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Eat and Soak Your Way Around Japan on an Onsen Gastronomy Tour

onsen japan man
John S. Lander/Getty Images

Few destinations are as alluring to Western travelers as Japan. The culture is ancient and mysterious; the landscape is remarkably diverse for a relatively small island country; and its people are kind, humble, and unbelievably generous, even to outsiders. Walk Japan, one of our favorite walking tour companies, just announced two niche tours designed to take visitors into the beating heart of Japanese culture.

We’ve long been fans of slow travel here at The Manual because there’s no better way to truly experience a destination than on foot. Nowhere is this truer than Japan. From samurai and geisha to sushi and sake, every element of the country’s rich, sophisticated culture has evolved over thousands of years. While fascinating, it can feel challenging and opaque to even the heartiest traveler. Walk Japan offers guided, long-distance walking tours that immerse visitors in a relaxed, meaningful way.

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This year, the company has partnered with Japan’s Onsen and Gastronomy Tourism Association to offer one-of-a-kind tours that combine two of the country’s most iconic cultural aspects. Both are five-day, four-night itineraries that combine the country’s unique cuisine with its love of onsen baths. The Oita and Kumamoto itinerary explores Japan’s westernmost island of Kyushu, while the Gifu and Nagano tour treks Honshu in Central Japan. Each region is distinct with its own cuisine and local flavor.

Tour-goers spend their days walking up to six miles per day through some of Japan’s most beautiful rural landscapes. These are areas rarely seen by outsiders, including stunning waterfalls, ancient shrines, lush valleys, remote mountain scenery, and traditional Japanese towns. Each tour is led by an expert, bilingual guide every step of the way. Nights are spent in small bed-and-breakfasts or traditional Japanese inns. Most offer private onsens where guests can partake nightly in one of the most quintessential elements of Japanese culture. Locals have relied on these hot spring mineral baths for millennia for their restorative powers.

These unique gastronomy tours also focus on Japan’s world-class cuisine. From just-caught sushi to rice to locally grown vegetables, the country’s food is among the freshest in the world. Japanese attention to high-quality ingredients is matched by their intricate food presentation where every dish feels like a work of art.

Both tours are available to book now with limited travel dates this fall. The Onsen Gastronomy: Gifu and Nagano itinerary takes place October 16-20, 2019 with a base price of approximately $2,700 per person. Travelers can explore Onsen Gastronomy: Oita and Kumamoto November 12-16, 2019, for around $2,500. Prices include all accommodations and most food, plus entrance fees, ground transportation, and luggage transfers. The only other thing tour-goers need to do is figure out how to get to Japan.

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