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Getting there Travel guide
Day 01

Hit the Ground


Feast at
Tonkatsu Yutaka

Start your stay in Japan’s capital with a hearty meal at Tonkatsu Yutaka, a no-frills establishment in Tokyo’s traditional Asakusa district. You’ll find it tucked away on a narrow alley just a few blocks away from Sensoji Temple’s expansive grounds. This post-war eatery supplies generous portions of tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets) paired with fluffy, fragrant rice and a small mountain of shredded cabbage. The earthy miso soup and crunchy pickled daikon radish balance the flavors and serve as palate cleansers between bites.

Generous and delicious Tonkatsu servings
Sensoji Temple by nightfall

View the City
from Above

Standing at a soaring 634 meters high, the Tokyo Skytree is the world’s tallest broadcasting tower; it’s a digital broadcasting transmitter, a multi-entertainment center, and a marvel of modern architecture. Beam up to the tower’s highest point on Floor 450 to get a view of the urban sprawl you’ll be exploring in the next few days. From there, you’ll see everything from the towering skyscrapers of Shibuya and Shinjuku to — if you’re lucky — Mount Fuji in the distance. Zip down to Floor 350 for some leisurely people-watching from Skytree Café.

  • The Tokyo Skytree is an icon of the city
  • On a clear day, it is one of the spots where you can spot Mt. Fuji from Tokyo
  • Panoramic views of the Sumida River
  • At night, different multi-colored illuminations envelop the Tokyo Skytree
  • Witness Tokyo’s city lights come alive once the sun sets
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Observe how Tokyoites go about their daily lives or take a stroll around the nearby neighborhood’s winding alleys. After checking out the event spaces, pop down to Floor 340 before heading down for a dizzying sight: stand on the glass floor section, and you’ll see the streets of Tokyo right under your feet.

An Afternoon
Under the Stars

Located in Tokyo Solamachi, part of the same building complex as Tokyo Skytree, Planetarium Tenku is home to an optical experience that projects stars across the universe. It also hosts immersive events such as Live in the Dark concerts, where string quartets perform against a nighttime backdrop. There are also immersive virtual sightseeing tours of regions across Japan to inspire future travels and narrated screenings complete with aromas and 3D sound. Splurge on one of three premium crescent moon-shaped loveseats for a cozier experience.

Cruise the Sumida River
the Traditional Way

For a taste of traditional decadence, book a cruise on a yakatabune pleasure boat that meander along Tokyo’s main waterway, the Sumida River. Yakatabune boats are modern versions of the floating entertainment halls commandeered by wealthy merchants and feudal lords hundreds of years ago.

For a different Tokyo experience, go onboard a dinner cruise down the Sumida River
Tokyo hospitality at its best onboard
Enjoy traditional Japanese food such as sashimi during the boat ride
The perfect end to your day as you cruise along the river, ebbing with the waves

These days, these lantern-adorned boats retain their tatami mat flooring and low tables but pair authentic Japanese cuisine with views of high rises and steel structures. While there are daytime and evening departures, the glitter of Tokyo’s city lights reflecting on the water at night makes the experience more inviting.

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Scale Tokyo’s
Favorite Mountain

The 599-meter-high Mount Takao in western Tokyo offers a wide variety of trails to the summit. Grapple your way through knotted roots under the cover of broad-leaved trees for a chance at spotting flying squirrels or Japanese macaques on the Biwa Waterfall Trail, or board the chairlift or cable car for an easy ride up. Drop by one of the temples devoted to mountain worship for a spiritual pit-stop. If you couldn’t catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji from Tokyo Skytree, you may have another chance at it here.

Take a fun ride up the cable car to the summit of Mount Takao
Enjoy a peaceful hike through verdant forests up Mount Takao
Reward yourself with a bowl of delicious ramen post hike

with Ramen

The morning hike up Mount Takao would have worked up an appetite. It’s time to refuel with another Tokyo classic: ramen. There are many ramen restaurants to choose from. Enjoy a satisfyingly delicious bowl with your choice of soup base, and at some of the restaurants, you can sit outdoors and enjoy ramen with a view.

