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Japan & The Salt Road Walk 

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Walk Japan's scenic Salt Road

Join us on our fully guided walking tour following the “Salt Road", once one of the most important trading routes of Japan. Explore Shio-no-michi: Salt Road, in Nagano and Niigata Prefecture with us as we take you along the most scenic and well-preserved portions of the region.

Following in the footsteps of the “Borra’s” porters who were used to transport merchandise, including salt, from the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to landlocked Matsumoto. 

This almost forgotten route was rediscovered in the 1970’s however is still relatively unknown compared to the more famous routes. Experience the generous hospitality of the local inns and resorts, the culinary excellence and relaxing onsen thermal hot spring baths that we have discovered. We have included a stay in cosmopolitan Tokyo to experience the best of the capital. Explore this fascinating region with us while it is still under the radar.

 

 

Japan & The Salt Road Walk 

  • Fully guided: 11 days / 10 nights
  • Max group size: 15, plus 2 experienced guides
  • Min group size: 6
  • Activity level: Moderate
  • Trip start: Tokyo, Japan
  • Trip end: Tokyo, Japan
  • Distance: 117kms
  • Cost: AUD$8,495 / single supplement available on request

Departures

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Your Itinerary

Day 1 - Tokyo - Walking Tours Japan

Day
1

Tokyo

Private arrival transfer from Haneda Airport to Pullman Tokyo Tamachi. 

Welcome to Japan, a land where tradition meets innovation, and your 11-day journey begins. Check into your hotel and spend the afternoon getting to know Tokyo. Visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Central Park or the Mori Museum which are just a few of the sites to explore in this incredible city. 

Tonight join us for a group briefing and meet your fellow travellers as we prepare for the days ahead. Dinner tonight is an authentic experience and a celebration of Japanese cuisine with views over the Tokyo skyline. 

Accommodation: 
Pullman Tokyo Tamachi, Tokyo

Meals included: 
Dinner

Fish Markets - Hiking Tours Jaoan
The Senso-Ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan, Salt Road, Guided by Nature

Day
2

Explore Tokyo

Today, we embark on a captivating journey through Tokyo, where tradition and modernity intertwine seamlessly. Begin your day at the vibrant Tsukiji Fish Market, where the freshest seafood delights await you. Experience the tranquil ambiance of Kanda Shrine, a hidden gem amidst the urban landscape. Wander down Yanaka Ginza, a charming shopping street that offers a glimpse into the city's history and culture. Indulge in a delectable sushi lunch in Asakusa, savoring the artistry of Japanese cuisine. 

In the afternoon, immerse yourself in the rich heritage of Asakusa, visiting the iconic Senso-ji Temple and exploring Nakamise Street, followed by a serene boat ride along the Sumida River, witnessing Tokyo's skyline transform as you make your way to Hama Rikyu Gardens. The gardens' beauty is accentuated by the golden hour's enchanting light. 

To top off your day, venture to Shibuya Crossing in the early evening. This bustling intersection captivates with its organized chaos, embodying the city's dynamic spirit. Throughout your Tokyo walking tour, you'll experience the harmonious blend of historical treasures and contemporary marvels that define this captivating metropolis.  

Accommodation: 
Park Hotel, Tokyo.

Meals included: 
Breakfast.

Day 10- Fudotaki Falls, Itoigawa, Japan

Day
3

Tokyo to Itoigawa

Approximately 1.5 hours of walking (2km)

Today is a travel day.  After breakfast we embark on a shinkansen journey from Tokyo to the serene town of Itoigawa, embracing the changing landscapes as we make our way to the start of our Salt Route walk. Today a subdued town on the Sea of Japan coast, in the Edo period, Itoigawa was a bustling port for the Kitamae-bune trading ships that plied between Osaka and Hokkaido via the Seto Inland Sea and the Sea of Japan.   We enjoy lunch in Itoigawa and then take the time to explore the region before moving onto our accommodation. 

