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Location

Japan

Difficulty

4-6

Length

5

Trip Cost

From $1850 pp
twin share

Overview

  • 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, Tsugami, Suhara, Narai.
  • Understand the feudal history of the Nakasendo Way with RAW Travel’s own local guide.

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 route is 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, Noirji, Suhara and Narai, and taste the local delights of the  Kiso Valley and Gifu Prefecture.

Are you a first-time or solo traveller?

We’ll support you all the way! View our preparation and training resources.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Nakatsugawa

Arrive from Nagoya on the JR Shinano Express No 7 train (50 minutes) into Nakatsugawa, number 45 of the 69 post towns on the Nakasendo Way. Spend the rest of the day exploring. You will find many of the old buildings and shops still working today, and you can visit the Naegi Castle ruins, a 3km walk from your hotel. Tonight you stay in a traditional Japanese Ryokan.

Meals: D

Day 2: Nakatsugawa to Tsumago (16km)

After leaving Nakatsugawa at the ancient Kosatsuba (official proclamation board) you will come across red torii gates just after Nakatsugawa Juku. There will some steep slopes today before Ochiai and then you will be walking on an old cobblestoned way. It’s on this route that you will be walking up to the entrance of Magome, one of the highlights of the Nakasendo Way. Magome (Horse & Basket) is number 43 of the 69 post towns along the way to Edo (Tokyo). It truly is a reminder of how the post towns were in the Edo period (1603–1868). You will have time to stroll through the small shops on the main st of Magome.

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 rest break here. You will then walk over the Magome Pass (800m) and slowly descend through peaceful woodland. You’ll 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 village of the main village, 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)

Leaving the old town of Tsumago at the ancient Kosatsuba (official proclamation board) you will see on the board the old wooden tablets that state that no Christianity can be practised. The trail ascends steeply up the valley. Continue through the forest on what is known as the Yokawa Forest Route on your way to Nojiri, passing through cedar forests and farmland. It’s one of the most scenic sections of the walk. The forest walk joins the Kiso River at Nojiri. After a late lunch in Nojiri, we make our way to the train station for a 40-minute ride to Kiso-Fukushima. Located halfway on the Nakesendo Way between Kyoto and Tokyo, Fukushima was an important checkpoint during the Edo period. The barrier station is situated on the hill overlooking the river as well the Yamamura Daikan (or Magistrates Mansion). Both places are open to the public and have weapons and other artefacts on display. Kiso-Fukushima is also home to the largest stone garden in Japan, and there are a number Zen Buddhist temples to visit, the most famous being the Kozenji.

Meals: B D

Day 4: Train from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara and trek to Narai (8km)

Today you can have a leisurely start to the day and spend some time in Kiso-Fukushima before catching the train to Yabuhara to start your trek. This avoids the highway walking from Kiso-Fukishima.  From Yabuhara, the Nakasendo Way climbs up to the Torii Pass, named after the Shinto torii gate, which marks one of four protective sites surrounding Mount Ontake. At 1197m, the Torii Pass is the highest point on the Nakasendo Way. Our descent takes you along narrow mountain paths until you emerge at the outskirts of Narai, a lovely post town and the wealthiest of the post towns along the trail. Explore and relax in the cafes and shops of this well-preserved and atmospheric town.

Meals: B D

Day 5: Depart Narai

Today is departure day. After your traditional Japanese breakfast, take the train to Nagano (host of the 1998 Winter Olympics) or travel on to Tokyo.

Meals: B

Dates

Self-guided trips offer flexibility, independence and choice. Set your own agenda while someone else worries about the logistics. Our self-guided walking holidays are fully flexible which means you can normally start your walk on any day during the season and customise by adding extra days for resting or sightseeing. As you’re walking independently, you’re free to follow the trail at your own pace. You set your own speed as you are not limited by the constraints of group travel.

Note that if booking for a start date of less than 30 days from the time of booking we cannot guarantee that your trip is possible unless you have contacted us first and your trip details have been confirmed.

Inclusions

  • 4 nights in traditional Japanese guesthouses/inns (ryokan)
  • Daily meals (as listed in the itinerary)
  • Luggage transfers on your hiking days
  • Pre-tour briefing at your hotel in Nakatsugawa
  • Online GPS map (wifi required)
  • Pre-departure pack including track notes, maps, Japanese phrasebook (1 pack per 2 clients travelling together)
  • Local and Australian emergency contact

Not included

  • Flights
  • Local bus and train tickets
  • Single supplement (AUD400)
  • Travel insurance
  • Beverages other than water at meals
  • Expenses and items of a personal nature
  • Lunches

 

Map & Guide

Reviews

Sharyn Bailey, Preston (VIC), December 2018
What an amazing trip my son Patrick and I had on the Nakasendo trail.  The trek itself was breathtakingly stunning, but the real highlight was the places we stayed along the way.  All the accommodation was truly beautiful and the hospitality shown by the hosts was sublime.  The food they all provided for both breakfast and dinner was beyond our expectations.  This was a truly memorable trip. Thank you for providing such a well-organised, stress-free experience.