Stroll Around the
Spiritual Heart of Tokyo

Ease back into the bustle of the city by spending the afternoon in a spiritual haven that lies just a block away from Harajuku’s busy fashion district. Meiji Jingu turned a century old in 2020 and is a beloved destination for visitors and locals alike. As you venture further in, the city noise tapers out, and you’ll notice how your feet moves on the gravel and you can hear the soothing wind whispering through the trees.

  • Meiji Jingu Shrine was built to commemorate Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken
  • Meiji Shrine is surrounded by a lush green forest right in the heart of Tokyo
  • It was completed in 1920
  • Enjoy the tranquillity as you walk the shrine’s grounds
  • Colorful barrels of Sake offered as blessings
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Keen-eyed visitors may spot (depending on the season) Japanese White-eyes or pygmy woodpeckers in the precinct’s sacred forest. Towards the center, a vast main shrine stands with its surrounding buildings, home to the enshrined deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, both poetry lovers who helped usher Japan into the modern age.

Shibuya Scramble Crossing

The World’s

A visit to Tokyo wouldn’t be complete without seeing the organized chaos that is the famed Shibuya Scramble Crossing. To view it away from the crowds, visit a nearby cafe across from Shibuya Station. Sip your favorite drink and people watch. Or you can make your way to the covered bridge connecting Shibuya Station’s JR Lines and the Keio Inokashira Line. The wide windows offer a great view, for free!

Dine and Drink
How the Locals Do

Enjoy yakiniku, like how the locals do

Yakiniku, or Japanese-style barbecue, is extremely popular in Tokyo. You’ll be spoilt for choice with the numerous restaurant options to get your grill on. Locals will recommend that you pair these delicious meats with beer or highballs. The yakiniku experience is not to be missed.

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Marvel at the Architecture

Start the day with a stroll around Tsukiji Honganji, a Buddhist temple in the heart of Tokyo’s wholesale market district, Tsukiji. Designed by Chuta Ito, the same architect in charge of Meiji Jingu, this temple is a harmonious mesh of contemporary and traditional architectural styles inspired by Chinese, Indian, and Turkish structures. The main hall is built using mostly concrete and is adorned with animal statues on its pillars and stairwells. Admire the pink and green stained-glass lotus blossoms inside, as well as the grand pipe organ near the entrance.

Get a Taste
of Tokyo

With almost 40 branches in Tokyo, Sushi Zanmai is your best bet to get great sushi. At Mawaru Tsukuji-ten, you can enjoy the full conveyor belt experience just a short walk from Tsukiji Honganji. Place your order by either picking up a plate from the conveyor belt or ordering directly from the sushi chefs. You can also point at the item on the menu, and the chefs will make magic happen. Find everything from tuna nigiri sushi to extravagant seasonal sets.

Treat yourself to a fun conveyor belt sushi experience
The menu is expansive and you’ll be spoilt for choice
The freshest ingredients are used for sashimi
Indulge in the local favorite, tuna, or maguro in Japanese

Explore Tokyo
on Two Wheels

Take a guided cycling tour and zip through the city. Feel the wind in your hair and the sun rays warm your back as you take in the sights and the city’s energy. Soshi’s Tokyo Bike Tour hits all the best spots on its central city circuit: skirt the narrow streets in the rustic Ningyocho area and its seaweed shops, feel the pulse in Akihabara and finally, take in the grandeur of the Imperial Palace. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this earlier.

  • Experience Tokyo on two wheels
  • Book a cycling tour and explore the city like never before
  • Ride through famed districts
  • Stop to take in views of the Imperial Palace
  • A great way to see the sights and burn calories
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Yanaka Ginza is known for its traditional Showa-period townscape

Wander Down

Not to be confused with Tokyo’s luxury shopping district, Yanaka Ginza is an old downtown shopping street north of Ueno Park. Along this 170-meter-long street are quaint tea shops, artisan studios, and more. At sunset, stand at the top of the Yuyake Dandan stairway to catch the street as it baths in golden hour.

