Eastern Biwa: Self-Guided Walking 5 Days Premium

Follow historic Eastern Biwa from Mie in the south to Fukui, via Shiga and Gifu, with five gentle hikes or cycles of two to four hours.

Eastern Biwa: Self-Guided Walking 5 Days Premium

Number of travellers

Start date

January 2024

Tour details

Eastern Biwa: Self-Guided Walking 5 Days Premium
x1 traveller
Single room additional charge
USD 1,025

If you would like to do multiple tours in one trip or have a question about any of our tours, do not hesitate to contact us with the button below.

  • Duration: 5 days
  • Trip level:
  • Availability: Recommended from April to November
  • Type:Self-guided
  • Price: USD 1,835(Price per person, based on 2 travellers sharing a room)
  • Visit the culturally significant sites of the regions, together with iconic castle and merchant towns, as well as important spiritual sites
  • Experience gentle cycles and walks through relaxing rural villages and towns
  • Learn the culture and nature of eastern Biwa, visiting the lake via optional cycling and stunning views from Hikone castle
  • Take in local culture and crafts, including optional experiences, such as traditional lacquerware in Fukui
  • Stay in four premium Japanese accommodations, taking in onsen baths, a private villa residence, a spiritual Shukubo stay and delicious regional cuisine

Lesser travelled Eastern Biwa is a complicated melting pot of regional cultures, crafts and history unique to central Japan. From the remarkable nature and pristinely preserved merchant towns of Shiga, to the atmospheric enclaves of Gifu, the spiritual hub of Eiheiji in Fukui, and the engaging Iga in Mie, the area has a depth and variety few regions of this size could hope to offer, all tied together with a history of significant castles and battlefields liberally spread around the four prefectures. Eastern Biwa affords a deep and interesting experience for any style of travel.

Our journey begins from historical and cultural hub Kyoto, first heading to quiet Iga and a gentle town stroll here provides an education in local folklore and crafts.

Stay at a stylishly renovated premium townhouse inn in the centre of Iga and then head onwards by local train lines to the lovingly preserved merchant town of Omi-Hachiman in Shiga. Rent bikes to explore this quiet historic town and see the wider area, connecting to Lake Biwa to the north-west.

After a comfortable stay at an historic private residence close to Hikone Castle, head east by train to Gifu Prefecture and the remarkable Sekigahara – an important site of historic conflict, which featured one of the key battles in the unification of Japan, where the country underwent dramatic change. Learn about this fascinating turning point through museums and key sites in the area.

Head on to Gifu town, with another iconic castle in the area, together with an immersive historic quarter. Heading on finally to Fukui, and explore the delightful cuisine and local culture of the region, together with two excellent walks, one culminating in a dramatic arrival at Eiheiji; the key spiritual site of the region, and another to learn about the feudal lifestyle at a restored museum at the Ichijodani village ruins before heading onwards by train.

To extend the trip further, it is possible to add additional days in the Shiga pottery village of Shigaraki and the historic town of Gujo Hachiman.

What is included
4 nights at premium Japanese accommodations
4 breakfasts & 4 dinners
Train tickets starting in Kyoto and and ending in Fukui (with Premium Green Class seats where appropriate)
Detailed day-by-day itinerary and walking directions
Topographical maps
Local support by telephone from our Kyoto based team
Our Preparing for your trip and Travelling in Japan Guidebooks
Optional orientation at our Kyoto office










What is not included
Airport transfers
Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
Pay locally for museum and gallery entry fees
Pay locally for other transportation options
Single room supplement(s) if required











We head from Kyoto city to the town of Iga in the northwest of Mie Prefecture by train, before undertaking a gentle walk through Ueno Park and the town centre.


With a population of just short of 90,000, Iga is a small castle town with a long history. Noted in historical texts, the regions became well-known in the Sengoku ‘warring states’ period from the 15th century through to the early 16th, as a centre for ninjitsu. Historically significant figures, including one of Japan’s most-loved haiku poet’s Basho, as well as world-famous ninja Hattori Hanzo were born here, and the proud ninja tradition lives on in a large museum in the park. The castle and townscape are also highlights of the day.


The evening is spent at a delightful, premium inn in the town.


Walking distance: 1.3 miles / 2km loop course
Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent
Time required: 1-2 hours

Accommodation: Premium Japanese inn
Meals: Dinner

After breakfast, head north from Mie to Shiga prefecture, famous for Omi-gyu beef and scenic Lake Biwa, which we glimpse from the train on the way.


We stop at Omi-Hachiman, a picturesque historic merchant town on the eastern side of Lake Biwa and begin today's cycle from the station. Explore charming Omi-Hachiman by cycling through the historical district, lined with wonderfully preserved old merchant houses, some now open as museums, and then along Hachiman-bori canal which runs through the scenic section of the town.


