Discover the Hidden Gems of the Kanto Region
Explore the northern part of the Kanto region to discover its superb natural beauty. Just a one-hour bullet train ride from Tokyo, Minakami Town is a gateway to Japan's Southern Alps. The town is a popular winter destination that boasts one of the country's best ski areas, and from spring to fall, it turns into a river-activity paradise. The Oze National Park is a vast wetland home to myriads of marshes and ponds, offering perfect settings for hiking. The renowned tourist destination of Nikko has not only scenic spots but also cultural and historical attractions. This itinerary will be full of incredible landscapes and unique cultural experiences, both of which you cannot find anywhere else!
- 1Tokyo Station
- 2Jomo-Kogen Station
- 4Oze National Park
- 5Nikko Yumoto
A Night in the World’s Great Metropolises
Before embarking on our journey through Japan’s Water Shangri La, stay the night at a hotel located in the vicinity of Tokyo Station. In Tokyo Station, one of the world’s busiest railway terminus, even a short walk is an adventure. Observe some of the almost one million people who pass through the station daily navigating the evening rush-hour on their journey home.
For dinner, enjoy the Japanese dishes offered in the restaurants around Tokyo Station. After your meal, you’re free to head straight back to the hotel, or to explore the Tokyo Station & Ginza areas a little more, as you prefer.
Tasting Sake and Countryside Cycling
Today, our first encounter with Minakami introduces two elements intrinsic to Japanese culture – Buddhism at Kichijoji Temple, with its expansive yet tranquil gardens, and Sake at the nationally-renowned Nagai Brewery. After a locally-foraged lunch, get fully in tune with the pace of country life through a cycle ride, before a traditional ryokan experience.
On arrival in Minakami, we’ll head straight to Kichijoji Temple, where the Head Monk will offer a larger-than-life welcome, suitably accompanied by warm green tea and a seasonal Japanese cake. After learning about the Temple’s inherent relationship with water and the nearby source of the Tone River, we move on to the neighboring Nagai Brewery to discover the importance of water quality in the making of Japan’s most famous tipple. Where better to learn the processes, culture, and taste of Sake than at a 135-year-old brewery boasting its own spring water and surrounded by rice fields. After lunch, work off some calories with a bicycle ride through the lush, expansive countryside around the Takumi-no-Sato Settlement. Discover the charm of hidden shrines; the inherent stillness, softly punctuated by colors of nature, which highlights so much of rural Japan; and, most memorably, the warmth of local people, as we stop en-route to visit local houses and chat with their residents.
Experience the Energy of Japan’s Great Rivers
Venturing deeper into the significance of water in Japanese life, today we experience its power beyond everyday life, to present commercial opportunities and generate a new culture in rural areas. With skiing in winter and river sports from spring thru autumn, Minakami is now a year-round resort, the majority of whose visitors come from the Greater Tokyo area whose everyday life is underpinned by water from the same rivers.
Canyoning is certainly not a traditional Japanese pastime. However, like skiing, Japan’s unique climate and geography offer, in places, an ideal environment for the river sports now so popular around the World. Minakami was the cradle where canyoning and rafting in Japan were born 25 years ago and continues to be its unquestioned mecca, offering venues encompassing all levels of difficulty, each with its own breathtaking natural landscape.
Few activities capture the raw power of rivers more vividly than rafting, and Minakami, with its northern backdrop of alpine peaks and peaceful verdant rural surroundings, presents a perfect environment to experience and enjoy it. Individual pack-rafting is becoming a popular option in more confirmed areas, but the scale and force of the Tone River make the experience on the larger boat full-scale. Rafting the perfect way to experience nature, get to know companions, even let off a little steam, and create adrenaline-packed memories.
For your third night, have a relaxing stay at Riverside Oasis, a glamping facility located along the Yubiso River. Let the peaceful sounds of the stream and the glittering night sky help you to a good night's sleep.
Discover one of Japan’s Hidden Jewels
After one further ride of discovery through the upper areas of Minakami, today we move on to the other highlight of this course, the superb wetlands of Oze National Park, one of the ever-dwindling areas of Japan not yet discovered by mainstream international tourism.
Early in the afternoon, we arrive at Hatomachi, the western entrance to the Oze National Park, a superb natural expanse open only to walkers. Put your backpacks on to get ready for an energetic 20K afternoon walk through the park. The first hour will be spent heading north to reach the Ozegahara Marshlands, where we turn east into the heart of the park. Not only is the scenery wonderful, and the air crisply refreshing, but even the infrastructure in the park, two simple elevated wooden walkways along which hikers travel, is an intrinsically Japanese solution to the question of how to protect the park’s environment while making it an enjoyable place to venture. In the evening, enjoy one of the highlights of hiking in Oze—the sunset over the western mountains.
A Journey through Oze
An early start, as we continue to traverse Oze National Park, head first for Ozenuma Pond, before climbing out through the southern exit of Oshimizu. In mid-afternoon, we head for a final night at Nikko Yumoto hot-spring resort, deep in the hills behind Nikko, which for many years was the preferred summer residence of high-society Tokyo.
After 2-3 hours of walking as the sun rises higher, you will reach the picturesque Ozenuma Pond, where we’ll break for an early Bento-Box lunch, before our final climb to Oshimizu Car Park, the entry/exit point at the south of the park. From here, it’s just an hour’s drive to Nikko Yumoto, where we’ll stop again for a mid-afternoon snack. After check-in, optional challenges are a walk around Lake Yuno for the hikers, an SUP experience on Lake Chuzenji for those happier near water, or the opportunity to simply make relax and make the most of the ryokan experience at the end of four busy days.
A Walk through the Irohazaka to Toshogu Shrine
This morning, we start the final leg of our journey back to Tokyo by driving from the mountain-embraced Nikko Yumoto down the famous Irohazaka to Nikko, one of Japan’s cultural jewels.
The Irohazaka descending from Chuzenji to Nikko is a fascinating road, not only for its seemingly endless series of hairpin bends, but as a rare example of a public road designed as two long-distance one-way routes. We will take the descent-only section of the road, while there is an almost identical ascent-only section accessing Chuzenji from Nikko. In Nikko, visit Toshogu Shrine, not only a beautiful Shrine but a truly stunning architectural achievement built by Japan’s first and most famous Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, to protect his new capital against dangers from the North. After visiting the Shrine & its Pagoda, we’ll stop at the charming Shinkyo Bridge over the Daiya River. After lunch, move on around 20 minutes to Utsunomiya Station to board a Bullet Train for the one-hour journey back to Tokyo Station, heralding the end of our tour.
From enjoying a plethora of river activities to visiting shrines and temples, both famous and far off the beaten-track, there is a host of fascinating sites to see and exciting activities to do in the northern Kanto region. It is the perfect destination to experience Japan’s beautiful culture with a healthy dose of active adventures.
The contents of this page are meant as an example to use in creating your travel plans and do not represent a package tour. Lodgings, travel, guides, and all other accommodations must be arranged for by the traveler.