length

6 Days

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

trip cost

from $3095 pp

Icons / stylised / time Created with Sketch.

length

6 Days

Icons / stylised / difficulty Created with Sketch.

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

Icons / stylised /cost Created with Sketch.

trip cost

from $3095 pp

Nature Immersion

Cultural Interest

Group Guided Trip

our walk experts

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • On the Trail
  • Itinerary
  • Map
  • Inclusions
  • WALKING APP
  • The onsen experience
  • Exclusive Guide
  • Similar walks

Overview

Nakasendo Way Highlights

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

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 was 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.

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Highlights

Get Ready For

  • A journey through the heart of Japan
  • Visit Shimosuwa, the only hot springs district
  • Understand the feudal history with our local guide
  • Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley
  • Walk on ishidatami (stone paving) dating back more than 400 years
  • Visit Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai
  • Following in the footsteps of the Tokugawa Shogun and the Samurai during the Edo period (1603–1868)
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On the Trail

The experience

The Nakasendo Way offers picturesque, tranquil walking and a variety of trail conditions as you progress along the Kiso Valley. Much of the time you will be walking through fields and rural villages and enjoying gentle inclines that can be taken at a comfortable pace. In the forest you will be walking on a track that can be wet or uneven underfoot. In the more built-up areas the path itself is asphalt, while at its wildest it becomes unformed grit winding between alpine conifers. For sections in between these two extremes, the path is clad in what’s known as ishidatami – a traditional style of stone paving.

The video shows the beautiful Kiso Valley and some of the cultural attractions of the post towns that comprise the route of the Nakasendo Way.

Itinerary

Daily details

DAY 1: ARRIVE NAKATSUGAWA

You will meet your guide today at 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 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 like to visit and explore the Naegi Castle ruins, located just north of the town.

Meals: D

DAY 2: NAKATSUGAWA TO TSUMAGO (16KM)

After leaving Nakatsugawa at the ancient Kosatsuba (official proclamation board) we will come across red torii gates just after Nakatsugawa Juku. There will be some steep slopes today before Ochiai and then we will be walking on an old cobblestoned way. It’s on this route that we 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). 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, which is is a good spot to take a rest break. 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 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 accommodation.

Meals: B, D

DAY 3: TSUMAGO TO KISO-FUKUSHIMA (19KM WALKING; 30KM TRAIN)

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 quiet 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 train 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) & HIKE TO NARAI (8KM) TRAIN TO SHIMOSUWA (37km)

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.

After exploring Narai, we will journey by train further along the Nakasendo Way to the post town of Shimosuwa

Meals: B, D

**The 9 May group will stay in Narai this evening before travelling on to Shimosuwa in the morning.

**Due to limited accommodation in the area our 28-May & 18 November groups will spend this night in Kiso-Fukushima

DAY 5: EXPLORE SHIMOSUWA

Historically, Shimosuwa 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 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.

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 trip ends after breakfast.

Meals: B

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Map

Explore

Nakatsugawa

Nakatsugawa was number 45 of the 69 traditional post towns of the Nakasendo Way. In the town’s narrow winding streets there are myriad well-preserved wooden buildings, residences and warehouses (kura). Worth a visit is the Naegi Castle ruins, located just north of the town.

Magome

Magome (Horse & Basket) was 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.

Tsumago

The enchanting main village of Tsumago (number 42 of the 69 post towns) 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 accommodation.

Kiso-Fukushima

Kiso-Fukushima 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 Kozenji-Temple houses the valley’s most famous temple and the largest stone garden in Japan.

Yabuhara

Yabuhara was number 35 of the 69 post towns and is located shortly before the Torii Pass (1197m), which offers great views of Mount Ontake on a clear day.

Narai

Lovely Narai was the wealthiest of the post towns along the trail. Explore and relax in the cafes and shops of this well-preserved and atmospheric town.

Shimosuwa

Historically, Shimosuwa was an important resting and healing spot for wounded samurai during the Edo period. Much of the traditional architecture remains. There are 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.

Inclusions

What's included?

Included
  • 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
Excluded
  • Flights
  • 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)
RAW Travel App

WALKING APP

FINDING YOUR WAY

Our unique RAW Travel walking app has been designed to help you navigate easily on the Nakasendo Way, as this is a route with not much English signage. Simply download your map with the unique link we send you and you’ll be able to follow your route with ease, showing your location in real-time without any internet connection needed or cumbersome pages of notes. The app has many great features; it shows the location of each night’s accommodation, and weather forecasts localised for each of your overnight stops. There is information on how and where to catch trains you need and there are important reminders, safety information, videos and emergency contact information for your route. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail.

Shimosuawa onsen 2

The onsen experience

Japanese Bathing

Enjoying a Japanese onsen is a unique cultural experience of the country. This trip offers time to explore the onsens of Shimosuwa after your walk on the Nakasendo way. There are traditions and rules to follow in the onsens. For first-timers, it may seem a little intimidating, but once you get used to it, the Japanese bath often becomes an addiction: relaxing, healing, and regenerating.

Nakasendo-Way-Destination-Guide-Cover

Exclusive Guide

get inspired

Ready to step back in time and discover a centuries-old road through the mountains of central Japan? The Nakasendo Way is a stunning 94km journey from Mitake to Narai. Steeped in history, much of this walk weaves through the picturesque Kiso Valley. The ‘post towns’ strung out along the route give an enticing and authentic glimpse into Japan’s past.

There is so much to discover on this route! Find out more in our comprehensive destination guide – it’s bursting with inspiration, travel essentials, practical information and more!

Download Now

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Nakasendo Way, Japan
Exploring the narrow backstreets of Nakatsugawa
Nakasendo Way, Japan
Kumano Kodo Accommodation
Nakasendo way Foot onsen

Customer Star Rating of 5

Customer Testimonials

Great guide. Great accommodation. Great food. Fabulous villages. Really enjoyed the cultural aspect.

Joanne Braithwaite, Sunrise Beach (QLD) – April 2024

Customer Star Rating of 5

Customer Testimonials

A fabulous walk! Ukky our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. We loved the physical and cultural experience that we had and the beautiful autumn colours. We particularly loved the ryokans and the onsen, especially after a day’s trekking.

Keith & Ellen Chatto, Port Melbourne (VIC) - November 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5

Customer Testimonials

Challenging and culturally amazing. Enjoyed walking through the old postal towns and the amazing meals provided. Most of the accommodation was excellent.

Valerie Davids, Balwyn North (VIC) - October 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5

Customer Testimonials

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!

Patricia Williams, Guildford (NSW) – September 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5

Customer Testimonials

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

Andrew Cupit, ACT – April 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5

Customer Testimonials

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! It’s a great way to experience a different aspect of Japan.

Anna Lainson, QLD – October 2018

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TRIP date selection

when would you like to travel?

Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed

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13/10/2024 - 18/10/2024
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18/11/2024 - 23/11/2024
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27/03/2025 - 01/04/2025
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$3,250
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21/04/2025 - 26/04/2025
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