Dine in Decadence

The best seats are where the chefs are in action at the teppanyaki restaurant

Spend your last night in Tokyo dining in decadence at Ginza Ukai-tei, a high-end teppanyaki restaurant in Ginza. The interior combines traditional Japanese architecture with Western Art Nouveau-inspired décor. Here, expert chefs rhythmically chop, slice, and cook your meal before your eyes. Enjoy the sensory experience as the iron griddle sends wafts of marbled wagyu and lobster to your seat.

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Departing Tokyo

Leave the
Electric City of
Tokyo and Prepare
to Journey on...

Arrival to Wakayama

to Pathways
Leading to Hidden
Shrines Shrouded
in Mist.

Nestled high up Mount Nachi is the Shinto shrine, Kumano Nachi Taisha

Spiritual Heartland

Take a break from the fast-paced city sights and immerse in the forested hinterlands of Wakayama’s Kumano Kodo trail. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed trail is just an hour away from Tokyo by plane; it encompasses a network of five sacred routes that weave through Wakayama’s deep forests and mountains. All routes lead to the Kumano Sanzan, the three sacred sites, as well as the holy mountain of Koyasan. Start on the Nakahechi route to follow in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims and immerse yourself in the region’s tranquil surroundings. Visit some of the trail’s historic highlights before finishing off on Wakayama’s craggy coastline.

Day 04

Embark on a
Spiritual Journey


Venture into
Sacred Space

Takijiri-oji marks the spiritual entryway to the Kumano mountains, separating the secular and spiritual worlds. Stop by the Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Center (across the river from the trailhead) to get maps, tips, and equipment. The first leg to Takahara is relatively short but steep. Start your experience at Tainai-kuguri, a collection of boulders that form a cave, about 15 minutes into your hike. Enter the cave and attempt the millennium-old tradition of testing your faith by squeezing through the opening at the far end.

Takijiri-oji shrine hidden away in old growth pine trees
The cave opening of Tainai-kuguri

Rest in the
Village of the Mist

Views of Takahara Village
Takahara Kumano Jinja

Shortly before arriving in Takahara village, a gravel path leads to Takahara Kumano Jinja, one of the oldest shrines on the trail. Towering camphor trees surround the small wooden structure; some estimated to be 1,000 years old. A short walk from the shrine is a rest area, which offers a panoramic view of Takahara village and its picturesque rice fields and wildflowers. In the morning, thick mist envelopes the area, creating what looks like a sea of clouds from above. This village is a great spot to grab lunch and fill your water bottles before moving on.

Sleep Among Warriors

The trail descends into Chikatsuyu, a basin clustered with homes, minshuku guesthouses, a post office, a handful of cafes, and the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Museum. Cross the Hiki River to enter the village and take time to explore the moss-covered stone walls, as well as the Nonagase Clan Cemetery, a final resting place for ancient warriors.

Overnight in a family-run inn in Chikatsuyu

Chikatsuyu is just about halfway between your starting point at Takijiri-Oji and Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the three Kumano shrines. Stay the night here at one of the charming family-run inns, many of which offer not only dinner and breakfast but lunch box options for the next day’s journey.

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Through a Rustic Village

Set off from Chikatsuyu-oji in the early morning to reach Kumano Hongu Taisha by the early afternoon. This part of the trail traverses three mountain passes as well as the picturesque Nonaka village along the way. Take a moment to admire the scattering of traditional houses, as well as the Hidehira-zakura, a cherry tree that stretches its branches straight over the road.

The rustic village in Chikatsuyu-oji
The Jagata Jizo statue is believed to have been protecting travelers through their hike

Delve into the

A typhoon in 2011 caused a semi-permanent detour on this trail, making the Iwagami-oji inaccessible. On your hike, you can pay your respects to Jagata Jizo, a stone statue representing the bodhisattva Jizo Bosatsu, along the trail. Jizo Bosatsu is known for protecting children and travelers and statues of him can be found on trails and roadsides across the country. Legend has it that pilgrims were suddenly overcome by fatigue in the area and would collapse. After the Jizo statue was erected, the problems apparently ceased. Though it has been moved from its original location, hikers still believe it protects people passing through. Mikoshi-toge Pass marks the boundary between Kuchi-Kumano and Oku-Kumano areas. From here, expect a long descent into Hossinmon-oji.

