Current as of: April 24, 2024 - 12:42

Japan’s Kumano Kodo

Japan's Kumano Kodo Trip Notes

  • Ways to Travel: Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
  • Destination: Japan
  • Programmes: Walking & Trekking
  • Activity Level:

    3 out of 7 - Moderate

  • 16 Days: Flight Inclusive
  • 14 Days: Land Only
  • Ages: 16+
  • Trip Code: TOQ
  • Carbon Footprint: 22kg CO2e

Trip Overview

Walk ancient pilgrimage routes along the Kumano Kodo

After uncovering ancient shrines and pathways in Kyoto, we head off the beaten track to the Kumano Kodo region, one of the most remote and rewarding pilgrimage routes in Japan. This moderate walking trip focuses on beautiful scenery, nature and rural life, while following some of the most historic walks in the country. Staying in traditional ryokans along the way, we fully immerse in authentic Japanese culture and way of life. After, we visit Toba to learn about the pearl-collecting Ama Divers and embark on one last pilgrimage walk on the Nakasendo Way, before re-entering modern civilisation in Tokyo.

At a Glance

  • Eight nights in traditional guesthouses/ryokans in Japanese-style rooms (shared bathrooms) and five nights in comfortable hotels
  • Eight days of guided walking
  • Low altitude throughout with some longer steep ascents/descents
  • Travel by train, local buses and metro
  • Luggage transfers between accommodations on some walking days

Highlights

  • Explore beautiful and fascinating Kyoto
  • Enjoy historic pilgrimage walks along the Kumano Kodo
  • Immerse in Japanese culture off the beaten track
  • Walk the Nakasendo Way from Tsumago to Magome
  • Learn about the pearl-collecting Ama Divers while staying in Toba
  • Stay in charming Kiso Fukushima

Is This Trip for You?

The trip is rated Activity Level 3 (Moderate). For more on our trip gradings, visit our Activity Level Guidelines page.

There are eight days with walks/hikes. You are only required to carry your backpack during the walks and, where necessary, all main luggage is transferred to the next accommodation.

The walks vary from relaxed two-hour walks to seven-to-nine-hour hikes on a couple of days. Days 5, 6 and 8 are the most challenging due to the distances and the fact that some of the terrain has long, steep ascents/descents. Therefore, good fitness levels are essential to take part in this trip. On some walks, you can take a local bus to the next stop to cut down the distance, but this won’t be possible on all routes.

The trails are generally very well marked and most of the walking is on good paths, soft-soil trails and partly paved roads. There are some unpaved sections though. This is not a traditional point-to-point walking trip, there are several days where transfers are taken by bus or local train to the start points of walks and/or from the end point of walks to the next accommodation.

We spend eight out of 13 nights in traditional guesthouses/ryokans in Japanese-style rooms, which allows us to fully immerse in Japanese traditions and culture and to stay in more remote, less visited locations. These rooms in the guesthouses/ryokans will be twin-share. Private bathrooms are not common in traditional Japanese guesthouses or Japanese-style rooms, so these eight nights have shared bathrooms. Please see the Accommodation section of the Trip Notes for more details.

Group

We use a mixture of local and international leaders, all experienced in leading international groups and have an in-depth knowledge of the country.

Adult min age: 16

Min group size: 6

Max group size: 14

Itinerary

TOQ Map

Land Only

  • Start City: Kyoto
  • End City: Tokyo

Land Only Itinerary

Day 1
Start Kyoto

With about 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a treasure house of Japan’s cultural heritage and remains one of the most fascinating cities in Asia. Unlike many other Japanese cities, it escaped the ravages of both the Second World War and modern urban development, keeping intact much of the spirit and architecture of traditional Japan.

You are free to arrive at the start hotel anytime today. This evening, there is a briefing with your leader.

Accommodation: Hotel Resol Kyoto Trinity Oike Fuyacho (or similar)

Day 2
Hike to the Kibune shrine; onto Kurama temple; return to Kyoto

This morning, we set out on our first hike, visiting the northern mountains and the Kibune shrine, followed by the Kurama temple. Our first stop, however, is the Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion). From here, we climb up to the Daimonji mountain for an excellent view of Kyoto, then take a short train ride north to Kibune-guchi, where the hike to Kibune and Kifune shrine begins.

