Located inland from the Pacific coast of Hyogo Prefecture lies the majestic World Heritage site of Himeji Castle; an essential location for many visitors to Japan and an excellent starting point to explore the wider adjoining Harima region. Further inland, there are excellent Onsen hot springs, mountainside castle ruins and ancient temples that have been the stages for many key events in Japan’s history. Up until Japan's feudal period, the south-western side of Hyogo was known as Harima province (播磨国, Harima no kuni), with Himeji as it’s capital. In the later years of the tumultuous 16th century, the lands across Japan were in chaos and civil war, where powerful samurai daimyo vied for supremacy over the country. This was an age which gave rise to Japan’s three great unifiers - Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu – as well as roaming samurai, such Japan’s premier swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, who wandered the lands of Harima on lengthy ‘musha shugyō’ (warrior pilgrimages) to further improve their fighting skills.
Later during the Edo period (1603-1868), the coastal Domain of Ako came under Harima province, and was home to the now famous 47 Ronin of Ako, known for their great samurai valor (bushido), and one of Japans best-known samurai stories. Further to the east lie the mountain-top temple complex of Engyoji temple, with over 1,000 years of history and a treasure trove of authentic traditional Japanese architecture and design. Further eastward, between Himeji and Kobe, lie Mount Rokko and Arima Onsen - one of Japan’s three ancient hot spring towns - nestled in a peaceful valley surrounded by red pine-tree covered mountains and numerous hot springs – and once used by traveling monks, aristocrats and feudal samurai.
From this historic period to the present day, the area between Harima and Kobe also went on to play a significant role in domestic and overseas transportation and trade, and further developed as an attractive area while incorporating a diversity of cultures into the region.
Our 4-day tour offers a rich variety of cultural and outdoor experiences, including history, nature, hot springs, traditional and modern architecture, and delicious local cuisine. Our standard tour features four entry-level, optional hikes. Please ask for information about our tour extensions to the mountain-top temple town of Mount Koya with its monastery lodgings, or the peaceful, agricultural community of Asuka at a charming Japanese inn or with a local family for a unique homestay experience.