Japan is an incredibly appealing destination and one I’ve long dreamed of visiting to learn more about its people, society and culture as well as take in the landscapes, sweet cherry blossoms and see the adorable snow monkeys. The notion of exploring the country on foot by guided trail adds to the intrigue, and the launch of Walk Japan in South Africa last week turns the idea into a possible reality.
Beginning in 1992 with their innovative and best-selling Nakasendo Way tour, they were the first to successfully introduce the real Japan, geographically and culturally, that often remains inaccessible for most visitors to the country. Since then, Walk Japan has created more original tours throughout Japan and been widely recognised for its work.
‘No door leads to happiness or unhappiness, both enter when you ask them to’ Japanese saying.
As an island nation Japan is found in the Pacific Ocean and is home to dense cities, imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. The Shinkansen bullet trains connect the main islands of Kyushu with Okinawa’s subtropical beaches, Honshu home to Tokyo and Hiroshima’s atomic-bomb memorial and Hokkaido famous for skiing. Tokyo, the capital, is known for skyscrapers, shopping, and distinctive pop culture.
About Walk Japan
National Geographic has described Walk Japan as “one of the 200 Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”. The company leads the way in providing the most fulfilling and enjoyable tours available in Japan. Walk Japan has an unrivalled range of regular, scheduled tours for Japan and is researching more for the future. It also creates and runs private, custom tours tailored to customers’ particular interests and requirements. These include private tours for families, friends, societies, companies and schools.
Founded in 1992 by two academics, Dr. Thomas Stanley and Prof. Richard Irving, the company has since grown considerably both in its number of tours and customers to become the acknowledged leader of specialised tours that immerse visitors in Japanese society and culture; provide great insights into the nation and its people; and often explore little-visited, beautiful and diverse regions of the nation.
Based in rural Kyushu, Walk Japan actively operate in a way that recognises the important role and responsibilities that business has in society. This means being committed to and supportive of the communities in which they operate and ensuring that their tours have a positive impact in these areas. Wherever possible Walk Japan uses and supports family-run and local businesses.
Enjoy an Epicurean Journey across Japan
Known for the freshest ingredients, subtle combination of flavours and exquisite presentation, the food of Japan plays a distinctive and central role in the country’s culture. In 2013, Japan’s cuisine was recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, joining France as the only two countries to receive this accolade for the whole of their food culture.
Walk Japan takes customers on journeys across Japan’s beautifully diverse landscapes into its rich culture and delectable gastronomy. All Walk Japan’s tours are an epicurean adventure exploring the breadth and depth of authentic Japanese cuisine from the dishes the country is rightly famous for including sushi and tempura, through delicious farmhouse fayre to rare morsels found in each region, town or village.
Boutique sakes complement every evening meal and visits to breweries, which are found throughout Japan, feature in many tours including the Oita Hot Spring Trail, Kunisaki Retreat and Nakasendo Way. Here we learn about how this drink, Japan’s libation to the gods, is meticulously created and sample the master brewer’s best grades.
Wasabi green mustard is a distinctive and essential ingredient in Japanese cooking and the Izu Peninsula, which is overlooked by Mt. Fuji, produces Japan’s and consequently the world’s finest. Customers on Walk Japan’s Izu Geo Trail come across plots, hidden in forest, where wasabi is cultivated in the sparkling spring waters that flow copiously from Izu’s mountains. During many meals, they also prepare their own wasabi to enjoy with the plentiful fish caught each day in the seas surrounding the peninsula.
Miso fermented soya bean paste, a widely used ingredient in Japanese cooking, has gained interest from culinary enthusiasts around the world for both its flavoursomeness and health-giving properties. A feature of almost all meals on a Walk Japan tour, on the Kunisaki & Yufuin Walk we visit a local shop, a listed original wooden structure, where miso has been produced in the traditional way by hand using local ingredients and water from a well on the premises since 1900.
The Oita Hot Spring Trail complements its theme of onsen hot springs with meals created from the ingredients from seas, fields, forests and mountains found in this particularly bountiful region of Japan. At Beppu, this tour also includes steam- cooked dishes that actually harness the onsen here to cook the food to perfection.
