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Spectacular vistas, wildflowers and history on the ‘Roof of Japan’ (7 DAYS)

The Japan Alps are home to the highest peaks of Japan other than Mt Fuji. Snow-capped peaks soaring to over 3000 m, windswept ridges commanding panoramic views, luxuriant temperate and subarctic forests, and deep gorges cut by rushing streams are some of the spectacular landscapes in the Alps that can be truly appreciated only through multi-day wilderness hikes. This non-technical trekking-based tour will give you a taste of Japan’s world-class alpine scenery that is little known outside the country. A day of historic trail walking along a section of the Salt Road, an ancient trade route in the Alps foothills, and a half-day cycle tour through the beautiful agrarian landscapes of the Azumino Plains, will precede the alpine hike as a ‘warm-up’.


DAY 1—OMACHI TOWN WALK: Depart Tōkyō (Shinjuku) in the morning and travel to Ōmachi, a gateway town to the Northern Japan Alps. Enjoy a relaxed lunch then take a walk through the town, a former major trading centre on the historic Salt Road. Visit the Salt Road Museum for a glimpse of pre-modern life on the Salt Road, including an Edo-period salt cellar with its unique construction. Travel to the ski-resort town of Hakuba in the late afternoon, to your accommodation at a small, family-run minshuku in a rural village outside of town. Enjoy a gourmet country dinner at the minshuku showcasing fresh home-grown produce. 


DAY 2—SALT ROAD HISTORIC TRAIL WALK: A full-day walk tracing the Salt Road from Hakuba to Otari. The route includes sections of foot tracks in their original state through hilly rural and forested country, dotted with ancient stone Buddha carvings and monuments that will give you an authentic feel for what travellers would have experienced in the olden days. Along the way, inspect an old travellers’ lodging, where time appears to have stood still, and the historic checkpoint building. Arrive in the late afternoon in Otari in the deeply cut valley of the Hime River, where your accommodation will be at a beautifully restored traditional farmhouse in a hillside village operated by the local farming community.


DAY 3—AZUMINO COUNTRY CYCLING: Travel during the morning to Azumino Plains at the foot of the Alps and enjoy an afternoon of easy cycling. A hub of agricultural activity and trade since the days of the Salt Road, Azumino in modern times supports diverse livelihoods that also include the arts, crafts, and horticulture. Along the way, see how premium-grade wasabi (not that green paste in tubes!) is grown, absorb the old-world atmosphere of a historic house and garden, and hear the curious tales associated with rustic country shrines and temples. Arrive in the early evening at your accommodation in Hotaka-Onsen, a tourist-style ryokan in the green foothills of the Alps, and relax in their generously sized public onsen baths (room-attached private baths also available).


DAYS 4 to 6—JAPAN ALPS PANORAMA HIKE: Discover the wonders of the Japan Alps through an alpine-grade trek over a section of the Northern Alps Front Range. Travel to the track head in the morning of Day 4 and commence your ascent.  The steep ascent to the top will take about 6 hours, through landscapes including beautiful deciduous forests, rushing mountain cascades, sombre subarctic fir forests, and alpine meadows at the start of the wildflower season. Your efforts will be rewarded at the top with panoramic views to the majestic Main Range of the Northern Alps across the deeply incised valley of Kamikōchi, and across the Azumino Plains to the distant mountains of eastern Japan including Mt Fuji. Spend Day 4 traversing the sky-high ridgeline of the Front Range, while you enjoy an ever-changing view of the Main Range and a variety of alpine vegetation types. Accommodation on both days at classic Japanese-style alpine lodges with well-maintained, but basic facilities (shared sleeping quarters and facilities, no baths, no hot water taps, and no flushing toilets). Set (non-negotiable) times for dinner, ‘lights out’ and breakfast times apply. After breakfast on Day 6, make your steep descent into Kamikōchi and, once in the valley, enjoy an easy forest hike along the Azusa River overlooked by the sheer cliffs of the Mt Hotaka massif. Travel in the afternoon from Kamikōchi to your accommodation in Matsumoto, a mid-range city hotel. [Please note that the itinerary may be changed without prior notice if weather conditions on the day are unfavourable.]


