John McBride's Great Walks of Japan

John McBride's Great Walks of Japan

Travel information and research about the Tokaido, Nakasendo, Oku-no-hosomichi (Narrow Road to the D


Writer, photographer and walker Craig Mod captures this element of walking so beautifully.

"What I felt most on this tour of the peninsula — amidst leaving behind the shoe-leather on the mountains and the village streets — was the poignancy of small relationships returned to over time. I’ve walked these routes so many times that, without realizing it, I’ve concocted a fine web of connections. There was our young, entrepreneurial cream puff buddy, Misaki, who runs Choux. But I also stopped by a small goods shop run by a quick-to-laugh intriguingly round elderly woman who always seems to be in a rush. I first met her in 2019. I stopped and bought potato chips then and stopped and bought potato chips in winter 2019, and then in summer 2021, and now, once again in October 2022: Potato chips. Our deep-fried binding agent. And I said — Hey, you were the classmate of the guy who runs the inn down the street, right? And she just burst out laughing, How the heck did you know that?! and I told her, Because you told me, three years ago. And, boy, she just couldn’t get over that. Cackled and cackled some more. Tried to foist on us a bunch of bruised peaches.

Gosh, these small human connections. This recon walk, I leaned into the energy of these connection in a way that felt additive and new. I come away believing more strongly than ever: There is a goodness to committing to a route, returning to that route, being present and attentive and in control of attention on that route, and committing to elevating those you meet as best you can. Those investments in kindness pay dividends in funny, beautiful, potato-chippy ways.

Most of all, though, the gift of this walk — the thing for which I am most grateful — was being able to spend time with John. To have two weeks walking together — what a thing! I take not a second of that for granted. Talking through the endless intricacies of Japanese mythos (which, I realized on this trip, is not unlike the source code for an operating system; an idea to return to later) and the logistics of structuring tours, of running old inns and making almost-great inns better, of the politics of hotels, of getting served way too much lobster, of finding French toast — so much French toast — when you least expect it, of living a beautiful, meaningful life, of squealing near the edge of a breathtaking gorge. John and I have been walking together for a decade now. He catalyzed all this — my turning walking into a “platform” atop which I work, of starting SPECIAL PROJECTS, of Kissa by Kissa, books to come, and more. He opened the door, showed me the way into the forests, the old roads, the peninsula. To be able to watch John do his thing — his ever-ensorcelling way of elevating those he meets — is the best kind of archetypical experience you could ask for.

I wrote this about bearing witness to John being John in my forthcoming book:

Witness hundreds of hours of something before your eyes; this is how both faith and science are verified. What I’ve come to believe: Respect for someone's story elevates their station in life, their being, changes the musculature of their face, their posture. It imbues the mundane with unexpected distinction. It is the opposite of death, and it is there to be given and received a hundred times each day along a good, long walk.

I got to spend another fourteen days — some 200+ waking hours — watching someone deliver grace to everyone we met, and all I can do is hope to carry that forward in my own work and walks. So, thanks John."

Craig and John Mcbride recently walked the Kii peninsula together, which Craig narrated in one of his temporary 'pop-up' newsletter series. A joy to read for anyone interested in walking and Japan, Craig's newsletters, books, podcasts and more can be found here:

Image and text credit to Craig Mod.


THIS WEEK'S FREE VIRTUAL TOUR PRESENTATION Join us as we explore Old Tokyo Wednesday, July 27, 2022 5pm ET (New York time zone) FREE REGISTRATION FOR ZOOM EVENT In the 17th - 19th centuries old Tokyo was likened to Venice with its myriad of canals. One of the most sophisticated ways of spending an evening was to take a boat up the Sumida Riv...

23 of the world's best hiking trails 25/07/2022

Delighted that the little walking tour I designed in the footsteps of Matsuo Basho, the haiku poet, has been voted top 4 in CNN's list. Very proud.

23 of the world's best hiking trails From multiday treks tracing the routes of a Japanese poet to classic climbs in Argentina's Lake District, here are the 23 best hiking trails in the world.

