Take a hot summer break in Japan's winter wonderland
THERE is still time to book a short summer break in Japan, stretching out your legs and maybe shedding some Christmas kilos while immersing yourself in its winter beauty.
Walk Japan have four walking tours on offer through January to March 2018.
The pioneering adventure company operates seasonal walking tours through Japan's lesser known areas which the company tantalisingly describes as "fairytale-like landscapes feature vast wonderlands of immaculate white snow".
The small group tours will take travellers through stunningly pristine regions of the country from the Central Alps, known as Japan's 'Snow Country', to snowshoe tours through Hokkaido's less-visited east and the rugged Tohoku region in North Honshu, and to the top of the breathtaking Kaida Plateau.
Guests get to delve into cultural and authentic sides of Japan not often experienced by visitors, as they are introduced to Japanese society, customs, history and food walk at a comfortable pace and stay each night in charming Japanese traditional inns, or ryokans, dotted across the countryside.
Led by well-informed guides, the walking tours vary in location, theme and levels of activity; beginning with the easiest at Level 1 (walkers must be able to handle their own luggage, climb a few flights of stairs and walk less than 5km a day) to the most challenging Level 6 (in which there could be up to eight hours of activity per day over varied, mountainous terrain).
This winter's tours are -
Snow Country Trek
Winter dates: January 15-21; February 5-11; 25-March 3.
A seven-day snowshoe tour through Japan's famed 'Snow Country' in the central Alps region, where pure powder snow is metres deep. This tour provides an intimate experience of life in a winter wonderland that can only be accessed using snowshoes. Travellers visit a spectacular shinto shrine complex, stay in charming villages deep within valleys, and cross spectacular remote landscapes where the only other footprints have been left by the local wildlife. A highlight is a night walk through a beech forest. Price: From JPY332,000 (AUD$3835) per person.
Tohoku Hot Spring Snow Tour
Winter dates: February 24-March 4.
A nine-day snowshoe tour through the winter landscape of Tohoku in north Honshu. A ruggedly beautiful and mysterious land, Tohoku is dominated by mountains, remote valleys, vast forests and rugged coasts. Squeezed in between are communities where the inhabitants have toiled for generations to live in harmony with their environment; no more so than when snow envelopes the landscape. Travellers gain insights into their lives, still largely based on age-old traditions. The deep snows of winter pair delightfully with the warm onsen hot springs visited throughout the tour. Price: From JPY480,000 (AUD$5540) per person.
Hokkaido Snow Tour
Winter dates: January 30-February 6; February 12-19.
An eight-day tour starting in Kushiro and finishing in Utoro, this adventurous journey takes in the little visited, snowy northern territory of the country in snowshoes. This walk showcases Eastern Hokkaido's pristine snow-covered winter landscape, wildlife up close in natural habitats, spectacular crater lakes and active volcanoes, as well as top-class local cuisine and soothing onsen thermal hot spring baths. Price: From JPY448,000 (AUD$5175) per person.
Winter Nakasendo Way
Winter dates: January 4-10; 10-16; 28-February 3; February 7-13; 21-27; 28-March 6.
A seven-day tour starting in Nagoya and finishing in Matsumoto, this is the winter version of Walk Japan's original walk, the signature Nakasendo Way. En route, travellers explore high snowy passes and plateaus with stunning views, farming communities, stepped fields and bamboo groves, picturesque towns, and ancient forests. At the end of the walking day, travellers enjoy excellent meals of locally sourced produce and a soak in the onsen thermal hot spring baths. Price: From JPY304,000 (AUD$3510) per person.
For more information on these tours, go to www.walkjapan.com