Japan's North Alps are famous for their call colors
Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Lodging:||10 nights ryokans/lodges, 2 nights mountain hut|
|Meals:||All meals included except lunches and 3 dinners|
|Activity:||Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures|
9 hiking days on moderate to steep trails, 4-8 hours a day, altitudes between 6,000 and 10,000 feet
- Hiking ascents of Tate-yama, one of Japan’s famed sacred peaks, and Yari-ga-take, the Japanese Matterhorn
- Fascinating urban hikes on ancient pilgrim paths
- Brilliant fall foliage, a spectacular backdrop the rocky spires of the Japanese Alps
- Traditional teahouses, feudal castles, Zen temples, traditional Japanese ofuro baths, Shinto shrines, journeys by Bullet Train
Choosing the Right Trip
We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.
We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.
Hiking is the best way to get to know Japan, and with Trip Leader Craig McLachlan, who literally “wrote the book” on the subject, we set out for fantastic hikes that run the gamut from urban rambles on ancient pilgrim paths to an ascent of one of Japan’s famous sacred peaks, Tate-yama (9,889'), with its Shinto shrine at the summit. Most of the hikes are easy to moderate, while two of them—the steep ascents of Tate-yama and Yari-ga-take—present challenge and adventure for avid hikers (we offer non-strenuous hiking options for those who don’t want to join the Yari-ga-take hike). Our accommodations are varied, including traditional ryokans, cozy hikers’ lodges, and two mountain huts atop the high peaks of the craggy Japanese Alps. Along the way, Craig will help us discover vestiges of the old Japan, meet many Japanese hiking enthusiasts (Japan is a country of hikers), and explore settings that reveal Japan’s inner secrets. We also enjoy the kind welcome of the Japanese people, see the innate sense of beauty and attention to detail that defines every aspect of Japanese life, and savor the beauty of autumn in Japan, with its pleasant temperatures and brilliant fall foliage that makes a spectacular backdrop for shrines and temples as well as the rocky spires of the Alps. Join us for a very special hiking adventure in Japan with a true expert!
Itinerary at a Glance
For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary
Osaka, Japan / Kyoto
Upon arrival in Osaka, we head to Kyoto and warm up with a fascinating hike from the 8th century Fushimi Inari shrine to the 13th century Buddhist temple of Tofuku-ji, one of the great Zen temples of Kyoto.
Kamikochi / Yari-ga-take
Heading to Matsumoto, gateway to the craggy Japanese Alps, we journey up to the tiny resort village of Kamikochi (4,972') for our first glimpse of Japan’s spectacular alpine scenery and an overnight in a ryokan. Carrying a daypack with our overnight belongings, we make the big hike up Yari-ga-take (10,433'), one of the most famous peaks in Japan, known locally as the Japanese Matterhorn and very similar in shape. After an overnight at a mountain hut, we head for the summit the next day, then descend to Kamikochi.
Matsumoto Castle / Hakuba / Karamatsu-Dake
After visiting the lovely city of Matsumoto, with its medieval castle, we head to the alpine Hakuba Valley for a day hike on the peak of Karamatsu-dake. On Day 8, we head up to Murodo at 7,000 feet, below the summit of Tate-yama (9,889'), one of Japan’s three holy Buddhist peaks, with an overnight at the Mikuri-ga-ike Onsen Hut, a chance to soak in hot springs and spend some time with local hikers.
Tate-Yama / Kyoto
A steep hiking ascent brings us to the Shinto shrine at the top of Tate-yama, after which we descend to Hakuba. The next day a train journey brings us to Kyoto. Our final hikes include a fascinating “urban hike” through one of Osaka’s most exclusive residential neighborhoods, heading high up among unusual rock formations and through peaceful forests, passing teahouses en route, and a great ramble through Nara’s rural countryside past temples, shrines, 1,300-year-old emperor’s tombs, fruit stalls, and rice paddies—a great way to finish our search for the real Japan. Depart on 13.