Kifune shrine was built upon the site where supposedly a goddess finished a long journey by boat. It’s dedicated to the deity of water and rain, so all those who seek protection and maritime safety come here to pray – especially seamen and fishermen. The charming town of Kibune is dotted with traditional restaurants and inns, with streams running beneath the restaurant platforms. It’s an excellent opportunity to relax, especially for those who wish to escape the Kyoto crowds.

We then set out for Kurama town, renowned for its Kurama temple and special hot springs. The temple is deep in the woods and requires a fair bit of legwork to reach, but those who do venture there are rewarded with beautiful scenery along the path.

We return to Kyoto for the evening, where you can choose to join an optional group dinner in the Gion district if you wish.

Accommodation: Hotel Resol Kyoto Trinity Oike Fuyacho (or similar)

Distance covered: 6mi (9km)

Ascent: 984ft (300m); Activity hours: 3-4

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 3
Walk on the ancient Yamanobe-no-michi

Leaving the north of Kyoto, we enjoy a pleasant hike on the Yamanobe-no-michi. The path is believed to be the oldest still in existence connecting Edo (present day Tokyo) with the western parts of Japan with a history of more than 1,200 years. Starting in present-day Nara and spanning through what used to be Yamato – the cradle of Japanese civilisation – the trail takes us through more than 9mi (15km) of distance and two millennia of history. Along the way, we discover relics of a distant past, including the seventh-century BCE shrine of Omiwa, said to be the oldest still standing in Japan. There are also many temples and shrines dotting the trail and the trail itself runs through lush forests and comfortable paths. As we pass rural villages, we can experience true Japanese hospitality as fruit vendors often offer locally grown fresh produce to trail hikers as an energy booster.

In the late afternoon, we return to Kyoto for an evening at leisure.

Accommodation: Hotel Resol Kyoto Trinity Oike Fuyacho (or similar)

Distance covered: 10mi (16km)

Ascent: 525ft (160m); Activity hours: 5-6

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 4
Morning walk to the Fushimi Inari shrine; free time in Kyoto before train to Tanabe

We have an early start to visit the most iconic sight in Kyoto: the Shinto shrine known as Fushimi Inari-taisha. Working folk have worshipped Inari, the deity of good harvest and business, since the seventh century. Even today, businessmen and entrepreneurs from all corners of Japan donate a torii arch to the shrine in hope of gaining the deity’s favour.

Although this custom is fairly recent, the mountain path has thousands of torii arches, making for a wonderful morning stroll at the break of dawn. We start early to beat the crowds, otherwise we must compete with the thousands of visitors Fushimi Inari-taisha attracts daily.

After the hike, we return to the hotel. The rest of the morning is free for visiting the sites of Kyoto, such as the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle or the Golden Pavilion. In the afternoon, we leave Kyoto by train and head to Kumano Kodo, a series of pilgrimage routes more than 1,000 years’ old, when the imperial ancestors of Japan made pilgrimage from Kyoto. In the Kii Peninsula, the largest in Japan, the trails along Kumano Kodo are incredible for hiking.

Taking a train to the tip of the peninsula, we reach the rural coastal town of Tanabe, where we spend the night.

Accommodation: Kamenoi Hotel Kii Tanabe/Azikuno Garuten (or similar)

Distance covered: 2mi (4km)

Ascent: 656ft (200m); Activity hours: 2

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5
Start walking the Kumano Kodo. Bus transfer to Takajiri-oji; hike to Nonaka passing Takahara village

After an early breakfast, we take a bus to Takijiri-oji, the start point of the pilgrimage, from where we walk to Takahara. This is the steepest part of the trail, leading to Takahara Shrine, a Shinto shrine surrounded by ancient camphor trees. From here, we walk towards Takahara village, also called kiri-no-sato (village in the fog), a small, quiet town with rice terraces and surrounded by forests.

The trail continues upwards until we reach the Uwadawa-jaya teahouse, where the trail begins to descend, passing ruin shrines and the small villages of Osakamoto-oji and Chikatsuyu-oji, crossing Kitano-bashi bridge, and following the road to Nonaka-no-Shimizu, a source of potable water.

Around the Nonaka-no-Shimizu area, the group are accommodated in modern Japanese container style cottages, located not too far from the Kumano Kodo trail.

