length

5 Days

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

trip cost

From $2090 pp

Icons / stylised / time Created with Sketch.

length

5 Days

Icons / stylised / difficulty Created with Sketch.

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

Icons / stylised /cost Created with Sketch.

trip cost

From $2090 pp

Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • Itinerary
  • On the trail
  • Inclusions
  • Exclusive Guide
  • Similar Walks

Overview

Overview

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, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai, and taste the local delights of the Kiso Valley and Gifu Prefecture.

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Highlights

Get Ready For

  • A short hike offering a great introduction to walking in Japan
  • Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley
  • Original ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 400 years
  • Understand the history of the Nakasendo Way with our local guide
  • Visit the post towns of Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai
  • Following in the footsteps of the Tokugawa Shogun and the Samurai during the Edo period (1603–1868)

Itinerary

Daily Details

Week 1: Nakatsugawa - Narai
Day 1
Arrive Nakatsugawa

Arrive in 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.

This afternoon there is the possibility of doing an optional Backstreets Walking tour of Nakatsugawa. An expert local guide will escort you as you 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. This is an opportunity to learn of the town’s rich history and gain an understanding of local village life as you encounter local people along the way. (Additional cost applies – please enquire at time of booking)

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 be 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 a great vantage point for views of Mount Ontake on a clear day. 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 and your tour ends after breakfast.

Meals: B

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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.

Inclusions

What's included?

Included
  • 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
  • RAW Travel’s exclusive interactive navigation app
  • Local and Australian emergency contact
Excluded
  • Flights
  • Local bus and train tickets
  • Single supplement
  • Travel insurance
  • Beverages other than water at meals
  • Expenses and items of a personal nature
  • Lunches
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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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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