WEA Sydney 05/07/2022

I'm giving a talk at WEA (in person and on-line) about Hokusai's scroll detailing a journey by boat to the Yoshiwara courtesan district, painted in 1805.

WEA Sydney WEA Sydney


Hope you can join me for a free talk I am giving about walking the Tokaido. Registration link is below:

Nakasendo Way: The Kiso Road 11/05/2022

Free lecture about the Nakasendo at Temple University in Japan.
Conducted by one of Walk Japan's wonderful guides:
Nakasendo Way: The Kiso Road
This webinar, delivered in partnership with Walk Japan, explores the Kiso Road of the Nakasendo Way. The Kiso Road is a route along an ancient highway, one of the best sections of the Nakasendo, stretching from Kyoto to Tokyo. The Nakasendo dates back to the 7th century and it found its importance in the Edo Period (1603~1868). This particular part of the Nakasendo has long-ignored sections that still retain the feel of the historical road and offer beautiful insights into Japan.

This webinar will introduce the Kiso Road walking tour, including the route, its history and and a Ukiyoe series of The Kiso Road. The session will explore many of the sights, inns and natural beauty along the road, as well as the best seasons to visit and seasonal highlights.

Walk Japan, a pioneer of off--the-beaten -track walking tours in Japan, has been introducing Nakasendo Way tours since 1992. TUJ Continuing Education partners with Walk Japan to offer the course: Leading Exceptional Tours In Japan.

About the Host
Ayuki Shio

Born in Chiba, Ayuki was brought up in Osaka, and attended college in Tokyo. While studying, she travelled extensively through Europe. After graduating, she began her career at Sony until moving to a British airline as a cabin crew member. For both work and pleasure, Ayuki has travelled to more than 50 countries as well as Antarctica. She found Uzbekistan, Romania and Pakistan very enjoyable destinations, not least because Japanese people seemed to be a great curiosity for the locals. An avid hiker, Ayuki has undertaken some tough trails including Tour du Mont Blanc in the French/Swiss Alps and Milford Track in New Zealand. She has also climbed many other mountains in the French and Swiss Alps, and throughout the Japanese archipelago. For more leisurely forays she enjoys strolling around Tokyo and exploring its myriad neighbourhoods. Ayuki has lead tours for Walk Japan since 2015, and is a licensed National Guide and holds Sommelier and a Sake Diploma.

Nakasendo Way: The Kiso Road This webinar, delivered in partnership with Walk Japan, explores the Kiso R... powered by Peatix : More than a ticket.

Japan Brochures and Guides for Travel - Japan National Tourism Organization 30/04/2022

Japan National Tourism Office have a fantastic website with downloadable maps of Japan:

Japan Brochures and Guides for Travel - Japan National Tourism Organization Plan your perfect trip to the land of the rising sun with free Japan Brochures and Guides for Travel by Japan National Tourism Organization.

A Long Walk in a Fading Corner of Japan 25/04/2022

Great article in the New York Times about walking in the Kii Peninsula.

A Long Walk in a Fading Corner of Japan As is true throughout rural Japan, many of the once-vibrant villages on Honshu’s Kii Peninsula are aging into nothingness.

WEA Sydney 13/04/2022

Two upcoming talks (Zoom) at WEA Sydney on walking on the Tokaido, and walking in Yamaguchi.

WEA Sydney WEA Sydney

The Art Islands of the Inland Sea of Japan - WEA Sydney 30/01/2022

I am talking about the Inland Sea Art Islands at WEA on 1 and 3 Feb 2022.

The Art Islands of the Inland Sea of Japan - WEA Sydney Many are aware of the spectacular art museums and installations on three major islands in the Inland Sea of Japan. The three islands are Naoshima, Teshima, and Inujima. These art projects are supported by a Triennale, the 5th of which will occur i...