DAY 7—MATSUMOTO CASTLE AND TOWN WALK: Spend a relaxing morning in Matsumoto, visiting the world-famous Matsumoto Castle with its imposing 16th-century original structure, and explore the historic castle-town precinct. After lunch, head to JR Matsumoto Station where the tour concludes. The tour cost includes your rail fare from Matsumoto to Tōkyō (Shinjuku)—ticketing for alternative onward destinations can be arranged, however, it may incur an additional charge.



  • Mountain hiking

  • Natural environment

  • History

  • Country walking and cycling

  • Villages

  • Onsen



  • 2 nights in Japanese-style alpine lodges with Japanese-style futon bedding and basic, shared facilities (sleeping quarters and toilet facilities; no bathing facilities available)

  • 1 night in a minshuku (Japanese B&B) with Japanese-style futon bedding and shared facilities

  • 1 night in a renovated historic Japanese country house (private rental) with Japanese-style futon bedding

  • 1 night in a mid-range tourist onsen-ryokan with Japanese-style futon bedding, shared public onsen baths and room-attached baths in a rural setting

  • 1 night in a mid-range city hotel with Western-style beds


DEPARTURE DATE: Tuesday 15 July 2018; itinerary subject to change depending on, but not limited to, accommodation availability, transport timetabling and weather conditions.


BOOKING REQUIRED BEFORE: Thursday 26 April 2018




COST: from AUD $3600­ per person (4–6 persons); from AUD $3900 per person (3 persons); from AUD $4400 per person (2 persons); POA for 1 person. 


FINAL PAYMENT DATE: Friday 15 June 2018



  • Full tour planning and guiding—7 days

  • Accommodation—6 nights

  • Breakfast—6 days

  • Lunch—7 days

  • Dinner—6 days

  • Ground transport (rail, bus, taxi, bicycle rental)—7 days, departing from/returning to Tōkyō (Shinjuku)

  • Admissions and fees for all attractions and activities listed in itinerary

  • Relevant information material


PHYSICAL FITNESS REQUIREMENT—VERY HIGH: involves 3 consecutive days of alpine-grade hiking at elevations of up to 2900 m elevation. You must be a confident mountain hiker who can walk for up to 15 km per day, and continuously for 3 km at a time, on moderate to steep gradients. You must be able to carry all your own gear (including food and water to be consumed along the way) required for the entire duration of the hike in a backpack that may typically weigh 10 kg or more. You must not suffer from existing health conditions (or have a high risk thereof) that compromises your fitness, mobility, endurance, coordination or navigation skills, including, but not limited to, conditions affecting your heart, blood pressure, brain, nervous system, breathing, movement of your limbs, neck and the back, eyesight and hearing. The walking trail includes steep, rocky, rubbly, swampy or slippery sections, and requires some rock scrambling. The tracks, in places, are narrow and have sheer drop-offs on one side. At lower elevations, you may be required to hike in hot and humid conditions that many may find exhausting. The higher sections of the walking track are fully exposed to the weather, which may include extremely strong winds, rain, thunder, and low temperatures, that may potentially create dangerous conditions. Protection is essential against strong UV rays and glare, such as sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Altitude sickness may be an issue for some.


On Day 2, a full day of lowland walking covering a total distance of up to 15 km required, on natural and surfaced tracks and country roads with mostly moderate gradients. There are short sections of steep, uneven, swampy or slippery terrain, including stone steps and cobblestone paths. On Day 3, half a day of cycling is required on gentle to moderately inclined terrain, covering a total distance of up to 20 km. You may be required to walk or cycle in hot and humid conditions that many may find exhausting.


CULTURAL TOLERANCE REQUIREMENT—VERY HIGH: accommodation on most nights feature Japanese-style futon bedding. Many meals will be traditional Japanese style served as a set menu, with alternative food options unavailable. Facilities at alpine lodges are basic and may be considered inconvenient by modern Western standards; there are no bathing facilities or hot-water taps, and strong odours may be associated with the composting/chemical toilets. In alpine lodges, you will be required to share your sleeping quarters with other (predominantly Japanese) guests. In one of the mountain lodges, you will be required to use bunk-style sleeping quarters with no privacy. Due to logistical difficulties, meals at mountain lodges may be simple and unable to cater for specific dietary requirements. Set times for dinner, ‘lights out’ and breakfast apply in mountain lodges; non-compliance may result in the lodge refusing service to you.

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