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Oku Japan

Oku Japan operates guided, self-guided and custom tours around Japan. Our main office is in Kyoto, and some of our sales staff are based in the UK. In spring 2015, Oku Japan opened a branch office in the village of Chikatsuyu, where we are proud to be part of the local community.

Our mission is a simple one; to introduce visitors to Japan to the beautiful scenery, delightful towns and villages, and above-all the lovely people, we have discovered on our travels. We are a small team of people passionate about Japan, and every one of us speaks Japanese and knows the country intimately. We have travelled the length and breadth of the country; stayed at hundreds of hotels, Ryokan and Minshuku, taken trains, planes, ferries and buses to the far corners of this amazing country, to discover the best food, best accommodation and best service that you can expect.

We strongly believe in travel having a positive impact on both the traveler and the local people. Our tours travel both to the famous sites, but also to the lesser-known places that have not made it into the guidebooks. You may find yourself on a super-fast bullet train one day, and the next sitting in a small country hot spring miles from the nearest town.

We try to strike a balance between easy, comfortable travel, with seeing places that require a degree more effort to get to. Some of our destinations are not visited by any other tour company, and that's because they are not suited to mass-market tourism. Our favourite inns may not have internet access or even their own website, but they have the freshest food and personal service you can't reproduce on a large scale.

Featured trips & expertise

The original paved stones of the old Nakasendo trail in central mountainous Japan
Self-Guided Walking Tour on the Nakasendo Trail - 10 Days

Take a walk through time on this 10-day self-guided tour of the Nakasendo Trail, part of feudal Japan's original network of highways. Travelers on the mountain path between Kyoto and Tokyo took several days to travel the distance, staying overnight in Juku post towns. You'll retrace their footsteps as you travel through serene forests, stay in historically preserved local inns by night, and explore the vibrant cities of Kyoto and Tokyo.

The wonderful Nakahechi route
Kumano Kodo Self-Guided Tour - 6 Days

Get ready for an unforgettable village-to-village trek on the Kii Peninsula along sections of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. Perfect for avid hikers, this self-guided tour will take you past thermal hot springs, grand shrines, and waterfalls as you walk in the footsteps of emperors.

Hike Japan's Nakasendo Trail - 5 Days

Step back in time and immerse yourself in nature on this five-day hiking trip along the historic Nakasendo Trail. Feudal lords and samurai once walked this mountain path connecting Kyoto and Tokyo, stopping at some of the historic 69 post stations to rest for the night. You'll follow in their footsteps as you trek through picturesque valleys, stay in idyllic villages, and relax in the thermal waters of hot springs along the way.

The full Kumano Kodo experience
Hiking Japan's Kumano Kodo - 11 Days

Get off the beaten path and onto the Kumano Kodo, a network of ancient pilgrimage trails in the remote Kii Peninsula. Trek to grand shrines, thermal hot springs, and the sacred Mount Koya, one of the most important sites in Buddhism. This self-guided trip is great for those looking to challenge themselves with full-day hikes through hilly terrain. You'll be rewarded, however, with unforgettable experiences as you follow in the footsteps of emperors.

Izu Peninsula
Places Most People Miss (But Shouldn't) in Japan

Most visitors to Japan hit up Kyoto's temples, Tokyo's shopping streets, and Osaka's food scene—but there's much more to this country than what you'll find in its cities. Soak in natural hot springs, hike through primeval forest, and spot wildlife on a pristine chain of islands with these under-the-radar suggestions.

Recent Trip Reviews for Oku Japan

Louise

Discover the nakasendo trail, Japan - Oct 9 - Oct 14, 2018

Traveler: Louise I. - Local specialist: Andy Moser

Thanks to kimkim, our 4-night, 5-day Nakasendo adventure in October was amazing. We have been highly recommending it to friends and family. All arrangements were professionally, efficiently and patiently handled by our pre-travel contact Andy, our trip guide Atsuko-san and our local guide from Usui Toge to Yokokawa, Riki-san. The online information was very helpful and was among the deciding factors for joining our Nakasendo group. A delicious kaiseki dinner in Kyoto with Atsuko-san on... read more