For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary
What the Trip is Like
The trip is Level 5, Strenuous, according to our trip grading system. This is an active adventure for fit, experienced hikers who enjoy the challenge of steep ascents and descents and don’t mind the exposure of steep, narrow trails at altitudes of up to 10,433 feet (the summit of Yari-ga-take). On two of the hikes in particular (Day 4 and Day 9), you will be hiking and scrambling for up to 6-9 hours (Day 4) hours while carrying a pack with your overnight belongings at moderate to high altitudes. The hikes up Yari-ga-take and Tata-yama are not technically difficult—a mixture of straight hiking and scrambling with the use of fixed cables and ladders—but they feature a continuous vertical ascent with some exposure and are not for those who have a fear of heights! Agility and sure-footedness are also important qualities to be comfortable on these steep routes.
We strongly urge you make a special effort to get in good condition by walking, bicycling, swimming, or other forms of exercise. Altitude should not be a problem on this trip. However, some people still find they get a few problems when they first reach high altitude. Slight headache and sleeplessness in the huts are the most common problems. Remember, in Japan we will often be sleeping on futons and eating at floor level, so it is important that you are able to sit down on and get up off the floor without much difficulty. A word about bathing: In the Japanese-style bath (onsen), bathing is a communal activity, with the sexes segregated; thus, this trip is not for the very modest! Showering with (or without) soap is done in an adjacent shower prior to getting the bath. The sizes of baths varies from tiny tubs to huge pools. Generally baths can handle about a dozen people at a time.
Departures & Leaders
Sep 27-Oct 9, 2015 Craig McLachlan
Prices are for 2015
$5795 (13-15 members)
$6295 (8-12 members)
$6795 (5-7 members)
Single supplement: $920 (no singles available in the mountain huts)
Forced single supplement: $720
Japan Rail Pass: $575
more on pricing
Trip Cost Includes:
- Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader
- Accommodations in comfortable ryokans and hotels, 2 nights in mountain huts with shared facilities
- All meals included except lunches and 3 dinners
- Ground transportation using Japan Rail System, plus buses, chairlifts, and taxis as required
- Site and entrance fees as part of the itinerary
- Land transportation as noted
Trip Cost Does Not Include:International airfare, airport transfers (the JR Pass can be used for these), any meals not specified after each itinerary day, fees for optional activities, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors; pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).
Trip Payment Schedule
At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance
Craig McLachlan, a lifetime adventurer, writer, trip leader, and photographer, hails from New Zealand but has been connected to Japan for more than 30 years. He’s the ultimate guide for the Japanese Alps and Shikoku, having climbed the 100 Famous Mountains, walked the 88 Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage, and hiked from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific, climbing all 21 of Japan’s 3,000-meter peaks along the way (2000 miles in 99 days!). With a degree in Management Studies and Japanese from Auckland University, Craig earned his MBA from the University of Hawaii. In 1997, Craig approached Lonely Planet about writing a Hiking in Japan guidebook, and has authored 10 titles since, covering everything from the Greek Islands to the South Pacific. In winter, Craig leads hiking tours for Japanese visitors to New Zealand, and in summer, he brings hiking groups to Japan. Craig met and married his Japanese wife, Yuriko, in New Zealand in 1990, and they divide their time between the two island nations. Craig holds a 4th Dan Black Belt in Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate. “In Japan you don’t have to go looking for a cultural experience…it’s all around, ready for you to soak it in. I want my trip members to see ‘the real Japan’ and the only way to do that is to get beyond the ‘public face’ so we can see the ‘private face’ of the Japanese that few visitors get to see.
Craig was great. He was efficient, sensitive to the individual needs of his group participants, and at the same time an easy-going fellow who made a great travel companion.Marc N., Washington, DC
Japan: Shikoku Island
Craig's enthusiasm, attention to detail, and concern for each member of the group were notable plusses.Julien L., Washington, DC
Japan: Shikoku Island
Craig was cheerful, enthusiastic—a good leader as well as traveling companion. His knowledge of the country and language was immensely helpful.Martha G., Cambridge, MA
Temples, Treasures and Teahouses