Beth Gales, Byawatha (VIC) – November 2018
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip on the Nakasendo Way. The organisation of the trip and the notes were very helpful. We met like-minded people from our country and walked the whole way with them. Loved the local cuisine at each destination and enjoyed walking through the local farming areas, trying to guess their processes. The weather was perfect and the local people very helpful and friendly. It was good to have everything organised and paid for before we left home.

Geraldine McDonald, Mullaloo (WA) – October 2018
Absolutely loved the whole experience, from being picked up at the station in Nakatsugawa by courtesy vehicle and being dropped off the following morning to start the walk. With suitcases taken care of, my husband and I just had to don our daypack and set off for our new destination each day meandering through beautiful forests, villages and historic towns, arriving at our traditional accommodation where we could enjoy a well-earned shower then hot bath or onsen followed by the most amazing Japanese dining experience dressed in our yukatas then retiring for the night on beautifully made up futons. Breakfast was another culinary delight and there was so much food that we could manage the rest of the day with an apple, banana, nuts and muesli bar. The walk is very well signposted and the detailed information and pictures provided by RAW Travel make the self-guided walk a breeze. The helpful hints from Ukky (our tour orientation guide) and having his number as a contact if needed gave us confidence in our ability to manage the hike by ourselves. We loved it so much we were sad when it ended and we had to say goodbye to the peace and tranquility of the forest as we emerged from the path into Narai.

Dianne Averis, Kingswood (SA) – October 2018
Fabulous experience in a unique environment. Everything worked liked clockwork. Had two stupendous dinners that required photographs of practically every exquisite dish. It was great to enjoy our private onsen in Kiso–Fukushima looking across at the mountain range. The walks were wonderful, accompanied by gushing streams and waterfalls or the silence of tall, dark forests. Except for the Magome–Tsumago leg, which was full-on, there were very few other walkers around. And even the weather was perfect. The only downer was the accommodation in Tsumago, where the stairs were nearly vertical, but the other places were great. We enjoyed the little cultural insights too – the kimonos to wear for dinner, special socks and slippers, the procedure before bathing in the onsen. Such an interesting experience from a cultural, environmental and culinary viewpoint!

Aimee Scurr, Scarborough (QLD) – July 2018
I loved the service that was provided – the RAW Travel team and the hosts went above and beyond expectations to make sure I was comfortable and well-equipped for the experience. I experienced a side of Japan I would have missed if I had only visited the major cities.

Heather Buxton, Lenah Valley (TAS) – October 2017
The organisation and information provided were top-notch. Japan is very safe with lots of natural beauty and is a wonderful cultural experience. Thank you.

Sally Goodchild, Sydney – September 2016
We loved the peace and the beauty of the walk and the Japanese culture. The accommodations you booked were delightful, and amazing food was provided each evening.

What our Clients Say

We loved it so much! The detailed information provided by RAW Travel made this self-guided walk a breeze. The helpful hints from Ukky (our tour orientation guide) gave us confidence in our ability to manage the hike by ourselves.

Geraldine McDonald, Mullaloo (WA) – October 2018

Thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We met like-minded people and walked the whole way with them. Loved the local cuisine at each destination. The weather was perfect and the local people very helpful and friendly.

Beth Gales, Byawatha (VIC) – November 2018

Fabulous experience in a unique environment. Everything worked liked clockwork. The walks were wonderful. Such an interesting cultural, environmental and culinary experience!

Dianne Averis, Kingswood (SA) – October 2018

The RAW Travel team and hosts went above and beyond expectations to make sure I was comfortable and well-equipped for the experience. I experienced a side of Japan I would have missed if I had only visited the major cities.

Aimee Scurr, Scarborough (QLD) – July 2018

The organisation and information provided was top-notch. Japan is very safe with lots of natural beauty and is a wonderful cultural experience. Thank you.

Heather Buxton, Lenah Valley (TAS) – October 2017

We loved the peace and the beauty of the walk and the Japanese culture. The accommodations you booked were delightful, and amazing food was provided each evening.

Sally Goodchild, Sydney – September 2016

The whole Japan trip was organised so thoroughly we couldn’t fault it at all. Your staff were extremely helpful, efficient and thoughtful.

Jennifer Hearn, WA – April 2015

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Trip Expert

Chris Kavanagh – Japan & Nepal

(03) 5976 3763

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Trip Grading

This trip has a difficulty rating of 4-6 out of 10.