Japan's Vibrant 17th & 18th Century Streetscapes Explored Through Art - WEA Sydney 28/09/2021

Upcoming talk at WEA Sydney:

Japan's Vibrant 17th & 18th Century Streetscapes Explored Through Art - WEA Sydney Two works of art are used to examine the 17th and 18th century streetscapes of Tokyo and Kyoto. With an appreciation for Japan’s flow of history and an eye for historical detail, we will consider how these two works of art are excellent resources ...


Sign up to follow my friend's walk on the Kumano Kodo.

Where Are All the Nightingales?

Pizza Toast & Coffee 27/03/2021

Beautiful 5 minute documentary set at the start of Craig Mod's walk down the Nakasendo.

Pizza Toast & Coffee Pizza Toast & Coffee (2021) is a short documentary about kissaten — Showa-era (1926-1989) Japanese cafe — culture. Būgen is a small kissa in a suburb south o...

A Night in Kyoto: The Ancient Capital of Japan - WEA Sydney 16/03/2021

Upcoming talk at WEA Sydney. Classroom or Zoom attendance available. If attending from outside Australia just use 2000 as the postcode.

A Night in Kyoto: The Ancient Capital of Japan - WEA Sydney Japan’s cultural heartland, Kyoto, was established in 794 and was Capital for over a thousand years. Use a Heian map of Kyoto from 1200 to explore the streetscape of Kyoto’s old quarters. Learn to walk the Philosopher’s Path, Kiyomizu Temple and t...

Bathhouse for Life - Broadcasters' Eye | NHK WORLD-JAPAN On Demand 15/03/2021

Beautiful documentary about Japanese public bathing at Sento - warning, it will make you cry:

Bathhouse for Life - Broadcasters' Eye | NHK WORLD-JAPAN On Demand Broadcasters' Eye showcases excellent programs produced by Japanese commercial broadcasters. This program documents 5 years at a bathhouse in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, that has long provided emotional comfort for local residents. In a time when bathhouses are quickly vanishing from Japan, this progr...

Watch RICEBALLS Online | Vimeo On Demand 08/03/2021

Beautiful 10 minute film about a Japanese dad and his son living in Sydney - worth renting, and supporting.

Watch RICEBALLS Online | Vimeo On Demand RICEBALLS is a heartwarming story about love, pride, and resilience. Since the passing of his Australian wife, Kenji has been doing his best to bring up his only…

Looking Closely is Everything 02/03/2021

Looking Closely is Everything How the pandemic taught me to look closely at the world, and how I hope to carry that forward out the other side

Exploring San'in Japan - WEA Sydney 09/01/2021

I will be talking about the San'in Region of Japan in a series of 4 two hour lectures at WEA Sydney in February 2021. Hope you might be able to join.

Exploring San'in Japan - WEA Sydney The San’in region comprises the remote Prefectures of Yamaguchi and Shimane on the West side of Honshu facing the Sea of Japan. The area has interesting karst and volcanic topography responsible for copper and silver deposits which changed the cou...


Hi everyone. On 17 December 2020 I will be giving a free introductory talk about the San'in area of Japan, a beautiful and seldom visited area of Southern Japan. Enrol at WEA Sydney if you are interested.

WEA Sydney WEA Sydney

Walking Tours around Tokyo - WEA Sydney 20/09/2020

I will be talking about walks around Tokyo in December 2020 at WEA Sydney (through the Zoom on-line platform):

Walking Tours around Tokyo - WEA Sydney Comparing an Edo period map of Tokyo from 1800 with today’s city we will explore the streetscape of Tokyo’s old quarters. Referring to woodblock prints of ancient city quarters such as Nihonbashi, Yanaka, Asakusa, Ueno and Ginza, learn how to navi...

Travel Hints for Japan - WEA Sydney 20/09/2020

I will be talking about travel to Japan at WEA Sydney (Zoom lecture) in December 2020:

Travel Hints for Japan - WEA Sydney Australians love the safe environment of travelling in Japan and their contact with Japanese culture. With a few travel hints this experience can be enhanced immeasurably. Discuss Japanese inns and cuisine, and the wonderful chances to attend Japa...



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