As our hike tomorrow is a bit longer and more challenging, we highly recommend turning in early.

Accommodation: Sen Retreat Chikatsuyu (or similar)

Distance covered: 9mi (14km)

Ascent: 4,134ft (1,260m); Activity hours: 7-9

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6
Walk in the forest, crossing rivers and ancient shrines; transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen

Today we start with a 10-minute bus ride to the start of our hike. We first start walking uphill, and head towards the woods to see Tsugizakura-oji, a sub-shrine at the top of steep stairs leading into a thick forest of huge cedar trees believed. Next to the entrance of Tsugizakura-oji, we find Toganoki-jaya, a replica of a traditional Japanese teahouse.

We then continue with a slow ascent to Kobiro-toge pass, followed by a relatively downward trail along a series of paved and unpaved paths, passing Jagata-jizo, which is believed to protect travellers from evil spirits, a couple of river crossings and passing by thick forests of cedar and cypress until we reach Kumano Hongu Taisha, the head shrine of more than 3,000 Shinto shrines in the Kumano area.

After visiting the shrine, we transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest and most revered hot spring resorts in Japan as it used to be the place where pilgrims cleansed themselves before praying at Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Tonight, we stay at a ryokan, another traditional Japanese-style inn, where we sleep on a futon, have access to the public onsen, and enjoy a Kaiseki-style dinner.

Accommodation: Yunomineso Ryokan (or similar)

Distance covered: 11mi (18km)

Ascent: 4,367ft (1,331m); Activity hours: 7-9

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7
Follow the old spiritual path from Ukegawa to Koguchi; transfer to Kawayu Onsen; enjoy views of the Kumano mountains

After breakfast, we take a bus from Yunomine Onsen to Ukegawa where today’s hike (mainly along unpaved road) commences.

We pass the remains of the Matsuhata-jaya teahouse and Hyakken-gura, one of the top spots in Wakayama to see the Kumano mountains, which consists of around 3,600 peaks.

From here, we continue on a mainly level road towards the remains of the Sakura-jaya teahouse, before descending from the hills, along a path with cobblestones (which can be slippery, especially if wet or covered with moss). At the foot of the hill, we should find small prayer tablets left by other spiritual hikers as offerings. We continue onto Koguchi, the end of today’s walk, where we take a bus via Kanmaru to Kawayu onsen. This place is famous for the hot spring beside the river.

Accommodation: Omuraya Ryokan (or similar)

Distance covered: 8mi (13km)

Ascent: 2,198ft (670m); Activity hours: 5-6

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8
Walk past historic sites and enjoy wonderful views to Nachi Falls and Kumano Nachi Taisha

We rise very early and return to Koguchi to begin our hike. Today’s trail is one of the most challenging sections of Kumano Kodo, taking us through forested hills and along unpaved roads. However, a series of historic sites and wonderful views await as we pass Waroda-ishi rock (where the Kumano deities are believed to meet and chat over tea), through the woods of Irokawatsuji, and over Funami-toge Pass, where we glimpse the Pacific Ocean.

After hiking for almost eight hours, we arrive in Nachi. Here, we see Nachi Falls, the highest waterfall in Japan, and pay a visit to Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine.

Later in the afternoon, we take a local bus (approximately 30 minutes) to Katsuura, staying at a Japanese inn on the beautiful islet-dotted Katsuura Bay, where we can listen to the ocean waves and relax after completing our hikes along the memorable Kumano Kodo.

Accommodation: Hotel Sunrise Katsuura/Pals Inn Katsuura (or similar)

Distance covered: 9mi (14km)

Ascent: 4,134ft (1,260m); Activity hours: 8

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9
Travel by train to Toba in the rural Mie prefecture; learn about the Ama Divers on Mikimoto Pearl Island

After breakfast, we get ready for a short walk to return to Katsuura station on foot (with luggage), where we begin our journey by train to Toba in the neighbouring Mie prefecture.

The rural Mie prefecture has forested landscapes and Mediterranean-looking coastlines. The area is also known for producing some of the freshest seafood in Japan and, in its waters, pearl cultivation has become an important activity.

