Highlights of the Kiso Valley (Self-Guided)
The Nakasendo Way is an ideal introduction to walking off-the-beaten-track in Japan. Step into a world of rural villages and delightful old post towns. Enjoy the stone paths and wooden buildings of a bygone era at the same time as you explore life in modern Japan.
The 533km Nakasendo Way was a centuries-old highway through the heart of feudal Japan. It was the ‘road through the mountains’ travelled by lords, samurai, merchants, and travellers between Kyoto and Edo, modern-day Tokyo. As a result, post towns developed every few kilometres to provide travellers with places to rest, eat and find nightly accommodation during their arduous journey. A few towns still survive today and give an enticing glimpse into Japan’s past and modern day rural life.
Walking among mountains and fields, passing villages, towns, pine and bamboo forests, the Kiso Valley shows off the natural beauty of Japan whilst also giving insights into the culture with various local cultural activities offered.
As you walk the Nakasendo Way you can indulge in the Kiso region's culinary delights: buckwheat noodles, mountain trout from crystal clear streams, tender beef and delicious traditional sweets. Remember to try the delicious local sake!
We book all our Nakasendo Way arrangements directly. You'll have the back-up of our own staff member on the ground who lives in this area and will meet you at the start of your trip. If you need assistance at any time, he is never far away. We also have an exceptional daily luggage transfer service.
The Kiso Valley offers you quality time in nature with its abundance of mountainous forest, sacred Kiso Cypress trees and the beautiful Mt Ontake as your backdrop. For much of the time on the Naksasendo trail you will be walking through fields and villages seeing rural life in small-town Japan close up.
Stay in authentic Japanese accommodation and discover the fascinating history of local Samurai connections and the post towns that connected Kyoto with Tokyo during the Imperial era. The well-preserved towns of Tsumago and Magome are well-known attractions, but there is so much more to discover!
Click on each of the trail points to read about each destination.
There is the option to stay in 400-year-old ryokans and old farmhouses, some of which have been in the same family for 13 generations servicing travellers along the Nakasendo Way.
Some of the original sections of the Nakasendo highway still exist as beautiful stone paths through the forest.
This beautifully preserved post town is a popular destination for visitors. The walk along the Kiso Valley on the historic footpath between here and Tsumago is one the most scenic sections of the Nakasendo Way. Step back in time and enjoy the atmospheric old streets and the many cafes and shops.
This beautifully resorted post town on the Nakasendo Way is surrounded by mountains and is a favourite among travellers. Its old-world charm makes it a delightful place to wander, especially in the evening down the quiet lantern-lit streets.
One of the biggest and best of Nakasendo's old post towns, this was also the wealthiest in its day. Narai sits in a picturesque wooded valley and the exquisitely preserved main street stretches for more than 1km. It is a delightful piece of old Japan and is a highlight of the Nakasendo way
Walking Nakasendo bring you into contact with rural Japan as you pass through a succession of small hamlets and towns for the most part. It's a chance to see modern Japanese villages as well as historical ones and meet people going about their daily lives.
Please note that August - September is also the peak of Typhoon season in Japan with a potential risk of disruption to your travel plans during these events. Travel insurance that will cover Typhoon travel disruptions is strongly recommended.
View our guide written by RAW Travel's destination experts to inspire and prepare you for Japan's Nakasendo Way.