On our fully guided group trek you’ll enjoy the benefits of a local guide | Get a great understanding of the feudal history of the Nakasendo Way | Enjoy meaningful experiences with the people you’ll meet along the trail
- A journey through the heart of Japan following in the footsteps of the Tokugawa Shogun and the Samurai during the Edo period (1603–1868).
- Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley on the original ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 400 years.
- Visit the post towns of Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai.
- Understand the feudal history of the Nakasendo Way with RAW Travel’s own local guide along to support you.
- Visit Shimosuwa, the only hot springs district on the historic Nakasendo Way
Japan’s Nakasendo Way – or Central Mountain Route – was one of five major routes established by the Shogunate (Military Dictator) during the Edo period (1603–1868). The routewas 533km long and has 69 post towns, which were set up to feed and accommodate the feudal lords, Samurai and merchant travellers. The ancient way passes through the Kiso Valley wedged between two of Japan’s sacred Mountains (Mt Ontake 3067m and Mt Komagatake 2956m) and is one of Japan’s most breathtaking and scenic areas.
You will travel on the ancient paved paths known as ishidatami, pass hidden waterfalls, walk through stunning cedar and cypress forests and numerous wayside shrines. Stay overnight in family-run ryokans and enjoy the wonderful well-preserved ancient villages of Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai, and taste the local delights of the Kiso Valley and Gifu Prefecture. To finish your adventure, we’ll travel by train to the historic town of Shimosuwa and unwind in the local onsens.
Are you a first-time or solo traveller?
We’ll support you all the way! View our preparation and training resources.
DAY 1: ARRIVE NAKATSUGAWA
You will meet your guide today at the Nakatsugawa train station at a set time (refer to your travel documents). Nakatsugawa is number 45 of the 69 post towns on the Nakasendo Way and after storing your luggage we’ll set off on a walk through the Backstreets of Nakatsugawa and the old town area. You’ll wander through the town’s narrow winding streets and discover the myriad of well-preserved wooden buildings, residences and warehouses (kura) originally constructed during the historical Edo Period, a time when the town prospered with a population of over 1000 people and around 200 houses. You’ll learn of the town’s rich history and gain an understanding of local village life as you encounter local people along the way. Following your introduction to the area on your guided exploration, we’ll head to your accommodation for the evening and an orientation of what lies ahead in your adventure.
Later you may choose to relax in the lovely garden setting of your guesthouse for the evening, or perhaps you may like to go for a further wander and visit the Naegi Castle ruins, a 3km walk from your accommodation.
DAY 2: NAKATSUGAWA TO TSUMAGO (16KM)
After leaving Nakatsugawa at the ancient Kosatsuba (official proclamation board) you will come across red torii gates. There will be some steep slopes today before Ochiai and then you will be walking on an old cobblestoned way. This route takes you to the stone path entrance of Magome, one of the highlights of the Nakasendo Way. Notably, its kosatsuba features old wooden tablets stating in Japanese that: “No Christianity can be practised”. Magome (Horse & Basket) is number 43 of the 69 post towns along the way to Edo (Tokyo). It truly gives a sense of what the post towns were like during the Edo period (1603–1868). We will have lunch in Magome at one of the many Japanese inns (own expense).
The Nakasendo Way continues through the centre of Magome past the old shops and inns. The trail begins to climb up to the small settlement of Touge, and there is a good spot for a rest break here. We will then walk over the Magome Pass (800m) and slowly descend through peaceful woodland. We will hear the roar of the Odaki-Medaki waterfalls, which slowly fade as you pass streams and rice paddies coming into the old (smaller) village of O-Tsumago.
Leaving O-Tsumago, the trail climbs briefly before descending into the enchanting area of the main village of Tsumago (number 42 of the 69 post towns). The street is lined with traditional Japanese wooden houses, shops and ryokan (inns). You might want to stroll through the streets after dinner wearing a traditional yukata gown provided by your inn.
Meals: B D
DAY 3: TSUMAGO TO KISO-FUKUSHIMA (17KM WALKING; 30KM TRAIN TRAVEL)
Today’s walk takes us through Nagiso and the beautiful Yogawa Forest. The trail is a mix of bamboo and cedar forest and weaves through some local villages. It is quite hilly today, with a little bit of road walking, though quite and mostly in amongst the trees. The Nenouetoge pass has some steep, sustained ascents and descents. The streams and rivers running alongside the trail are a highlight. After a late lunch in Nojiri, we make our way to the train station for a 40-minute ride to Kiso-Fukushima.
Kiso-Fukushima has a lovely preserved old town section, on the Nakasendo Way path, close to your accommodation. Your ryokan this evening has a wonderful indoor and outdoor onsen, but you may first like to stop by the public foot onsen by the river to soak your feet after today’s hike while watching the world slowly go by.
After dinner this evening, If any of the group are keen, there is a great little karaoke venue within a short walk of your accommodation.