Upon arrival in Toba, we store our luggage safely at the station before having lunch and walking a short distance to Mikimoto Pearl Island, where we learn about pearl cultivation and the life of the Ama Divers. These female divers are famous for their centuries-long tradition of diving for pearls without oxygen masks and here we witness an Ama Diver demonstration.

After, we continue to the Osatsu area in Toba where we spend the next two nights at a ryokan in Japanese-style rooms.

Accommodation: Ryokan Otaya (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10
Osatsu village followed by lunch at the Ama hut; visit Ise Shrine

This morning, we can relax in the ryokan or walk around the neighbourhood where there may be the chance to visit a local shrine and temple or, in warmer weather, enjoy a swim at the local sandy beach.

Late morning, we take a short walk to visit the hut of an Ama Diver, who prepares us a grilled seafood meal.

After lunch, we continue to the Ise Shrine by train, one of the most sacred areas for the Shinto religion and a favourite pilgrimage destination for Japanese people.

Just a short walk away, the picturesque Okage-Yokocho district offers a great outlook on the traditional side of the area with quaint shops selling local arts and crafts and food before returning to our ryokan.

Accommodation: Ryokan Otaya (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11
Scenic train journey to Kiso Fukushima

A long and scenic train journey with one change takes us to Kiso Fukushima in about 4hr 30min.

Upon arrival, we take a short orientation tour with our leader. Kiso Fukushima is a delightful town in the Nagano prefecture on the railway line between Nagoya and Matsumoto in central Japan, roughly half-way along the Nakasendo.

Kiso Fukushima was an important checkpoint on the route, and its historic sekisho (barrier station) is one of only two on the Nakasendo. The Fukushima sekisho-ato (checkpoint) is where travellers on the Nakasendo were made to wait and present their passes to travel on the highway. The Tokugawa regime was on the lookout for guns and women travelling in disguise.

Across the Kiso River from the Fukushima Sekisho-ato is Kozenji Temple with an attractive rock garden. Kozenji Temple is free to enter and lovely, especially in autumn.

We spend the next two nights in Kiso Fukushima in Japanese-style rooms at a simple family-run ryokan.

Accommodation: Ryokan Sarashinaya (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 12
Walk a section of the ancient Nakasendo Way from Tsumago to Magome

After an early breakfast, we travel by train to Nagiso in about 50 minutes. Upon arrival, we take a short ride on a local bus to Tsumago, a well-preserved post town.

Tsumago had a golden era when merchants, nobles and other prominent people frequently passed through for trade and other formal appointments.

From Tsumago, we start the journey to Magome, one of the post towns that flourished in the Edo period. The trail that runs from Tsumago to Magome is perhaps the most popular section of Nakasendo. This ancient trail can be completed in about three hours, including some quick breaks. After concluding the trail, we ride a bus to Nakatsugawa and then a train back to Kiso Fukushima in just over one hour.

Accommodation: Ryokan Sarashinaya (or similar)

Distance covered: 5mi (8km)

Ascent: 1,214ft (370m); Activity hours: 3

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13
Train to Tokyo; free time to explore

After breakfast, we embark on our last scenic train journey to Tokyo in a little over three hours with one change en route. We may catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji on the way, if weather conditions permit. We recommend buying a bento on the way for lunch as the journey is about three hours –the leader can advise.

After check-in at our hotel, you have a few hours to explore Tokyo before an optional farewell dinner.

Accommodation: Hotel Dormy Inn Kodenmacho (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 14
End Tokyo

The trip ends this morning after breakfast. For more information on returning home, see the Joining Instructions in the Trip Notes. Alternatively, if you’d like to spend a little longer exploring, speak to your sales representative about extending your stay.

Meals included: Breakfast

Ascents, descents and distances

All ascents, descents and distances listed above have been measured by our local partners or tour leaders, in many cases with satellite-based mapping software. Please note, different GPS measuring devices can give differing results, particularly on winding paths or in mountainous terrain. Measurements stated throughout these trips notes are given to help you understand the types of terrain and distances you will encounter. Timings stated will vary depending on the pace of your group.

Accommodation

Traditional ryokans/guesthouses and hotels

We spend eight nights in traditional guesthouses/ryokans in Japanese-style rooms (shared bathrooms) and five nights in comfortable hotels.