Thanks to kimkim, our 4-night, 5-day Nakasendo adventure in October was amazing. We have been highly recommending it to friends and family. All arrangements were professionally, efficiently and patiently handled by our pre-travel contact Andy, our trip guide Atsuko-san and our local guide from Usui Toge to Yokokawa, Riki-san. The online information was very helpful and was among the deciding factors for joining our Nakasendo group. A delicious kaiseki dinner in Kyoto with Atsuko-san on the night before our hike for our group of 12 set the tone for the beautiful breakfast and dinner settings we experienced during the entire trip. The accommodations were comfortable and full of atmosphere, whether the inn we stayed at was rustic and charming (Tsutamuraya in Otsumago and Iseya in Narai) or refined and charming (Komanoyu Ryokan outside of Kiso-Fukushima and Nakadanaso Ryokan in Narai). All the towns we passed through were so enjoyable to explore, but I especially loved the historic beauty of Magome and Tsumago. We were so impressed by Atsuko-san's attention to every detail, like arranging four different options on the last day to meet the needs of those traveling directly to Tokyo, those who chose to visit Karuizawa first, those who wanted a longer hike and the rest of us who chose to ride up to Usui Toge and then hike down to Yokokawa. Atsuko-san even escorted us from Tokyo Station to the frenetic and huge Shinjuku Station in order to point us in the right direction. Well done, kimkim and Oku Japan!

Andy Moser, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Louise, thank you again for choosing to travel with us along the Nakasendo trail - we're very happy to know the group enjoyed staying with the locally-run inns along the trail. We've also communicated your kind words to Ako-san and Riki-san. Please don't hesitate if we can assist with a future trip.
Best regards, Andy / Oku Japan

Gwen

Discover the nakasendo trail, Japan - Oct 9 - Oct 14, 2018

Traveler: Gwen P. - Local specialist: Andy Moser

We planned our trip with Andy who was accessible and communicated clearly. He made special arrangements for those that needed them. Once we got to Japan, our trip was amazing.
Akosan was such a gracious, accommodating, professional, knowledgeable guide. Despite the disparate needs of our group, she never made us feel that we were asking too much and always accommodated us. She took the time to listen and then shared her wonderful cultural and historical wisdom. She made the trail come... read more

We planned our trip with Andy who was accessible and communicated clearly. He made special arrangements for those that needed them. Once we got to Japan, our trip was amazing.
Akosan was such a gracious, accommodating, professional, knowledgeable guide. Despite the disparate needs of our group, she never made us feel that we were asking too much and always accommodated us. She took the time to listen and then shared her wonderful cultural and historical wisdom. She made the trail come alive! We had different hiking abilities-all were accommodated with sometimes as many as 4 options in a day provided. We transited with ease between locations, as Akosan was always organized and on schedule. SHe is a master at time management and set reasonable expectations for all of our schedule.
from the WE all had little needs and accommodations were top notch. We enjoyed

Andy Moser, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Gwen, we are very happy to know the group had an excellent time along the Nakasendo - we've also communicated your kind words to Akosan.
Best regards, Andy / Oku Japan

Discover the nakasendo trail, Japan - Oct 9 - Oct 14, 2018

Traveler: Clarence P. - Local specialist: Andy Moser

It was a wonderful experience from the start of the planning with the Kimkim team through the actual hike with Ako-san. Andy and the team were very responsive to our needs and went out of their way to celebrate my wife's birthday with a cake at our initial dinner. Our guide was fantastic in her service and knowledge of the trails and the history. She explained fully what was happening and gave us many options to take. If we do another hike or tour in Japan (which we will) we will request... read more

It was a wonderful experience from the start of the planning with the Kimkim team through the actual hike with Ako-san. Andy and the team were very responsive to our needs and went out of their way to celebrate my wife's birthday with a cake at our initial dinner. Our guide was fantastic in her service and knowledge of the trails and the history. She explained fully what was happening and gave us many options to take. If we do another hike or tour in Japan (which we will) we will request specifically for Ako-san. I would highly recommend to anyone to use this company and their guides. Thank you for a wonderful time.

Andy Moser, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Clarence, we are happy to know the group had such a fantastic time in Japan, and has made many good memories along the trip. We've also passed along your kind words to Ako-san.
Best regards, Andy / Oku Japan

Leslie

Discover the nakasendo trail, Japan - Oct 9 - Oct 14, 2018

Traveler: Leslie K. - Local specialist: Andy Moser

Akko-San was an incredible guide - she literally anticipated our every need and was such a delightful, thoughtful person. She is truly perfection! We were all bowled over by her professionalism and warmth. It was a sad moment when we had to say goodbye.

The tour was an incredible once in a lifetime experience. The Nakasendo is fascinating and the post towns chosen for the tour were beautiful and interesting. The accommodations were terrific. The first night was quite rustic which... read more

Akko-San was an incredible guide - she literally anticipated our every need and was such a delightful, thoughtful person. She is truly perfection! We were all bowled over by her professionalism and warmth. It was a sad moment when we had to say goodbye.