This evening we will savour the delights of a traditional kaiseki dinner, meticulously crafted to captivate your tastebuds.

Accommodation: 
Kunitomi Annex, hot spring Inn on the shore of Himekawa.

Transfers: 
3 hour train ride from Tokyo to Itoigawa

Meals included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Day 4 - Temple - Guided Hiking Japan
Hotel Kunitomi Suisenkaku, Itoigawa, Salt Road Walk, Guided by Nature

Day
4

Itoigawa, Salt Trail Museum to Kunitomi Suisenkaku

Approximately 5-6 hours of walking (15.5km)

After breakfast in our hotel, we get ready for our first invigorating experience on the trail. Today we cover a moderate distance offering a balanced blend of challenge and breathtaking scenery. 

Our first day of walking is something of a warmup but it is also a satisfying distance. The route starts out on paved, almost-car-free, tertiary roads for the first 5km or so and passes through a varied mixture of flora. We remain in the Itoigawa area today and follow the main valley of the Himekawa River until just after we polish off our bento box lunch, then we ascend up along trails and lanes that follow a tributary, with views of well-kept gardens as we walk quite gentle inclines to a ski-field area that sits only 250m above sea level, but does in fact see enough annual snow to make it ski-able.

A short transfer (35 minutes), will deliver us to our Japanese inn with Onsen thermal hot spring baths, where we will spend the two nights.

 

Accommodation: 
Kunitomi Suisenkaku, Japanese inn with Onsen thermal hot spring baths.

Transfer: 
35 minute transfer from end of walk to accommodation.

Meals included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Walk Summary: 
Warm-up walk along Shio No Michi, mostly following alleyways through small towns with gentle inclines.

Total elevation +387m. 

Total decent -261m.

Day 5 - Japan's Salt Road

Day
5

Ueyoko to Kunitomi Suisenkaku

Approximately 5-6 hours of walking (15.5km)

In a routine common to the rest of the tour, after breakfast we send our main luggage ahead before taking a short minibus ride to the foothills of the Japanese Alps. 

Ueyoko, a once thriving post town on the Salt Road, where the surrounding mountains that had provided us with an impressive distant backdrop yesterday now encroach closely narrowing the plateau. Today’s path brings a more challenging terrain featuring 700 meters elevation gain. We will take our time, with the forest lining our route offering a refreshing shift from the orderly plantations of the previous day, and revealing a diverse tapestry of flora. As we ascend, breathtaking panoramas unfold painting the landscape with a natural raw beauty. This section of the trail provides a secluded and tranquil experience, allowing you to disconnect and embrace the shirin yoku experience. 

At days end, there is no transfer, as we take a very short walk from the Shio No Michi directly into our accommodation, where a well-earned soak in the hot springs is recommended.

Accommodation: 
Kunitomi Suisenkaku, Japanese inn with Onsen thermal hot spring baths

Meals included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Walk Summary: 
Challenging walk day on the Shio No Michi, mainly following forest lined single track.  Some alleyways through small towns as we walk into our accommodation today.

Total elevation +766m. 

Total decent -713m.

Day 6 Onsen - Hiking Trips in Japan
Japanese evening banquet, Salt Road Walk, Guided by Nature

Day
6

Walking to Omiya Suwa Shrine

Approximately 5-6 hours of walking (16km)

An ultra short transfer of 5 minutes helps to set us up for an optimal day of walking. We have a variety of surfaces and trail types today and will spend a lot of the day on lovely walking trails through a good mix of cultivated fields and hamlets, and forest that feels quite remote and wild.

The first part of the route is close to civilization and to the main river, then at around the halfway mark, we move onto part of the original, east-bank trail, the more elevated version that was later superseded by the trail on the west bank that followed the contours of the valley more. This part of the trail is stunning and brings us from the Itoigawa district into the Otari district. This is significant as the Otari community are the most active in their dedication to the preservation of the trail history and the physical trail itself. 

