length

5 Days

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

trip cost

From $2250 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 $2250 pp

Nature Immersion

Cultural Interest

Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • On the trail
  • ITINERARY
  • Map
  • Inclusions
  • Walking app
  • Destination Guide
  • FAQs
  • Similar Walks

Overview

Kiso Valley Highlights

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
  • Follow the 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
  • Follow 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. Watch the video to get good insights into the scenic beauty and cultural attractions of the Kiso valley and its Post Towns.

ITINERARY

DAILY DETAILS

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 may like to visit the Naegi Castle ruins, located, just north of the town.

This afternoon there is the option to add a guided 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:

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)

Leaving the old town of Tsumago at the ancient Kosatsuba (official proclamation board) you will see on the board the old wooden tablets which state that no Christianity can be practised. The trail ascends steeply up the valley then continues through the forest on what is known as the Yogawa Forest Route to Nojiri, passing through cedar forests and farmland. It is one of the most scenic sections of the walk. The forest walk joins the Kiso River as you descend into Nojiri. After a late lunch in Nojiri, make your way to the train station for a 40-minute ride to Kiso-Fukushima. Located halfway on the Nakasendo Way between Kyoto and Tokyo, Kiso-Fukushima was an important checkpoint during the Edo period.

Meals: B, D

DAY 4: KISO-FUKUSHIMA TO NARAI (8KM WALKING; 14KM TRAIN)

Today we will catch the train from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara and start our final day’s walk of the Nakasendo Way, hiking 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 us 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. After your traditional Japanese breakfast, you will say goodbye to your guide and take the train to your next destination.

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.

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 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
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 localized for each of your overnight stops. There is information on how and where to catch the 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.

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Destination 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

FAQs

KISO VALLEY HIGHLIGHTS

What are the attractions of the Kiso Valley?

The Kiso Valley has a lot of attractive spots to visit and is widely known for the well-preserved post towns of the Nakasendo Trail, an important route between Kyoto and Tokyo during the Edo Period. As well as traditional inns, moss-covered Shinto shrines, old Buddhist statues and stone paths, the post towns are a highlight and give an enticing and authentic glimpse into Japan’s past. The well-known 8km trail between Tsumago and Magome is particularly impressive, and offers delightful teahouses and waterfalls. You can see Mount Ontake (the second highest mountain in Japan after Mount Fuji), particularly on the Torii Pass when hiking through to Narai. 

Where is the Kiso Valley located?

The Kiso Valley is nestled between Tokyo and Kyoto in the heart of Japan’s mountainous terrain in the central part of Honshu, Japan’s main island. It stretches roughly 70km along the Kiso River and is characterised by lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and traditional villages, offering visitors a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage and rural lifestyle.

How many days should I spend in the Kiso Valley?

To fully appreciate the natural beauty, rich history and tranquil atmosphere of the Kiso Valley we recommend you spend 5 days here. Dedicating this amount of time to explore will give you a deeply immersive experience where you can walk the best parts of the Nakasendo Way, explore the historic post towns, participate in tea ceremonies, stay in traditional Japanese inns (ryokans), relax in hot springs (onsen) and unwind amidst the serene surroundings.

Our popular 7-day Nakasendo Way trip also offers an excellent way to explore the Kiso Valley. It begins with 2 additional days of walking from Mitake to Nakatsugawa before you arrive in the Kiso Valley. 

See all our walking itineraries on the Nakasendo Way.

How long is the Nakasendo Trail?

The Nakasendo Trail from Mitake to Narai is 86km. Much of the route weaves through the picturesque Kiso Valley. 

Is the Kiso Valley Highlights Trip suitable for first-time trekkers?

Yes. This trip is an ideal introduction to walking in Japan. The majority of the trail is signed in English and Japanese, and the daily walking distance is a moderate 8–21km. There are inclines that can be taken at a comfortable pace and traditional inns offer friendly and atmospheric overnight accommodation. It is an easier hike than Japan’s more rugged and remote Kumano Kodo and the newer Michinoku Coastal Trail

How far is the Kiso Valley from Kyoto?

The distance from Kyoto to the Kiso Valley is around 270km. The best way to get to the Kiso Valley is by train, which takes around 3.5 hours including transfers.

What is the distance between Tokyo and the Kiso Valley?

The distance from Tokyo to the Kiso Valley is about 250km. The best way to get there is by train (3.5 hours).

What is the best time of year to visit the Kiso Valley?

The best time to visit the Kiso Valley is March to May and September to November.

Is it possible to see cherry blossoms or autumn foliage in the Kiso Valley?

Yes. The spring cherry blossoms and autumn colours are big draw cards for visitors to the Kiso Valley. Read more about the best times to walk the Nakasendo Way.

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Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Amazing! The varied scenery exceeded our expectations. We loved the feeling of being in control of our walk; it made the experience peaceful and unique.

Melissa Curtis, Camberwell (VIC) - April 2024

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Fantastic trip! Amazing autumn colours, varied walking trail, fabulous food, authentic accommodation, and all hosts successfully accommodated our gluten allergy.