The tour was an incredible once in a lifetime experience. The Nakasendo is fascinating and the post towns chosen for the tour were beautiful and interesting. The accommodations were terrific. The first night was quite rustic which really fit the trail and made the next two nights’ accommodation all that more special and luxurious. And the food! The breakfasts and dinners in all of the accommodations were excellent and over the top plentiful. The service at each of these places was gracious and friendly. The side trip to Matsumoto was such a highlight - it was a gorgeous fall day and the castle literally gleamed in the sunlight. The town of Narai is the prettiest and more delightful of the post towns.

Andy Moser, local specialist, responded to this review:

Aloha Leslie, we are very pleased to know the group had such an enjoyable time on your trip with us and Akko-San. Thank you for your kind words, we hope to welcome your group back to Japan on a future occasion! Best regards, Andy / Oku Japan

Vanessa

7 days japan experience with multi-day hike, Japan - Oct 1 - Oct 7, 2018

Traveler: Vanessa S. - Local specialist: Mirka Niemi

Our trip was mix of cosmopolitan Tokyo and tranquil, green Japanese countryside along the Kumano Kodo trail. Our itinerary started and ended in Tokyo, with its skyscrapers, nightlife, busy streets and great food. In between we took Shinkansen to the southern part of Japan, where time slowed down: Breathtakingly beautiful vistas, forests, rice and tea fields, traditional Japanese inns, fantastic food and relaxing natural hotspring spa’s. Most important: hospitable & very kind people. Truly an unforgettable trip.

Joost

7 days japan experience with multi-day hike, Japan - Oct 1 - Oct 7, 2018

Traveler: Joost S. - Local specialist: Mirka Niemi

Our 7-day trip in Japan was amazing. Thanks for Mirka for putting together a flawless trip. The contrasts between modern and ancient Japan made this an unforgettable trip. Too many highlights to easily summarize: Great hike along the Kumano Kodo trail, amazing food, fabulous onsens (hot springs), great Japanese hospitality and high energy Tokyo neighborhoods all made this trip.

Day 1: Evening arrival in Tokyo (Mitsui Garden Hotel), followed by a quick hunt for late night food that led us... read more

Our 7-day trip in Japan was amazing. Thanks for Mirka for putting together a flawless trip. The contrasts between modern and ancient Japan made this an unforgettable trip. Too many highlights to easily summarize: Great hike along the Kumano Kodo trail, amazing food, fabulous onsens (hot springs), great Japanese hospitality and high energy Tokyo neighborhoods all made this trip.

Day 1: Evening arrival in Tokyo (Mitsui Garden Hotel), followed by a quick hunt for late night food that led us to a cool little bar that served clams and beers. The trip plan in a handy small format, and other documents that we received were useful, and we ended up referring to the info throughout the trip.

Day 2: Very early morning departure by bullet train towards the Kii peninsula via Osaka, zipping by Mt Fuji. Great way to see Japan while enjoying a nice breakfast and reading up on the trip ahead. Arrived at the Kumano Kodo trailhead around 2pm after a bus ride from Kii Tanabe station. About 2 hours of hiking on steep trails to the first overnight, which was just off the main trail in the valley in the small town of Kurisugawa. We were the only guests in the Ryokan, and got very well taken care of by the old innkeeper.

Day 3: Great day of hiking through forests with occasional sweeping views of the valley. About 4 hours of hiking. Met about 20 other hikers (mainly from Canada and Australia, only 1 Japanese). Arrived in the pretty town of Chikatsuyu around 2pm, and visited the Oku Japan office there. Great to chat with Oku staff Noriko and Satoe about how interest in the Kumano Kodo is reviving the local economy. We stayed in Minshuku Chikatsuyu, which is run by a young innkeeper who cooks amazing food. Onsen was pretty good (but the best Onsen was yet to come the next day).

Day 4: Rainy day, so we decided to take the shortest hiking option. First section by bus, which seemed to make many loops before dropping us at the trail. Hiked through beautiful hills and villages while rain was on and off, and then arrived at Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the main shrines along the Kumano Kodo. We were early for the 2.30pm bus, but still ended up missing it, so we walked the final 4km along the road to Yunomine Onsen (which actually ended being a nice walk, glad we did it!). The small town of Yunomine was one of the highlights of our trip, with a river and hotspring that gets tapped to fuel the various Onsens. We stayed in Azumaya Ryokan, an old inn with lots of character and a great indoor / outdoor Onsen. Food served in our room was very good.

Day 5: After another great early morning Onsen session we took the 8.40am bus to Shingu. Visited the temple and strolled through town. Had a great lunch next to the station before boarding train to Nagoya. Great ocean views again from the train. Changed to the super fast Nozomi bullet train in Nagoya for final stretch to Tokyo. The Gate hotel in Asakusa was great. Amazing views from 13th floor lobby. Had dinner in nearby Shabu Shabu restaurant on 4th floor of a highrise.