We will be walking through the Otari district for two and a half days and today we will conclude our walk at the Omiya Suwa Shrine, the key community shrine for the area. The flora today will include cedar (Sugi) forests interspersed with native trees such as maple, chestnut, horse chestnut, and wisteria vines. As you ascend, look for signs of the Serow, a goat-like creature native to this area that has some unusual habits. 

Once we have had a chance to visit the shrine, the vehicle will be waiting to take us to our next accommodation venue, up in the hills where an onsen and a great meal await.

Accommodation: 
Amakazari So, traditional Japanese inn with Onsen thermal hot spring baths

Meals included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Walk Summary: 
Gentle inclines throughout the morning, then climbing on a single trail through forest, before a gentle decent to the community shrine in Otari

Total elevation +483m. 

Total decent -315m.

Day 7 - Old Salt Road Japan

Day
7

Nakatsuchi to Tsugaike

Approximately 6-7 hours of walking (18km)

We start with a 25 minute transfer back to the place where finished walking yesterday (Omiya Suwa Shrine). Our walking today commences from a community centre located on the Shio No Michi, following a broad trail under the canopy of Sugi trees. A sharp ascent then takes us up to a pass, before descending into a picturesque valley. 

On a clear day, this section offers the first sustained views of the alps rising up behind the lush green hills, a sight to behold.  The trail today really is a mix, moving from rugged single track to leisurely country lanes with some broad, cobbled paths in between. There is an abundance of carved stone relics along the trail today with an interesting story that our tour leader will share. It would be fair to say that today’s walk is one of the most historically intact sections of the trail.   

This is another day where we have the satisfaction of walking all the way to the door of our accommodation, a quaint, family-run Inn in a ski village. We will spend two nights here on account of the outstanding food, lovingly prepared by our hosts. 

Accommodation: 
Resort Yamaichi, Alpine Lodge 

Transfer: 
25 minute transfer from accommodation to trailhead.

Meals included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Walk Summary: 
Forest single track with challenging morning climb over a pass, then descending on single track into valley towns, finishing the day on Shio No Michi alleyways and walking into our accommodation.

Total elevation +701m. 

Total decent -424m.

Day 8 - Japan Hiking Tour
Day 8 - Aoki Lake, Salt Road Walk, Guided by Nature

Day
8

Tsugaike to Nakako Bridge

Approximately 6-7 hours of walking (18km)

Our walk today is split into two sections.

After a traditional Japanese breakfast, we embrace a unique blend of walking and train travel. This combination allows us to bypass the paved sections of the trail and focus on the most epic parts. Today’s leg promises a unique and immersive experience as the path sets out along more single routes, leading through remote areas with a rich variety of forest types that transform with the seasons. Autumn brings with it a tapestry of colours. 

Our second part of the day takes us along the lake’s shoreline, with an opportunity for those inclined to swim in the beautiful crystal-clear water. The day culminates finishing our walk at Nakako Bridge, before transferring to our Alpine lodgings where another relaxing soak, followed by a locally prepared dining experience await.

Accommodation: 
Resort Yamaichi, Alpine Lodge 

Transfer: 
25 minute transfer to accommodation.

Meals included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Walk Summary: 
Single track and alleyways through the morning, before taking a short train journey to bypass paved sections of the Shio No Michi.  Recommencing our walk following single track along Lake Aoki shoreline.

Total elevation +292m. 

Total decent -338m.

Day 9 - Japan's Salt Road Hiking Tour

Day
9

Omachi to Ikeda

Approximately 8-9 hours of walking (20km)

We transfer to the walk starting point in Omachi, which gives you one last chance to enjoy the majestic views out the window of the towering alps. The walk today is mostly on paved surfaces, along minor lanes. We will spend 2km passing the third lake with its beautiful blue waters and then make a brief stop in Omachishi to pick up our lunch.

