urk Nakasendo Way: Winter Discovery - RAW Travel

Location

Japan

Difficulty

5-6

Challenging

Length

6

Trip Cost

From $2950 pp
twin share

Overview

  • Journey through the heart of Japan following in the footsteps of the Tokugawa Shogun and the samurai during the Edo period (1603–1868)
  • Visit the photographic post towns of Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai, set in an enchanting winter wonderland
  • Warm up after a day’s hiking on snowy trails with a soak in a hot Japanese bath
  • Snowshoe the spectacularly beautiful trails of Kamikochi in the Northern Japan Alps
  • Learn about the feudal history of the Nakasendo Way with RAW Travel’s local guide

We welcome you to join us on this winter escape that showcases a magical season of Japan. Travelling in winter means you get to avoid the crowds, indulge in soothing hot spring baths, warm your soul with a hot sake and hearty food, and trek through a whimsical landscape of snow laden forest and traditional wooden villages.

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. We will take in the highlights of this historic route as we trek through the beautiful Kiso Valley, wedged between two of Japan’s sacred Mountains (Mt Ontake 3067m and Mt Komagatake 2956m).

After Narai, we divert from the Nakasendo Way to visit Kamikochi. Located in the Northern Alps, it is one of Japan’s most breathtaking and scenic areas. Here we will don our snowshoes and follow a trail of fresh powder through the Azusa River Valley, overlooked by majestic mountains and Mt Yakedake, an active volcano. We end our journey in Matsumoto, a city famous for its grand castle. We celebrate our final dinner here and the special memories of a winter discovery.

 

*Please note that this tour requires a minimum of 6 people to depart.

 

 

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Nakatsugawa

Arrive in Nakatsugawa, number 45 of the 69 post towns on the Nakasendo Way. Before meeting your guide for a briefing,  you may want to spend the afternoon exploring the nearby Nakatsugawa Old Town where restored, wooden buildings house sake shops, confectionery stores and restaurants. Alternatively you can walk to the Naegi Castle ruins and the observation deck that offers views of Mt Ena and the surrounding Kiso River Valley. Tonight you stay in a traditional Japanese Ryokan and experience the first of many elegantly prepared meals.

Meals: D

Day 2: Nakatsugawa to Tsumago (16km)

This morning we leave Nakatsugawa and make our way towards the quaint little village of Ochiai. From here the trail takes us on a scenic route through cedar forest and along some ishidatami sections – large cobblestones laid in the Edo period over rough or slippery sections of dirt road. The forest gives way to an open landscape of small hamlets and terraced fields as we approach Magome. Magome is number 43 of the 69 post towns along the way to Edo (Tokyo) and you will see why it is one of the most popular as you take some time to stroll the steep, main street and visit the local shops.

After lunch we set off on a beautiful walk that encompasses tranquil forest, streams and rice paddies. We venture up and over the potentially snow-covered Magome Pass (800m) and slowly descend through peaceful woodland. If time allows we may divert to the Odaki-Medaki waterfalls, before making our way to the well preserved town of Tsumago.  The street is lined with traditional Japanese wooden houses, shops and ryokans (inns). There is time to wander around this photogenic town before dinner.

Meals: B D

Day 3: Tsumago to Kiso-Fukushima (17km walking; 30km train travel)

The walk today takes us through villages, and bamboo and cedar forests. Sections can be quite hilly and the Nenouetoge pass has some steep, sustained ascents and descents. A highlight of the walk are the beautiful streams and rivers running alongside the trails.

After a late lunch in Nojiri, we make our way to the train station for a 40-minute ride to Kiso-Fukushima. Located at the halfway point on the Nakesendo Way between Kyoto and Tokyo, Kiso-Fukushima was an important checkpoint during the Edo period. The barrier station was set up to check all travellers and to apprehend people who may have been travelling illegally. Two highlights of the town are the beautiful Kozenji Temple with its attractive stone garden and the ashiyu or public onsen (hot springs) foot bath.

Meals: B D

Day 4: Yabuhara to Narai (8km) Transfer to Nakanoyu

This morning we take a train to Yabuhara. From here the trail begins with a short walk through the town before a sustained ascent up the hill and into the forest. At 1197m, the Torii Pass is a great vantage point for views of a snow-capped Mt Ontake. It is a beautiful walk through the forest as you descend into one of the most well preserved post towns, Narai. It truly is a reminder of how the post towns were in the Edo period (1603–1868). We have some free time here to explore the shops, cafes, shrines and museums.

After lunch we transfer to Nakanoyu in the Northern Japan Alps, our base for exploring the stunning Kamikochi region. Before dinner there is time to unwind in the outdoor onsen (hot spring bath). Soothe your muscles while admiring the snowy mountain views.

Meals: B D

Day 5: Kamikochi trail (14-16km) Transfer to Matsumoto

Today we embark on an exciting day’s snowshoeing through some epic winter landscapes. Kamikochi is the jewell of Chubu Sangaku National Park and sits on a long plateau in the Azusa River Valley flanked by impressive mountains and Mt Yakedake, an active volcano. Our trail takes us through some sparse woods and alongside the picturesque Azusa River from Taisho Pond to Kappabashi (Kappa Bridge). If time and conditions allow, we may venture up past the pretty Takezawa Marshland to Myojin Pond and bridge. Kamikochi is home to the Japanese Macaque, a monkey that quite enjoys the snow, so keep your camera handy!

We travel by public bus to Matsumoto and our accommodation for the night and reflect on our adventures of the past week at our final dinner together.

Meals: B D

Day 6: Depart Matsumoto

After breakfast, we take a walk to Matsumoto Castle for a guided tour. Recognised as one of Japan’s National Treasures, the castle was completed in the late 16th century and maintains some of the original wooden interiors and external stonework. Our tour ends here and you are free to return to the hotel to collect your luggage or spend time on your own exploring the city of Matsumoto.

Meals: B

*Please note that this itinerary is subject to change due to availability, trail closures, group fitness and other unforeseen events. 

Dates

Start date
09 Feb 2020
End date
14 Feb 2020
Price
$2950
Availability
Available

Inclusions

  • 4 nights in traditional Japanese ryokans (Inn)
  • 1 night in a hotel in Matsumoto
  • 5 breakfasts and 5 dinners
  • Luggage transfers
  • Experienced, English speaking guide
  • Use of crampons and snowshoes
  • Transport while on the tour
  • Pre-departure pack
  • Local and Australian emergency contact

Not included

  • Flights
  • Transport to and from the tour
  • 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 journey took us through the mountains and villages of Japan, with beautiful inns, amazing hosts, and traditional food. 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.

Anna Lainson, Kuranda (QLD) – October 2018
The highlight was meeting my guide and the other travellers in the group. Ukky was very knowledgeable and fun. Obviously an expert guide, he knew the area so we all felt safe. I really enjoyed the Japan countryside and the many waterfalls along the way. To summarise, OMG, what a beautiful place! I would recommend this trip to anyone; above all I would recommend RAW Travel – you did an amazing job. Looking forward to my next trip with you!

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

https://rawtravel.com/destination-guides/nakasendo-dg-download/download-guide.pdf

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Trip Expert

Chris Kavanagh – Japan

(03) 5976 3763

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Trip Grading

This trip is rated as Challenging