For eight nights, we stay in ryokans, comfortable traditional inns where we experience the timeless rhythms and customs of the Japanese countryside. Ryokans, while comfortable and full of local character, do not run along the same lines as Western hotels and all have their own unique style. Some are more like Japanese B&Bs with a homestay feel and guests make their own Japanese-style beds up, while others are managed more like a standard hotel with bedding made up for guests.

Rooms do not generally have private facilities and bedding is usually in the Japanese style with thick futon mattresses placed on tatami mats on the floor. Rooms are always doubles or twin-share but bathrooms and showers are generally communal. Please be advised, while females and males have access to separate bathrooms, inside showering and bathing facilities can lack the level of privacy you would be used to in a Western-style shared bathroom. This is very common in Japan and by staying in mostly traditional ryokans, there is the chance to have a very authentic cultural experience throughout the tour.

In Kyoto, Tanabe and Tokyo, we stay in comfortable Western-style hotels with rooms that have private bathrooms.

Single supplements are very limited and only available for five nights of the trip (three nights in Kyoto, one night in Katsuura and one night in Tokyo). Please advise at time of booking if you would like to request a single supplement (subject to availability). In Japan, often single supplements can be accommodated in either an actual single and/or double for sole use room in hotels.

Onsen (Japanese public bath)
For many visitors to Japan, the onsen is unfamiliar territory. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring and the bathing facilities and inns frequently situated around them. The combination of a strict bathing etiquette, that nudity is compulsory, and that the water temperature is often hotter than most hot tubs can cause some reluctance for first timers. However, once the courage is mustered, you may discover that a dip in an onsen is a highlight of your visit to Japan. We can try onsens on a few occasions throughout the trip. Please note, you may be refused entry if you have large and visible tattoos. Some accommodations may have private baths available for reservation.

Single supplement from £ 655

Food & Drink

All breakfasts, six lunches and nine dinners are included.

Japanese cuisine is usually one of the main highlights of any trip to Japan. It is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes, which are usually prepared with seasonal ingredients. Seafood is very common, and it usually comes grilled or deep fried. Sushi and sashimi aside, other staple dishes include soba or udon noodles, sukiyaki (meat, fish and vegetables cooked in broth) and yakiniku (grilled meat).

The included breakfasts at the traditional guesthouses/ryokans are likely to be Japanese style.

The included lunches mostly consist of bento boxes enjoyed during the walks or in some instances may be taken in small eateries where available.

The included dinners are usually at ryokans (traditional guesthouses), which may include a kaiseki-style dinner, a multi-course meal including a dozen tiny dishes prepared with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. When food is not included, your leader can always recommend the best local eateries and arrange some group meals for a full immersion in the varied and excellent cuisine of Japan.

Please note, the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets, eg gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, is minimal or non-existent in Japan. However, there are several vegan restaurants in Kyoto and Tokyo. It may be a good idea to bring with you some foodstuffs that you normally consume or to supplement meals with snacks purchased in the local convenience stores.

Please advise us at the time of booking if you have any specific dietary requirements.

Transport

Transport is by train, local buses and metro. It is worth mentioning that the trains in Japan are both highly efficient and very comfortable so punctuality is requested throughout. Please note, you are required to carry your own baggage on and off trains and buses and through stations.

There are some days during the hiking days where luggage is transferred from one accommodation to the next so you do not have to carry your main luggage during any of the hikes.

As this trip stays in many smaller, rural locations, there are short walks involved from stations/bus stops to accommodations where needed.

Weather & Seasonality

Japan has four very distinct seasons. Our aim has been to avoid the extremely cold winters and humid summers and settle for the more pleasant spring and autumn. In Tokyo, September and October are warm, maximum temperatures are 26C (79F) and minimum 12C (54F). September is likely to be the warmer of the two and rain is likely. March is cooler with temperatures possibly going as low as 7C (45F) with a high of 17C (63F). Kyoto is very similar climatically to Tokyo but the higher up into the mountains we venture, the colder it will become with nights being especially cold, particularly in March and November.

Joining Instructions

Key information

Start hotel: Hotel Resol Trinity Kyoto Japan, 〒604-0943 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Kamihakusancho, 249
Phone: +81 75-211-9269
Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately
Airport: Kansai International Airport (KIX)

Arriving Kansai International Airport (KIX):

The start hotel for this trip is a short subway ride on the Karasuma and Tozai lines from Kyoto train station and requires a total transfer time from KIX airport of approximately 2hr 30min.