Meals: B D
DAY 4: TRAIN FROM KISO-FUKUSHIMA TO YABUHARA (14KM) AND TREK TO NARAI (8KM)
Your guide will lead you on a walk this morning to the Kozen-Ji Temple, the Kiso Valley’s most famous temple, the Yamamura Residence, once home to the powerful governor and the Fukushima Checkpoint. We’ll then catch the train from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara. We may stop for lunch in a great little noodle restaurant before we start our final day’s walk along the Nakasendo Way. From Yabuhara the trail heads uphill, past some shrines and on up to the Torii Pass. Named after the Shinto Torii Gate, this marks one of four protective sites surrounding Mount Ontake. At 1197m, the Torii Pass is a great vantage point with views of Mount Ontake on a clear day. The descent takes us along narrow mountain paths until we emerge at the outskirts of Narai.
Narai is a lovely place and was the wealthiest of the post towns along the trail. Wander along the main road, explore and relax in the little cafes and shops of this well-preserved and atmospheric town.
Meals: B D
DAY 5: TRAIN FROM NARAI TO SHIMOSUWA (37KM) AND TOWN WALK (4.5KM)
Today we will journey by train further along the Nakasendo Way to the post town of Shimosuwa. Historically, this was an important resting and healing spot for wounded samurai during the Edo period. It’s also a fitting location to finish your journey. Much of the traditional architecture remains and on arrival in Shimosuwa, your guide will take you on a walk around the town which encompasses a number of temples and shrines, including the Suwa Taisha Shrine, considered to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan, the mossy Jiunji Temple with its zen stone garden and the impressive Manji Stone Buddha. The town is now most known for one of Japan’s most unique events, the Onbashira Festival, which takes place every seven years and involves participants riding giant logs or pillars down the side of the hill to the river, (next taking place in 2022).
Following your guided walk you may like to hire a bike and ride the path around Lake Suwa (16km) or cycle for a couple of kilometres past the Jiunji Temple to see the site of the pillar riding for the Onbashira Festival. You may opt to further explore the town area which is home to a number of sake breweries that offer tastings and there’s also a great little district of galleries, studios and workshops run by artists and craftspeople. If you’re ready to relax and indulge a little, you can choose to visit one of the 150 onsen bathing facilities in the area or treat yourself at the full-service spa at your accommodation.
Your traditional ryokan is a short walk from the lake and has a history that dates back over 300 years and hosted princesses and shoguns as they made their trek between Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). They have a beautiful central garden area and a wonderful indoor and outdoor onsen bath. Along with the amazing meals, it’s a perfect way to end your Nakasendo Way experience.
Meals: B D
DAY 6: DEPART SHIMOSUWA
Today is departure day and your tour ends after breakfast.
From May 8th to October 1st 2020 our special offer of $1 deposit applies to new bookings made in this period for website trips*. $1 is all you will pay in 2020 for trips departing in 2021.
From January 1st 2021 we will invoice you the remainder of the standard deposit ($499*) and the remaining balance payment at the standard 2 months before departure. All your arrangements will be fully confirmed then, as per usual. The $1 deposit offer does not apply to private groups or significant tailormade trip requests, please speak to one of our consultants if you have any questions.
If Government restrictions don’t allow for any travel in your chosen destination at that time (when the balance is due at 60 days prior to departure) then we will either postpone your trip or allow you to transfer to another destination and trip that has availability instead.
*Note - the standard deposit for Peru Lodge trips is $1000.
- 5 nights in traditional Japanese guesthouses/inns (ryokan)
- Daily meals (as listed in the itinerary)
- 6 days fully guided by an expert local guide
- Luggage transfers on your hiking days and day 5
- Local train tickets (as per the itinerary)
- Pre-tour briefing in Nakatsugawa
- Pre-departure pack including track notes, maps, Japanese phrasebook (1 pack per 2 clients travelling together)
- Local and Australian emergency contacts
- Travel insurance
- Local bus tickets
- Train tickets to/from the start and endpoint of the itinerary
- Beverages other than water at meals
- Expenses and items of a personal nature
- Lunches on all days (we recommended places to eat)
Map & Guide
Helen Margaret White, ACT – October 2019
I had a fabulous time in a beautiful area and was able to immerse myself in the culture and have fun all while walking with a group of friends and a guide.
Andrew Cupit, ACT – April 2019
We loved the walk through small towns, forests and rural areas of Japan. The local guides were fantastic. They provided valuable insight into the culture, people and history of Japan. This added richness to the experience which you would not have gained doing a self guided walk
What our Clients Say
Ukky was very knowledgeable and fun. Obviously an expert guide, he knew the area so well. I really enjoyed the Japan countryside and the many waterfalls along the way. I would recommend this trip to anyone!recommend this walk to experience a different aspect of Japan.
Anna Lainson, QLD – October 2018
Chris Kavanagh – Team Leader, Japan
(03) 5976 3763
This trip has a difficulty rating of 4-6 out of 10.