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Location

Japan

Difficulty

4-6

Length

8

Trip Cost

From $3230 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: Mitake to Hosokute (12km)

Depart in the morning from the Nagoya train station on the Meitetsu Line to Mitake Station (80 mins travel time). Mitake is where you will have a short briefing before you depart on your walk (meeting times will be in your travel documents). Our local RAW Travel representative will be able to recommend a local lunch spot (own expense) prior to your walk. Leaving the restaurant you will begin your walk through the town and then leave the road and make your way into the forest up a short hill known as the Cows Nose is Missing. This is the true beginning of your Nakasendo Way walk. Stay in the forest on this very scenic section through woodland and lush green countryside, walking on some of the original stoned paving known as ishidatami. There will be a chance to stop at La Provence Café as you steadily climb towards Hosokute and your accommodation for the evening.

Meals: D

Day 2: Hosokute to Ena (21km)

Enjoy your first traditional Japanese breakfast and prepare for an exciting day following in the footsteps of the Samurai. Today you will walk over a very old section known as the 13 passes and 13 peaks. There has been no public access through here, which keeps the area completely undeveloped, save for a golf course. The original way used to go through the golf course; nowadays you will follow the boundary of the course and again you will be walking on traditional stone paths. There is even a section that has only been rediscovered in the last 2.5 years. Continuing on your way through the mountains you will come across the well-preserved post town called Okute. It’s here you will discover a sacred cedar tree thought to be 1200 years old. You will travel along the ridge tops before descending into Ena, where you can visit the museum known as the Hiroshiga, which features prints of the Nakasendo Way. Arrive in Ena for a well-deserved break.

Meals: B D

Day 3: Ena to Nakatsugawa (12km)

Today is a much shorter day, with gentle and undulating walking. You will pass through towns and villages and parts of the city across rice paddies and fields and even through home gardens, talking to the locals along the way and taking in the Japanese culture. Nakatsugawa was number 45 of the 69 traditional post towns of the Nakasendo Way, and you can spend the rest of the day exploring. Many of the old buildings and shops still work today. You can also visit the Naegi Castle ruins, a 3km walk from your hotel. Tonight you will be staying at a traditional Japanese ryokan.

Meals: B D

Day 4: 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).

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 5: Tsumago to Kiso-Fukushima (17km walking, 30km train travel)

Today’s walk takes you through Nagiso and the beautiful Yogawa Forest into Nojiri where you will take the train to Kiso-Fukushima and your accommodation for the night. The trail will take you along some road sections broken up with interesting villages and scenic bamboo and cedar forest. It is quite hilly today and the Nenouetoge pass has some steep, sustained ascents and descents. A highlight are the streams and rivers running alongside the trail.

Meals: B D

Day 6: Free day in Kiso-Fukushima

Today is free for you to explore the town of Kiso-Fukushima. This was one of the four security checkpoints during the Edo period and thus flourished as a political and economic centre in the Kiso Valley. The old-town area and along the river are great spots for a stroll and to view the distinct Edo-style buildings. Along with the Kozenji-Temple, which houses the valley’s most famous temple and the largest stone garden in Japan, the Yamamura Residence and the Fukushima Checkpoint are really worth a visit. Both museums have a wonderful collection of weapons, clothing and other artefacts that provide a great insight into the fascinating history of the time.

If you feel like exploring a little further, you may like to take a bus to Mt Ontake, one of Japan’s most sacred mountains. There is an option to take a gondola and hike to the top (late April to early November), or perhaps you may enjoy a hike in the lowlands. Once back in town, if you haven’t already discovered the free public footbath on the banks of the Kiso River, we definitely recommend a visit; the steaming, natural hot spring water is wonderfully soothing for tired legs and will help you feel refreshed and ready for tomorrow’s walk over the Torii Pass.

Meals: B D

Day 7: 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 8: Depart Narai

Your journey on the Nakasendo Way ends today after breakfast.

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

  • 7 nights in traditional Japanese guesthouses/inns (ryokan)
  • Daily meals (as listed in the itinerary)
  • Luggage transfers on your hiking days
  • Pre-tour briefing in Mitake
  • Online GPS map (wifi required)
  • Pre-departure pack including track notes, maps, Japanese phrasebook, list of places to eat (1 pack per 2 clients travelling together)
  • Local and Australian emergency contacts

Not included

  • Flights
  • Local bus and train tickets
  • Travel to Mitake from Nagoya Station
  • Single supplement (AUD600)
  • Travel insurance
  • Beverages other than water at meals
  • Expenses and items of a personal nature
  • Lunches on all days (we have recommended places to eat)

Map & Guide

Reviews

Frieda, NSW – November 2018
Loved the variety of ryokans, cuisine and cultural experiences, the beauty of the autumn foliage and scenery, and friendliness of the locals. Ukky, our local contact, was so helpful and responsive. He always made sure that in spite of the luggage hassles, we were having a good time and not letting that spoil our trip. We were so grateful to Sakai in Daikokuya, Masa in Nagataki and Masabi in Tsutaya who went above and beyond to show us the best of Japanese hospitality.

Richard Ledgar, Peregian Beach (QLD) – October 2018
Highlights of this trip were meeting the 16th generation innkeepers at Ichikawa in Hosokute, and the fabulous food and private tub with a view in Kiso-Fukushima. The food was actually fabulous at all the places we stayed.

Vicki Tyler, Geraldton (WA) – November 2018
Trip was fabulous! We were met at the agreed time and provided good information. The first ryokan was amazing. The hosts met us in the street and were marvellous. The walking was great a mixture of villages, forest, mountains. The autumn colours were unexpected and fabulous.

Wilfredo Valenzuela, California (USA) – November 2018
RAW provided reliable information and arrangements. No big surprises. We enjoyed our hiking trip very much, including the ryokan accommodations.

Bill O’Brien, Mornington (VIC) – August 2018
I stayed in a variety of traditional Japanese inns and ryokans, one over 160 years old, another run by a family who has been providing hospitality for 16 generations. Each dinner was a veritable feast of Japanese culinary tradition, and always with the staple rice and miso soup. One cannot fault Japanese hospitality! At every inn, my hosts were genuinely welcoming, accommodating and friendly.

What our Clients Say

Each dinner was a veritable feast of Japanese culinary tradition, and always with the staple rice and miso soup. One cannot fault Japanese hospitality! At every inn, my hosts were genuinely welcoming, accommodating and friendly.

Bill O'Brien, Mornington (VIC)

RAW provided reliable information and arrangements. No big surprises. We enjoyed our hiking trip very much, including the ryokan accommodations.

Wilfredo Valenzuela, California (USA)

Trip was fabulous! We were met at the agreed time and provided good information. The first ryokan was amazing. The hosts met us in the street and were marvellous. The walking was great a mixture of villages, forest, mountains. The autumn colours were unexpected and fabulous.

Vicki Tyler, Geraldton (WA)

Loved the variety of ryokans, cuisine and cultural experiences, the beauty of the autumn foliage and scenery, and friendliness of the locals. Ukky, our local contact, was so helpful and responsive.

Frieda, NSW – November 2018

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Trip Expert

Mark Conyers – Japan

(03) 5976 3763

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Trip Grading

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