Take a Local Approach

Hosshinmon-oji marks the entrance to the sanctuary of Kumano Hongu Taisha. The trail here gradually turns into paved roads and winds through towns and settled areas, offering a good chance to catch a glimpse of daily life in the small town.

Reflections at the Gates

Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the three Kumano Sanzan shrines, is nestled in a wooded area atop a small hill. Previously located down at the Oyunohara sandbank next to the Kumano River, the shrine was moved to higher ground after a flood in 1889.

Kumano Hongu Taisha is located at the center of the Kumano Kodo network of pilgrimage trails
It is a holy place that has been visited by many people since the Heian period
The main shrine is adorned with a cypress bark roof
Kumano Hongu Taisha is the head shrine of the around 3,000 Kumano shrines in Japan

The giant torii gate — Japan’s largest — still marks the entry point to this sacred lowland area. The 158 steps to the main worshipping hall are flanked by white flags and arrow-straight cedar and cypress trees. Kumano Hongu Taisha represents rebirth and gives visitors hope for change.

Stay in a
Hot Spring Area

Nestled by the surrounding mountains, this historical hot spring town has given respite to weary pilgrims for over a thousand years. Steam billows from the river between the traditional wooden houses as hot spring water leads out into the cool mountain stream. Yunomine Onsen has many family-run inns to choose from, including Minshuku Kuraya, a quaint two-story house with its own hot spring bath.

  • Rest your tired feet and bodies at one of the many onsens
  • Nourish yourself with the freshest locally-grown produce
  • The food is meant to recalibrate your energy after the hike
  • Soak in the hot spring in Tsuboyu
  • Enjoy the calm and stillness before your next adventure
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Take a dip in Tsuboyu, a public hot spring bath inside a rustic hut in the middle of the river. This stone bath comfortably fits two adults and is said to be the oldest hot spring in Japan, and an excellent spot to soak your weary muscles.

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Undertake the
Highs & Lows

Together with Ogumotori-goe, the Kogumotori-goe trail links the Kumano Hongu Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha shrines. The trailhead is in Ukegawa, a 10-minute bus ride from Yunomine Onsen. This leg of the journey is challenging, as it goes deep into the forest with many inclines. There are no restaurants along the way, so stock up on supplies at the Yamazaki shop (located between the Ukegawa bus stop and the trailhead) before heading out.

The enchanting forests that you’ll walk through on these trails

Stop for
Panoramic Views

Hyakkengura is a lookout point along Kogumotori-goe trail. There is a long and gradual climb to this point, but it pays off with a panoramic view of — what is said to be —all 3,600 mountains in the Kii mountain range. Embrace the stillness here. The sunset on a clear day offers a magnificent display of orange and white rays against a backdrop of red and purple as it dips below the mountaintops.

  • Make sure to stock up on supplies and hydrate while you hike
  • Keep a walking stick handy
  • Take a pit stop at Hyakkengura on the Kogumotori-goe trail
  • You’ll be rewarded with breathaking views of all 3,600 mountains in the Kii range
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Koguchi district along the Nakahechi route

Keep Cozy

Watch out for slippery cobblestones at the base of the slope as you enter the valley of Koguchi. This is one of the smaller districts along the Nakahechi route, so book your accommodations in advance. Choose between a selection of cozy family-run guesthouses in and around the area — those further out often provide pickup services from central Koguchi.

