This Self-Guided Tour Lets You Explore Japan’s Old Villages

Own time, own target your way through Japan’s lesser-known wonders

By Pamela Chow; Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Walk Japan Kumano Wayfarer

Photo: Walk Japan

You arrive at a quaint little Japanese village, its wooden huts and houses taking you back to the old days of geishas and samurais. You can almost hear the peaceful clacking of wooden clogs on the cobbled pavements…

Until a crowd of other tourists bumbles right past you, chattering and snapping away with their camera phones, and your impatient tour guide starts calling for the group to reconvene in some tacky tourist tea hut where the matcha isn’t even brewed with real tea leaves.

Now you can avoid this nightmarish tour experience and skip past all the crowded touristy areas of Japan. Even better: you can take in all the sights on your own terms.

Tour agency Walk Japan, which specialises in off-the-beaten-track tours in Nippon, has lanched the Kumano Wayfarer, which plans an unescorted tour for independent travellers through the lesser-known parts of Japan.

This 7D6N tour follows the UNESCO World Heritage Kumano Kudo, an ancient route that emperors, pilgrims and ascetic monks used to travel on by foot for more than 1000 years.

Starting in Kyoto, travellers will begin at the Nakahechi leg in the deepest rural part of Kyoto (yes, not the touristy districts), following a hilly path through forests to the Kumano Sanzan, where you can visit sacred grand shrines with dominating architecture and iconic landscapes.

The path, which passes through charming villages, is lined with a multitude of oji sub-shrines, carved deities and other testaments to the historical and spiritual significance of the Kumano Kodo. Occasionally, the forest opens up to reveal scenic mountains, neatly tended tea fields and even the Pacific Ocean.

The tour also settles all of your accommodation, which are mostly family-run inns that you will find along the way. You’ll get to experience the traditional Japanese paper screen doors and tatami straw mats. You will also be put up in a resort hotel – complete with piping hot onsen baths.

Afraid of getting lost in the woods or in translation? Daijobu des, because the service provides easy-to-follow and detailed instructions, with options to lengthen or shorten your daily itinerary. In fact, you’ll have access to 24-hour English language emergency support, just in case.

For a rough gauge, this tour is recommended for those who can walk at a gentle pace for four to six hours in comfort. Prices start from JPY180,000 (about $2298).

This doesn’t include your airfare, so you’ll want to snag these deals and discounts on flights to Japan.

More information about Walk Japan’s Kumano Wayfarer can be found here.

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