Head onwards by train along Lake Biwa through to Hikone, your destination for tonight. The town is home to Hikone Castle, one of the country’s best-preserved Edo-period castles, and the tranquil Genkyu-en Japanese landscape garden housed within its walls.

Spend the night at a wonderfully preserved traditional Japanese villa.

Cycling distance: 16.5 miles / 26.6 km for the full loop course
Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent
Time required: About 2-3 hours

Accommodation: Premium Japanese villa
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Leave Hikone and Shiga by train for the short journey north east of Lake Biwa to Sekigahara in Gifu.


Sekigahara is numbered among the 17 Nakasendo post towns in Gifu, however it is best remembered as the scene of one of the largest and most decisive samurai battles ever. In 1600, samurai belonging to the eastern forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu and western forces of Ishida Mitsunari came head-to-head in the epic battle that ended up deciding the fate of Japan for the next 260 years and ushered in the Edo period (1603-1868).

At Sekigahara, visit the new state-of-the-art Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Museum with various exhibits that enable you to gain a deeper understanding of the area before cycling around the historic battlefield grounds and old post town. The best way to explore Sekigahara is by bicycle and our cycling course takes in key areas of the battlefield.


Leaving Sekigahara, travel by short local train to the Nagara River and ride along its shores to Gifu City and Gifu Castle, taking in breezes along the way. As you approach, the iconic position of Gifu Castle perched high atop Mt. Kinka at 327 meters comes into view, and your goal for today. Gifu Castle is another historically significant spot and a former stronghold of Oda Nobunaga, one of Japan’s three great unifiers during the tumultuous Warring States period of the 16th century. Upon arriving in Gifu, take time to explore the historic Kawara-machi district featuring many old preserved buildings with lattice-work, followed by the ropeway ride up Mt. Kinka to Gifu Castle, or enjoy the rewarding 60 minute (2.3km) hike on foot to the top, where magnificent views await.

Spend the night in Gifu at a premium Japanese Onsen hotel.

Cycling distance: 7.2 miles / 12 km for the full loop course
Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent
Time required: About 2-3 hours

Accommodation: Premium Japanese Onsen hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Leaving Gifu, travel by train and pre-paid taxi to a delicious lunch, before a rewarding hike in Northern Fukui in the Oku-Echizen region. Hike through natural forest and beautiful mountain scenery to arrive on foot at Eiheiji Temple tucked away deep in the mountains, and the birthplace of Soto Zen Buddhism.


Follow in the footsteps of Dogen Zenji 道元禅師 (1200-1253, Zen Master and founder of Soto Zen Buddhism), as he made his way into this remote region long ago in the 13th century. The impressive temple complex stands in a natural mountainous setting with a history of over 750 years. It is the main training temple of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism, and around 200 young monks in training (known as Unsui 雲水 ) who devote themselves to uninterrupted Zen practice day and night live here. Visitors have the opportunity to glimpse the authentic way of life of a Zen practitioner.

Stay overnight close to Eiheiji Temple with a premium Japanese Shukubo accommodation featuring delicious, authentic Japanese Shojin Ryori dinner and breakfast served by your hosts at your accommodation, and excellent Japanese baths.

Walking distance: 4.6 miles / 7.5km
Elevation gain: 150m / 495 feet of ascent and 580m / 1,905 feet of descent
Time required: About 3-4 hours

Accommodation: Premium Japanese Shukubo
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

From the inn this morning, travel to a nearby hike, where we learn the way of life for feudal soldiers, in a stroll through an authentically restored key historical settlement at Ichijodani Asakura Ruins.


During the tumultuous Sengoku Jidai (the period of warring states), in 1471, Echizen, or modern-day Fukui, was a key strategic area for wider central Japan. Infighting between members of the ruling Shiba clan led another group, the Asakura clan to take advantage of the chaos, displacing Shiba and fortifying hilltop structures at Ichijodani as a strategic base. The ruler of the clan, Asakura Toshikage, also made opportunity out of refugees fleeing Kyoto, where the Onin civil war was making living conditions untenable for many. Around the mid-1500s the area had grown to be a major cultural hub, in addition to its strategically beneficial location, reaching a peak of over 10,000 residents.


However, the final Asakura ruler, shogun Asakura Yoshikage, developed a feud with revered and brutal warlord, Oda Nobunaga, credited as one of three unifiers of Japan. Nobunaga captured Kyoto in 1568, and drove Asakura’s ally, the shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki out of the old capital and in 1570, Nobunaga invaded Echizen, and the Asakura family home was taken in 1573.

The Asakura castle ruins and Restored Warrior's Residence on today’s walk offer a unique insight into the way of life for the soldiers positioned at Asakura’s residence.

Head onwards from Fukui for easy access to Kyoto or north to Kanazawa.

Walking distance: 3.4 miles / 5.5km
Elevation gain: 270m / 885 feet of ascent and 255m / 835 feet of descent
Time required: About 2 - 3 hours

Meals: Breakfast

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