Walking in Japan travel tips

Jeremy Spencer from, Oku Japan, our leading supplier of walking vacations in Japan:

Money advice

“Take cash, as the Japanese banking system is actually a little behind. The post office ATMs do work with overseas cards, which is great. I got cash out from a remote spot on the Kumano Kodo trail, which is bonkers!”

What to pack

“Bring earplugs. If you are staying in a traditional Japanese accommodation, it could be that your room is only separated from the neighbouring room by sliding screens.”

Understanding the culture

“The codification of behaviour in Japanese society is based on very rigid codes of behaviour which deliver huge advantages to visitors. No one is going to pick your pockets, no taxi driver is going to take advantage of you. So it is a fine line between visitors appreciating the orderliness of everything, but also tolerating this when it goes overboard.”
Jim Eite, walking vacations in Japan expert from our supplier, Exodus:

Getting around

“We use trains for many of the transfers, so make sure your luggage is on wheels or easy to carry! The trains are excellent and easy to use. If you want to extend your time in Japan, ensure you get a Japanese Railpass – they are great value (versus buying tickets locally), the trains are easy to use and run like clockwork”.

Food tips

“Try the food. Most diets can be catered for, but if you are gluten free/vegetarian, write down a few phrases (or print them off in Japanese Kanji script) to explain to restaurants if away from the group. Soy sauce is a staple ingredient in a lot of dishes, and even sushi rice, while many vegetarian dishes will have a miso base.”

Health & safety


Japan is much hotter than you might think in summer, so protect yourself with sun cream and keep hydrated, especially in the mountains. Tap water is drinkable everywhere. Japanese people do not appreciate you spreading your germs, and many wear masks in public. So cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze and use hand sanitiser if you can, at least to show willing. The Japanese authorities have designated exclusion zones around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant following the 2011 earthquake. Check with the Japanese embassy before you travel that your prescription drugs are legal in Japan. You might need to buy a local alternative if not. In an emergency, dial 119 for fire or ambulance services. Police are on 110.


Crime rates are negligible in Japan, and it is well known to be one of the safest countries to travel in the world. Women generally feel very safe traveling alone including on self guided walking trails. Always check in with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for any recent updates. During typhoon season, which is between June and December (most activity between July and September) you will be given plenty of warning of approaching typhoons. The basic rules are stay inside, secure loose objects, draw curtains and if things get rough, move into a room with no windows. And don’t go down to the shore to take photos of giant waves. As we know, earthquakes do happen. There are a few basics to follow, such as stay inside the building. You are generally safer in than out. Keep the door ajar with a heavy object. And stay away from brick walls, windows or heavy objects. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency is a good source of safety advice when it comes to earthquakes. If you are near the sea during a big shake, head to high ground if possible.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Japan walking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Tips from our travelers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Japan travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
The most memorable part of the vacation was walking through remote woods and forests on the Nakasendo trail and coming across ancient shrines and stonework commemorating centuries old samurai battles.
– Liz Bashford
“Make sure you take every opportunity to walk. The two long walks are both, for different reasons, outstanding experiences. They're not talked up in the notes nearly as well as they should be.” – David McRae on a self guided Nakasendo Trail vacation

“All of it was good. The highlight might have been the first sight of the Golden Temple in Kyoto, or the first proper Japanese meal. As it is primarily a walking vacation through woods, I would recommend one takes good walking boots and a stick.” – John Brennan walking the Kumano Kodo Trail

“Although there are ATMs in Japanese cities, they do not accept non Japanese debit cards even where the Visa sign is displayed. So either take cash, or look for 7/eleven stores whose shop ATMs oddly do accept them! For vegan / vegetarian travelers the local inns will be able to better accommodate your diet if planned in advance. Finding vegan restaurants in cities is tricky even with the address but the address is in English and the street /restaurant signs are obviously in Japanese.” – Lisa Thompson
The monastery at Koya San is not centrally heated, but very efficient kerosene heaters are provided. It is not as basic as was anticipated.
– Gill Berry
“Do it!… Hiking the Nakasendo trail, seeing smaller towns, and staying at the ryokan in Kiso-Fukushima were extraordinary…But, don't carry a heavy pack; the trail can be challenging. Use the luggage courier services and train station lockers when possible.” – Vanda Galen

“Take your time on the walks - it's an easy schedule.” – Liz Bashford on a self guided Nakasendo Trail vacation

“The welcome, onsen bath surroundings were great and the cuisine though vegetarian was superb”. – Gill Berry on a self guided Nakasendo Trail vacation
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: OKU Japan] [Jeremy Spencer advice: Beatrice Murch] [Jim Eite advice: melanie_ko] [Health & Safety: 663highland] [Liz Bashford quote: ASAKAWA KOHJI] [Gill Berry quote: KENPEI]