This longer itinerary includes the most popular sections of the Nakasendo Way as well as some rural trails off the beaten path | Walk through the picturesque Kiso Valley | Learn about the fascinating history of the samurai and warlords who once travelled this route
- 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
- 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 route is 533km long and has 69 post towns, which were set up to feed and accommodate the feudal lords, Samurai, and merchant travellers. This ancient way passes through the Kiso Valley which is wedged between two of Japan’s sacred mountains (Mount Ontake 3067m and Mt Komagatake 2956m) and is one of Japan’s most breathtaking and scenic areas. Ancient paved paths known as ishidatami take you past hidden waterfalls, wayside shrines and through stunning cedar and cypress forests. 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 walking adventure, travel by train to the historic town of Shimosuwa and unwind in its local onsens.
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DAY 1: MITAKE TO HOSOKUTE (12KM)
Depart Nagoya train station in the morning to Mitake Station. At Mitake you will have a short briefing before departing on your walk. Our local RAW Travel representative will also be able to recommend a local lunch spot (at your own expense) prior to commencing your walk. After lunch, begin walking through the town, before leaving the road to 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 Cafe before continuing your steady climb towards Hosokute and your accommodation for the evening.
DAY 2: HOSOKUTE TO ENA (21KM)
Enjoy your traditional Japanese breakfast and prepare for an exciting day following in the footsteps of the Samurai. Today you walk on 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 few 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 travel along the ridge tops before descending into Ena, where you can visit the Tokaido Hiroshige Museum, which features prints of the Nakasendo Way.
Meals: B D
DAY 3: ENA TO NAKATSUGAWA (12KM)
Today is a much shorter day, with gentle and undulating walking. You pass through towns, villages and parts of the city across rice paddies, fields and even through home gardens, talking to the locals along the way and taking in the Japanese culture. Your destination, Nakatsugawa, is number 45 of the 69 post towns on the Nakasendo Way. Spend the rest of the day exploring many of the old buildings and shops that still operate today. Head out on a 3km walk from your hotel to visit the Naegi Castle ruins. You are invited to take up an optional Backstreets Walking tour of Nakatsugawa during the afternoon. On the tour an expert local guide escorts you through the town’s narrow winding streets to help you discover the myriad of well-preserved wooden buildings, residences and warehouses (kura) originally constructed during the historical Edo period. During that time the town prospered with a population of over 1000 people and around 200 houses. This is an opportunity to learn about the town’s rich history and gain an understanding of today’s village life as you encounter locals along the way. (Additional cost applies – please enquire at time of booking.)
Meals: B D
DAY 4: NAKATSUGAWA TO TSUMAGO (16KM)
After leaving Nakatsugawa at the ancient kosatsuba (official proclamation board) you will see the red torii gates. Expect steep slopes today before Ochiai, after which you begin walking on an old cobblestoned way. This route takes you to the entrance of Magome, one of the highlights of the Nakasendo Way. Follow the stone path into Magome. Notably, its kosatsuba features old wooden tablets stating in Japanese that: “No Christianity can be practised”. Magome is number 43 of the 69 post towns along the way to Edo (Tokyo). It is an insight into how the post towns were in the Edo period. Take time to stroll through the small shops on the main street. The Nakasendo Way continues right through the centre of Magome past these old shops and inns. The trail begins to climb up to the small touge (pass), where there is a good rest spot. You then walk over the Magome Pass (800m) and slowly descend through peaceful woodland. Listen for the roar of the Odaki-Medaki waterfalls, the sound of which slowly fades 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). Take up the opportunity to don a traditional yukata gown (provided by your inn) and stroll through the streets after dinner.
Meals: B D
DAY 5: HIKE TSUMAGO TO NOJIRI (17KM) THEN TRAIN TO KISO-FUKUSHIMA
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 Mount Ontake, one of Japan’s most sacred mountains. There is an option to take a gondola and hike to the top (from 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 HIKE TO NARAI (8KM)
Today a leisurely start lets you spend some time in Kiso-Fukushima before catching the train to Yabuhara, where your trek resumes. By doing this we avoid the highway walking from Kiso-Fukushima. 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 a great vantage point for views of Mount Ontake on a clear day. The descent takes you along narrow mountain paths until you emerge at the outskirts of Narai, 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: TRAIN FROM NARAI TO SHIMOSUWA AND TOWN WALK (5KM)
Today you will journey by train further along the Nakasendo Way to the town of Shimosuwa. Historically, this was a resting station for travellers during the Edo period and is a fitting spot to finish your journey as it is the only hot springs district on the Nakasendo Way. As you walk through the town you can experience a number of foot baths, which is a great remedy for weary feet that have just hiked for six days along the Nakasendo Way! Continuing through Shimosuwa you will have the opportunity to visit a number of temples and shrines, with the Suwa Taisha Shrine considered to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan. It was first mentioned in Japanese literature in the 7th century. The Shinto Shrine has over 10,000 branches throughout Japan. Shimosuwa is also home to a 400-year-old castle as well as a number of hot springs (onsens), sake breweries and festivals. In summer they have a fireworks festival, while every six years the ancient pillar riding festival of Onbashira takes place, where locals ride a giant log down the hill (next taking place in 2022).