Day 6: Early morning breakfast with great views on Tokyo Skytree, then off to Tokyo National Museum on foot. Really enjoyed strolling through Tokyo and see families on bicycles going about their life. At noon met with our friend Ryo at the Senso Ji Gate and started an epic exploration of Tokyo neighborhoods. Dinner at a hotpot restaurant with more friends and finally a late night drink in Hoppy Street near our hotel.

Day 7: Early morning shopping spree for presents for the kids, and then a cooking class with CookJPN. Great to see a Japanese apartment from the inside will cooking local dishes. After some final shopping off to the airport. Goodbye Japan, see you again very soon!!!

Soaking up some rural culture without breaking our necks!, Japan - Jul 27 - Aug 2, 2018

Traveler: Bill P. - Local specialist: Andy Moser

Fantastic trip and organisation ran like clockwork... the trains.. the buses...the timetable and so on. No corners were cut, as is often the case. Each ryokan visited over-delivered. This trip allowed us to get below the surface of Japan's big cities and let us experience the real Honshu. Simply fantastic.

Andy Moser, local specialist, responded to this review:

Dear Bill, we are very pleased to hear that you had such a memorable time on your trip with us. Thank you for your kind words, we hope to welcome you back to Japan on a future adventure! Best regards, Andy / Oku Japan

6 day walk, Japan - Feb 8 - Feb 18, 2018

Traveler: Andrew T. - Local specialist: Andy Moser

All in all a wonderful experience very well managed, thank you.
Day 1: the first climb was almost a deal breaker. The path was not clear and we should have been warned that is was incredibly demanding.
Takahara ryokan was good. Private facilities and food were probably the best of all on the walk. Excellent packed lunch. To be able to fit around the tire at night after a private onsen was great.
Day 2: good walk with no surprises although the cold was extreme
Chikatsuyu food was good and... read more

All in all a wonderful experience very well managed, thank you.
Day 1: the first climb was almost a deal breaker. The path was not clear and we should have been warned that is was incredibly demanding.
Takahara ryokan was good. Private facilities and food were probably the best of all on the walk. Excellent packed lunch. To be able to fit around the tire at night after a private onsen was great.
Day 2: good walk with no surprises although the cold was extreme
Chikatsuyu food was good and private onsen enjoyable. Lack of private facilities was inconvenient although with only two other guests not a big problem
Day 3: this was an incredible trek, we did the entire 24kms, with ice and snow a real challenge, last 3 hours in rain made the achievement even more admirable. Knowing we had shorter options was comforting. Suggest it should end at Hongu as we had no time to sightsee given the bus timetable. Yunomineso was ok but again Hongu probably a better overnight stay. Hotel pick up and taxi drop off, enabled a later start after the exhausting walk, for next day were very convenient,
Day 4: good walk and enabled a little recovery. Momofuku was quaint but lack of private facilities was a little problematic. Nice hosts but we were over the food, especially the breakfasts by this stage.
Day 5: great walk and wonderful views on the way and just superb as we approached Nachi san. We should have stayed in Nachi san again to see more of the sites.
Kii-Katsuura, my choice, was disappointing. By this stage should have chosen a western hotel. Should have stayed in Nachi san. Lovely town to stroll around behind the train to Osaka.
Overall far more challenging than I thought but an incredible experience and achievement.
Directions, train abc bus connections all first class.

Karuizawa extension: fair to say we, especially Paula, were over ryokans at this stage again I should have requested a western hotel closer to the ski fields. Nevertheless the two days were saved by lovely snow falls and the outlet shopping, Paula was in heaven. Do highlight this in the future, some real bargains.
Food at tsuyaya was good and the buffet breakfast good fir westerners. Service was excellent here. If only the library had an open fire!
Travel by train back to Tokyo was again excellent, Japanese railways are impressive.
So all in all a great trip
Thanks for your planning, availability on the phone the only time needed, and efficient responses in preparation.
Our next walk will hopefully be coast to coast hopefully a little less demanding and not as rushed as I retire in a few months

Andy Moser, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Andrew,

We are delighted to know you and Paula had an enjoyable trip in Japan (the walk to Nachi is perhaps one of my favourite walks in Japan). We greatly appreciate your feedback and have shared this information among our tour development team. We know that feedback from clients is the best way for us to improve our products and services.

We hope we may have the pleasure of welcoming you and Paula in Japan on another occasion in the future.

Kind regards,
Andy
Oku Japan