The easiest and fastest option when travelling between Kansai International Airport and Kyoto is by train. The Limited Express Haruka operated by JR West is the only rail service between Kansai International Airport station and Kyoto station and operates every 30 minutes (duration 80 minutes/6.30am-10.15pm daily). You can buy tickets (2,800-3,500 yen) at the JR Kansai Airport Station after making your way through the arrivals hall.

Upon arrival at Kyoto Station, follow signs to the Kyoto subway lines and take the Karasuma line (three stops/six minutes) to Karasuma Oike station. Upon arrival, change to the Tozai line and take the subway to Shiyakusho-mae station (one stop/one minute). Take exit nine at Shiyakusho-mae and the Hotel Resol Trinity Kyoto Oike Fuyacho is just a two-minute walk away. Tickets for the Kyoto subway can be purchased at Kyoto station.

Please find further instructions on how to reach this hotel from KIX Airport and Kyoto station on the West JR and hotel websites.

Private transfers are not available on this trip.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start: Kyoto
Location end: Tokyo

Transfer Details

2024 departures: Transfers are no longer available on this trip. Public transport in Japan is excellent, efficient and the expected mode of transport for both the local people and visitors. It is increasingly easy to use and there is English signage everywhere.

What To Take

Essential Equipment

We suggest a strong kitbag, backpack or suitcase (ideally with wheels) for your main luggage plus a reasonably sized, easy-to-carry backpack for the day. Please also note that some hotels offer yakata (a thin kinmono) and slippers to wear around the hotel, while some accommodations in the larger cities offer coin-operated laundry facilities.

  • Backpack for the day
  • Large water bottle
  • Rain gear in case of wet weather
  • Thermal layer of clothing and warm jacket in cooler months
  • Woolly hat and gloves during the cooler months
  • Strong hiking boots with good ankle support
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses and hat
  • Basic first-aid kit

Bringing medication into Japan for personal use: It is illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in Western nations, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications. Specifically, products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed and Vicks inhalers) or codeine are prohibited. For more information, please contact your nearest Japan embassy.

Optional Equipment

  • Walking poles
  • Mosquito repellent

Practical Information

Visa

Japan

Travellers from the UK, US and EU normally do not need a visa to enter Japan. Please note, visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through.

Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below.

Vaccinations and Health

Japan

There are no required vaccinations. However, recommended vaccinations include hepatitis B, tetanus, Japanese encephalitis, rabies (bat lyssavirus) and tick-borne encephalitis. Please confirm with your doctor or travel clinic.

Ticks are known to be present in this region and can carry lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis and other diseases. Please take care to protect yourself. You can read more about ticks here.

Local Time

Japan's time zone: Asia/Tokyo (UTC +09:00)

Electricity

Japan's electricity: Plug types A (two flat pins) and B (three pins: two flat, one round) – 100V, 50Hz/60Hz. Most battery chargers function at this voltage, but do check their documentation.

Japan’s Kumano Kodo

Money

Japan's currency: Japanese yen (JPY)

ATM Availability

We recommend obtaining some Japanese yen before travelling to Japan, although you should check the exchange rate carefully. Japan is a very safe country and the local people often carry large amounts without problems. If you decide to travel with US dollars or British pounds, exchange facilities are fairly widely available, including at the airport on arrival. It is also possible to change money in the bigger cities and towns.

ATMs are widely available at all convenience stores within Japan. This is the easiest and recommended option for international travellers wishing to withdraw cash using debit or credit cards.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

You should allow around 3,640-4,650 yen (US$25-US$32) a day to cover the cost of food and drink when not included. It is possible to eat more cheaply than this, or to spend considerably more, depending on the standard of restaurant chosen.

Allow extra for optional entrance fees and bus/taxi fares not included in the itinerary. The cost of these will vary according to individual preferences but a figure of around 14,550 yen (US$100) is reasonable.

Tipping

Tipping locals for services is not expected or required in Japan, so you do not need to budget for tipping in restaurants or hotels – don’t be surprised if your money is returned if you do try to leave a tip.