Meals: B D
DAY 9: DEPART SHIMOSUWA
Your journey on the Nakasendo Way ends today after breakfast.
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 trip that leaves in 30 days or less, please be aware we cannot guarantee that your departure will be possible unless we have confirmed this via email first.
2020 Pricing – Twin Share $3750 per person / Single supplement $1600
- 8 nights accommodation along the trek (traditional Japanese guest houses – shared bathroom facilities)
- Daily meals as listed in the itinerary
- Online GPS map (wifi required)
- Luggage transfers on all trekking days
- Briefing in Mitake at the start of your trek
- Local and Australian emergency contact
- Pre-departure pack including track notes, information packs, maps and a Japanese phrasebook
- Bus and train tickets*
- Travel Insurance
- Drinks other than water at meals
- Expenses of personal nature
Map & Guide
Jennifer Elizabeth Allan, Auckland (NZ) – November 2019
We loved staying in the ryokans and meeting our wonderful hosts. The food was exceptional; the trail beautiful and varied. We met people who were there to do the main three historic villages but are pleased that we chose to do the longer trail with RAW Travel. The travel notes and photographs were really helpful.
Dianne Williamson, Newport (VIC) – November 2019
Our self-guided walk on the Nakasendo Way during autumn was awesome in every way! Beautiful scenery, accommodation, hosts, food and experiences. Degree of difficulty was as described. The walk left us all feeling completely relaxed and invigorated at the same time. Highly recommended.
Christopher Humphreys, Brunswick (VIC) ¬– September 2019
A wonderful hiking holiday through beautiful Japanese hills and forests – with mostly traditional accommodation to enhance the experience. Maps, accommodation, meals and portage all worked well, making for a stress-free holiday.
Julianne Stoyles, Camberwell (VIC) – September 2019
A great walk, some lovely accommodation and clear walking instructions made for a really wonderful experience.
Patricia Williams, Guildford (NSW) – September 2019
The Nakasendo Way was an amazing opportunity to see Japan at its best in terms of history, culture and food. The scenery and natural environment of Japan was spectacular. The itinerary provided us with the experiences of both traditional and modern Japan. Our stay in ryokans was fabulous as was the introduction to many new foods and customs. Another great walking experience!
Mary Hollindale, Southbank (VIC) – June 2019
I could just enjoy the walk knowing that I had all the trip instructions and at the end of the day everything was taken care of. All I had to do was arrive at the nightly destination.
Susan Caffery, Yaroomba (QLD) – June 2019
Great cultural and cuisine tasting experience.
Jan Ellis, Highton (VIC) – May 2019
We had a great trip and couldn’t fault the organisation. Our pre-trip guide Ukky, who we met on day one, gave us excellent explanation and tips. Accommodation and meals were first class and the route was fantastic. We loved it!
Maree Xuereb, Hawthorn East (VIC) – April 2019
The opportunity to walk in the countryside and experience Japanese lifestyle out of the cities – thus gaining an insight into how the local people live/lived, their housing, cuisine and culture.
Patrice Scales, Brighton (VIC) – April 2019
RAW Travel has become our ‘go to’ travel expert when we begin planning another walking adventure. From planning to organising, staff are friendly, helpful and have first-hand experience. From walking notes, to bag service and accommodation, everything meets our expectations.
Gabrielle Herbert, Dromana (VIC) – May 2019
My girlfriend and I booked the Nakasendo Way tour of 8 days, 7 nights – absolutely awesome! From the first briefing of our tour until the end of our trip, we were kept completely informed by RAW Travel. I will definitely be looking at booking my next holiday experience with RAW Travel.
Tania Frazer, Tyabb (VIC) – May 2019
We had the best experience and everything was thought of well in advance – from accommodation to our Guide, Ukky.
Jennifer Ronalds, Upper Brookfield (QLD) – April 2019
Could not have asked for better! Loved the ryokans and the food was amazing. Trip notes awesome – didn’t get lost once! Would recommend to anyone who loves to walk.
Ann Louise Whitehouse, Brookfield (QLD) – April 2019
Wonderful hike and cultural experience. I loved the ryokans – where the owners where so welcoming and provided amazing food that we had never seen or eaten before. The hike was just enough to challenge us but not overwhelm us. The guide who met us at the beginning of the walk was very helpful. Everything went to plan. The cherry blossoms were an added bonus we didn’t expect.
Margaret Taborda, Glebe (NSW) – April 2019
Walking the Nakasendo Way was more than I expected. The scenery was magical, the towns full of history and allowed us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in traditional Japanese culture. Would highly recommend this walk.
Lorna Pontin, Mount Martha (VIC) – November 2018
This wonderful Japanese trek was unique because of the combination of culture, food, ryokan accommodation, scenery and the wonderful Japanese people.
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.
Julianne Golby, Clifton Hill (VIC) – October 2018
A lovely walk, well-organised, varied terrain and scenery, great accommodation and brilliant autumn colours.
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.