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The Final Push

One of the toughest stretches along Kumano Kodo’s Nakahechi route, expect three passes with climbs and descents. The first section, known as Dogiri-zaka, or back-breaking slope, is a 5-kilometer uphill affair. Distract your mind from the pain; observe the ancient stone walls bearing rice fields of yore. Catch your breath at the Jizo-do, a roofed shelter housing Jizo statues, in the remains of the Jizo-jaya Teahouse. It is located in a clearing by a stone-banked river. Once you reach the Funami-toge Pass, you’ll finally catch a view of the craggy Kii coastline. From here, an easy slope down to Kumano Nachi Taisha, one of the three Kumano Sanzan shrines.

A 5km uphill marks the start of the toughest stretch on the Nakehechi route

Behold the

The vermillion buildings scattered across the Kumano Nachi Taisha and Seigantoji temple precinct stand in stark contrast to the area’s evergreen primeval forests. Here, you’ll find the most unforgettable view: Nachi Falls in the backdrop of Seigantoji’s three-storied pagoda.

  • The iconic Seigantoji pagoda and its vermillion façade stands out among the greenery
  • Explore the serenity on the Kumano Nachi Taishi grounds
  • Since ancient times the area has been an important spiritual center
  • Make an offering and pay respects during your visit
  • Visit the ticketed treasure hall displaying art and artifacts
  • Stand in awe of the majestic Nachi Falls
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The 133-meter-high waterfall is Japan’s tallest and, together with the bright pagoda, is said to be the most beautiful. Trek down to the base to feel the power of the falls as the cool air and mist caress your cheeks. While you’re here, take a detour to Daimon-zaka, a particularly picturesque stone step slope lined with cedar trees.

Sample the freshest catch

Dine on the
Freshest Fish

Hop on a bus to Kii-Katsuura Station, an approximate 30-minute ride from the Nachisan bus stop outside Kumano Nachi Taisha. The station is just a few minutes’ walk from Katsuura Fishing Port, which boasts Japan’s largest and freshest tuna catch. This seafood hub is the best place to sample fresh tuna: unlike in other areas of Japan, it’s not frozen before serving, making it more tender and flavorful. Stop by any of the izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) clustered around the station for a taste of this rare local specialty.

Spend the Night
in Nachi-Katsuura

Make your last night count in Wakayama – check into a luxurious spa hotel

The area around Kii-Katsuura Station is worlds apart from the villages on the Kumano Kodo trail. It offers a selection of accommodation options, ranging from budget-friendly hostels to a luxurious spa hotel on Nakanoshima island in the bay. Make your last night in Wakayama as decadent as you like — you deserve it!

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The freshest tuna catch can be enjoyed at the Katsuura Seafood Market

Whet Your
Appetite Before

On your last day in Wakayama, head down to the Katsuura Seafood Market for the tuna auction, which starts at 7am and is open to the public. Saunter back to the hotel for a leisurely breakfast of locally sourced ingredients in Japanese or Western style. Then, board a 20-minute train ride south to Kushimoto for one final Wakayama adventure.

Cycle Wakayama’s
Jagged Coastline

Rent a tricycle — yes, you read that right — from the Nanki Kushimoto Tourism Association Office inside Kushimoto Station to explore Wakayama’s rugged coastline up close. These battery-powered e-trikes have two wheels at the front, offering more stability and ease of maneuvering. Most of the coast-hugging route here is part of the Pacific Cycling Road, a 1,400-kilometer course that runs from Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo in the east to Wakayama city in western Wakayama Prefecture.

Book a cycling tour to explore the coast
Look out for the steep cliffs jutting out of the Pacific Ocean
Take deep breaths of the ocean air as you make your way down south
The rocky islets near the cape

Zip down to Cape Shionomisaki to reach the southernmost point of Japan’s main island of Honshu and the 19th-century lighthouse that still stands today. You’ll get a view of brown-feathered red kits swooping for fish near the sheer cliffs jutting out of the glittering Pacific Ocean. For an island experience, cycle up the spiral road to Kushimoto Bridge, connecting the mainland to Kii-Oshima Island. Here, you’ll be treated with clifftop views and scenic views of rocky islets.

Ready to explore day 8 itinerary

From City to Country

Before you book your trip, have a look at what you can look forward to when you visit Tokyo and Wakayama.

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