However, if you feel your leader has performed well over the course of your trip, you may want to show your appreciation of their services. The amount you give is entirely personal, but 365-555 yen (US$2.50-US$3.80) per day is a good starting point.

People, Places & Planet

We work hard to create trips that improve life for the people and places we visit and look after the planet we explore. Find out more about our sustainable travel ethos and practice here, and find out about the work of the Exodus Travels Foundation here.

Some sustainable travel highlights of this trip include:

People

How this trip helps improve life for local communities.

  • The use of a local guide means our customers will be well informed about local traditions and cultural-social sensitivities.
  • This trip brings income and opportunity to the destination community through the inclusion of locally owned hotels and restaurants, the emphasis on eating locally produced food, and by supporting other local enterprises.
  • Guests stay in traditional family-run Japanese guesthouses (ryokans/minshukus) on many nights of the trip, where they eat home-cooked traditional Japanese meals prepared by local people.
  • When visiting Toba, we learn about the life of Ama Divers and witness a fishing demonstration by them. With the fresh seafood caught, guests can enjoy a grilled seafood lunch in a traditional Ama Diver hut. Being an Ama Diver holds a life-threatening risk and this thereby discourages younger generations to carry on this tradition. But our visit helps support and preserve the Ama diving community and traditions that are at the brink of extinction.
  • With a strong emphasis on culture and history, this trip provides plenty of opportunities to visit various museums, cultural sites and shrines. Our visits to these sites benefit the local people and contribute to the preservation of their cultural assets through the money spent on entrance fees and other purchases made within the area.

Places

How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.

  • Read about our commitment to nature protection and restoration here, including our rewilding commitment for every customer who travels.
  • By travelling in a small group, led by a local guide, we ‘tread lightly’ to minimise our impact on local resources and the environment. On many nights of the trip, especially when walking the Kumano Kodo, the group stays at traditional family-run guesthouses often off the beaten track.
  • Our trips adhere to ABTA’s industry-leading animal welfare guidelines to ensure the best possible practices with regard to working animals and wildlife viewing. Our animal welfare policy can be found here.
  • We work with our partners on the ground to proactively eliminate or reduce waste. For example, we encourage eliminating all single-use plastic water bottles and instead encourage clients to drink the tap water, which is safe to drink in Japan. We encourage all clients to take a refillable water bottle with them on the tour.
  • During the tour, our guides educate guests on how to appropriately separate and dispose of any waste, as well as encouraging them to use reusable chopsticks and canvas tote bags for shopping.

 Planet

How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.

  • Read about our climate action here, including our carbon reduction and compensation commitments.
  • We choose to travel predominantly by public transport throughout this trip as opposed to private transport throughout or taking domestic flights.
  • Accommodation and restaurants in the itinerary mostly use locally sourced food which has not been transported long distances.
  • Vegetarian and vegan options are available at the majority of accommodation and restaurants.
  • Most accommodations used on this trip adhere to strict environmental policies to save water and energy and lower their carbon footprint.

 Tips for sustainable travel on this trip

  • Leave no trace: We do all we can to ensure we leave no rubbish behind in the wild and beautiful places we visit; we ask that you do the same. If there are no recycling facilities in-country, we’d ask you to consider bringing recyclable materials home with you.
  • Plastic waste reduction: Please bring your own reusable water bottle on this trip. Tap water in Japan is safe for drinking, hence we strongly encourage clients to bring their own reusable water bottles for this purpose and minimise our usage of single use plastic bottles

Cultural respect

  • Shoes are never worn in someone’s home or on Japanese tatami flooring (mats). There will always be a place to put your shoes. In addition, you will be given slippers to wear. There are often different slippers for the bathroom.
  • It is highly inappropriate to stick chopsticks into food, especially into a bowl of rice. This practice of placing chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice is a funerary practice known as tsukitate-bashi.
  • When eating soup or rice, it is acceptable to lift the bowl closer to your mouth to avoid spilling food. Generally, miso soup (which accompanies many meals) is drunk directly from the bowl, while larger soups are usually consumed by using a soup spoon.

Important Information

Your safe participation 

When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary. 

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity. 

By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

How to Book

  1. Check availability: Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.
  2. Secure your place: You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.
  3. Complete your booking and payment

When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.

After booking

You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.

Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.

Trip Note validity

These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

Licensing

Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.