Like so many of Walk Japan’s tours, the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage is largely a rural experience. However, it also takes the opportunity to journey through Osaka’s energetic urban food scene, where the company’s expert Tour Leaders ensure a wonderful experience of an izakaya restaurant. Here the atmosphere is often rumbustious and the dishes plentiful in variety. These include staples that have helped make Japan’s food scene a global sensation such as sashimi, kushiyaki grilled meats and vegetables, karaage fried chicken, edamame beans, okonomiyaki savoury pancakes and yakisoba fried noodles as well as many lesser-known but no less tasty delicacies.
Upcoming Walk Japan Trips
– SEPTEMBER: Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage
Japan’s Kii peninsula is an area with abundant waterfalls, lush forests and a plethora of beautiful rivers. The 9-day, 8-night Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage is a tour between the modern, vibrant city of Osaka, the mountain temple community of Koyasan and the Japanese Imperial shrine at Ise. The walk is centered on the Kumano Kodo UNESCO-registered pilgrimage, one of only two UNESCO World Heritage-listed pilgrimages (the other is the Camino de Santiago in Spain). The route offers plenty of places to enjoy the magnificent foliage of the autumn leaves, the second seasonal show by mother nature to impact the tourist calendar.
– OCTOBER: Tokyo Tour
Autumn is a good time to visit Tokyo, one of the greatest, most enigmatic cities in the world. Walk Japan offers a guided walk through the cityscape and delves into Tokyo’s fascinating history, from founding shogun to today’s glittering metropolis. Find remnants of and insights into samurai Edo amongst gleaming architecture in one of the safest, most intriguing cities in the world.
– NOVEMBER: Tokaido Trail *NEW TOUR FOR 2018*
The Tokaido is the greatest of Japan’s ancient highways, linking three of its greatest cities: Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto. In November, journey through the very core of Japan’s history, culture and society on Walk Japan’s Tokaido Trail, an 8-day, 7-night tour taking in quiet roads and forest trails climbing over hill passes. The Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train thunders between Tokyo and Kyoto at 285km per hour in a little over two hours – this tour instead takes 8 days connecting the best sections of the Tokaido through towns and paths are seemingly forgotten since the days of the samurai.
– DECEMBER: Oita Hot Springs Tour
The Japanese treasure their natural Onsen hot spring baths, and what better time to enjoy a trip linking hot spring to hot spring in charming rural Oita than December, the beginning of winter. The Oita Hot Springs Tour is a gentle walking and cycling trail through varied terrain – gorgeous valleys, a pretty plateau, soaring mountain scenery and seaside. Various onsen hot spring baths derived from volcanic activity deep below the earth’s surface link the trail together, each with different characteristics – some clear and some murky, some pungent and some fizzy. Every evening’s soak is different on this 6-day, 5-night tour. Oita is undoubtedly the Onsen capital of Japan, if not the world.
A word from Walk Japan CEO, Paul Christie
Walk Japan in South Africa – The Rugby World Cup comes to Japan in Autumn 2019 bringing this lovely nation and its people in sharp focus amongst the sports fans in South Africa and, undoubtedly, many will make the journey to support the Springboks. With the tournament spread around the country over six weeks it is also a great opportunity to experience Japan at large and there is no better partner than Walk Japan to make the most of any visit.
Since 1992, Walk Japan has been the acclaimed pioneer of walking tours of Japan, providing experiences that physically and literally reach into the very heart of this extraordinary nation. Walk Japan consistently sets benchmarks for excellence in providing the best planned, the best led, and most fulfilling and enjoyable tours available in Japan. The company offers a range of scheduled tours that mostly explore lesser-known, off-the-beaten-track regions and also runs private, custom tours. Whichever the tour, however, all provide fascinating and enlightening experiences of the nation and its people.
The Essential Details
Detailed information about all of Walk Japan’s tours can be found on their website and on the Walk Japan Facebook page. For media and booking inquiries, please contact Lynda Williams at Lynda@vimandvigourpr.com and +65 8111 0290 or Pippa Brindley at Pippa@vimandvigourpr.com and +65 9739 1164.
* Information supplied by Tumbleweed Communications who represent Walk Japan in South Africa, after their hosted launch last week. Email them for more information.