lovely forest hike to Temple 44 Daiho-ji before traveling by bus to Matsuyama in the afternoon. Daihoji temple marks the halfway point on the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage and was founded in the first year of the Taisho era. Tonight stay in a Ryokan in the Dogo Onsen/Matsuyama 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. You will follow the forest trail up Mt. Ishizuchi. From here the trail ascends as it heads north, eventually reaching a peak of 765 meters. The trail then levels off and gently descends with wonderful views over local valleys and towns as it heads to Koon-ji, whose modern architecture is markedly different.

The temple’s history stretches back to the 600s, but the current modern main temple building contrasts with the other temples you have visited and illustrates how Buddhism in Japan continues to evolve with changing times. After the hike, return to Matsuyama. In the late afternoon, have an 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, 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 of temples in this city surrounded by mountains. This 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, we will walk down Kiyomizu-zaka and Sannen-zaka to Gion, where you will learn about this famous district and the strict training undertaken by young women who hope to become geishas. Tonight, you have an opportunity to choose from one the many types of cuisine on offer in the city known for its refined dining. 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’, 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 enjoy lunch with a maiko, or apprentice geisha. Tonight gather once more to enjoy a farewell dinner together. Walking 2 miles, 2 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Depart for the U.S.

The journey ends today following breakfast. 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)