The last five kilometers of the walk today is along a paved, lightly used lane, with towering cedars on our left and quaint houses along our right, with nicely kept flower and vegetable gardens. A 30-minute transfer takes us to our comfortable accommodation for the evening

Accommodation: 
Hoshino Resorts KAI Alps

Transfers: 
Total of 1 hour of transfers to and from the Shio No Michi.

Meals included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Walk Summary: 
Mostly following paved sections of the Shio No Michi 

Total elevation +232m. 

Total decent -329m.

Day 10 - Hakuba, Salt Road Walk, Guided by Nature
Day 10 - Azumino, Japan, Salt Trail, Guided by Nature

Day
10

Ikeda to Azumino

Approximately 4-5 hours of walking (11.3km)

The final day of our walk starts out from where we left off the day before, continuing through village settlements along the right of the road with nicely kept gardens and a mixture of cedar forests, orchards and vegetable gardens.

Off in the distance, a line of towering mountains that seem to come straight up from the ground. We can see Mt. Ariake and Shimizudake, in the foreground and on a clear day can see those rising behind.

The second half of our walk brings us through the village of Ariake and into Hotaka Shrine, where we undertake a short blessing ritual in acknowledgement of the conclusion of our great walk of the Salt Route.

A short transfer to our final night's accommodation on the Shio No Michi, where we stay in a gorgeous, retreat style property in Azumino, with an atmosphere and menu fitting for our final night together.

Accommodation: 
Kyukamurai Retreat, renowned for its Hot Springs and Kaiseki dining

Transfers: 
Total of 50 minutes of transfers to and from the Shio No Michi.

Meals included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Walk Summary: 
Combination of paved sections and single track along the Shio No Michi 

Total elevation +152m. 

Total decent -307m.

Day 11 - Matsumoto castle - Guided Walking Tour

Day
11

Matsumoto to Tokyo

Our final day commences with a leisurely breakfast, followed by a relaxed morning enjoying the lodge. We then transfer to Matsumoto, a wonderful city situated on the high plateau. Our walking tour includes a visit to Matsumoto Castle, one of the most imposing historical sites and a symbol of Japan’s rich heritage. We indulge in a delightful lunch in town featuring flavours of the region. 

Our journey back to Tokyo continues as we board the express train. Upon arrival at Shinjuku Station our tour officially concludes, but rest assured our tour leader will be there to provide help and guidance as you navigate your way to your next destination and we bid farewell. 

Meals included: 
Breakfast and Lunch

Transfers: 
Total of 45 minutes of transfers by bus, and 3 hour return train ride to Tokyo

Meals included: 
Breakfast and Lunch

Frequently Asked Questions

Small group

  • Fully hosted walking tour with experienced local guides
  • Pre-trip customer care service available to answer any questions
  • Most meals (except where indicated, so you can experience the local cuisine independently)
  • Non-alcoholic beverages with meals (alcoholic beverages as indicated or available for purchase)
  • Picnic, hiking lunches & unique destination walking provisions
  • Twin share accommodation at carefully selected local inns, ryokans and resorts 
  • Specially curated surprise moments throughout the journey 
  • All activities described in trip itinerary
  • All transportation from the beginning until the end of the trip
  • All gratuities for hotels, restaurants and activities
  • Onsen experiences
  • All park and entry fees

Please Note: Whilst every effort will be made to secure the accommodation as detailed in the itinerary, there may be circumstances where Guided by Nature provides a similar accommodation standard.

  • Transportation to the start and end of tour
  • Travel insurance
  • Gratuities to guides and drivers
  • Hiking equipment - you will need to bring your own daypacks and hiking gear (a full gear list will be provided)
  • Meals and drinks not listed in itinerary
  • Any visa requirements
  • International and domestic airfares
  • Pre and post tour arrangements 
  • Each trip requires a minimum of 6 guests, three months prior to departure. The maximum group size is 15 guests (plus guides).
  • We strongly recommend travel insurance. Consideration needs to be given to our cancellation policy, injury, evacuation, delayed flights, illness, etc. Please see our Booking Terms & Conditions for details and contact us if you have any questions.

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