Deidre Norgard, Cumbria (UK) - November 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

A great experience in rural Japan with different hiking and varying styles of accommodation, from deluxe to farm stay.

Kenneth Eaves, Paradise Point (QLD) – November 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

My son and I had a fantastic time. Your app made it easy to follow along, and your specific suggestions relating to train schedules and timing were spot on. The accommodations were good to excellent and the hosts were friendly and helpful. Our bags were transferred efficiently. The scenery and the post towns were great. We really enjoyed the food, although some of it definitely took us out of our comfort zone. Overall, a wonderful experience.

Ron Tinero, California (USA) - October 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

We had a great experience using RAW Travel. Our in-country contact Moto was excellent and explained everything in great detail. Seeing the beautiful villages I felt like we were in a movie set! The food in the ryokans was outstanding and the people so friendly and helpful. An excellent, fun, culinary experience!

Fiona Lewis, Mowbray (QLD) - October 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Incredible experience because of all the thorough and well-researched pre- and on-trip info provided. People, scenery, accommodation and food were highlights.

Baden Brown, Legana (TAS) – October 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Walking the Nakasendo Way was an unforgettable experience. Incredible walks, well planned itinerary, authentic accommodation and food. The views and complexity of the path made every day full of adventure.

Richard Baron, California (USA) – October 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Amazing! Great to get away from the ‘touristy’ parts of Japan and learn about the history and culture. Enjoyed having quality accommodation and meals at the end of a hard day’s hiking. Moto was great, and the back streets tour was excellent.

Linda Beer, Gisborne (VIC) – October 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

We can’t thank you enough. We had the most fantastic trip. Amazing, memorable, once-in-a lifetime experience. The scenery and nature was unbelievable; the accommodation and food were incredible. The App in particular is brilliant!

Kate Denborough, Northcote (VIC) - April 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Everything was excellent – the walk, the ryokans, our initial guide, as well as the app showing the route, which made it easy.

Tim Woods, California (USA) - August 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Thoroughly recommend this walk to experience a different aspect of Japan. It was seamlessly organised by RAW Travel and our traditional ryokan accommodations were really good.

Phillipa Marshman, NSW – October 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

This was my partner and my first trekking experience and we were a little apprehensive. After arriving at our first destination and having our meeting with a RAW Travel employee, we were instantly put at ease. The whole experience was wonderful in every way. The traditional accommodation choices were very clean and spacious. The food was absolutely delicious and plenty of it and the surroundings peaceful and picturesque. The trekking was heaps of fun and achievable. We loved it!

Ambra Smarrelli, Balwyn North (VIC) – October 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

The walk to Tsumago was breathtaking. The postal towns were marvellous to behold but the quiet warmth and desire to help displayed by the Japanese people is my lasting memory. Stunning trip and enjoyable beyond our expectations.

Lee Hilton, NSW – September 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Loved the traditional accommodation and exquisite Japanese food. Loved walking through the sensational scenery and meeting the Japanese people. Everything was well mapped out. A truly exceptional experience.

Helen Newbiggin (QLD) – June 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

We had such a great trip. The itinerary was perfect – with a mixture of forest walking, exploring villages and open farmland. The accommodation was excellent and the meals a real highlight. The planning by RAW Travel was excellent. An exceptional experience overall.

Jennifer Bryant, VIC – June 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

The meal on the first night at Nakatsugawa was probably one of the best I have ever had anywhere in the world. It was superb! The hot tub and food in Kiso Fukushima was also very good and the people in general along the way were so wonderful.

Graham Schultz, NSW – April 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Our ‘Highlights of the Nakasendo Way’ self-guided walk was everything we could have hoped for. The local accommodation and food were exceptional. The immersion in local culture fabulous and the mixture of trails through small villages, forests and farmland kept us stimulated and intrigued. What a wonderful experience. My only complaint would be that we didn’t want it to end! Thank you RAW Travel – our walking tour was definitely the highlight of our Japanese sojourn.

Kim Elise Brodie, Bulimba (QLD) – April 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Three days of beautiful mountain, rural and urban walking was complemented with the unique experience and high levels of service in the ryokans. Overall, a wonderful journey that is highly recommended.

Peter and Helena Coon, NSW – March 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

The trek itself was breathtakingly stunning. All the accommodation was truly beautiful and the hospitality shown by the hosts was sublime. The food they all provided was beyond our expectations. This was a truly memorable trip.

Sharyn Bailey, VIC - December 2018

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip on the Nakasendo Way. The organisation of the trip and the notes were very helpful. We met like-minded people from our country and walked the whole way with them. Loved the local cuisine at each destination and enjoyed walking through the local farming areas, trying to guess their processes. The weather was perfect and the local people very helpful and friendly. It was good to have everything organised and paid for before we left home.

Beth Gales, Byawatha (VIC) – November 2018

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Fabulous experience in a unique environment. 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. 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!

Dianne Averis, Kingswood (SA) – October 2018

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

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.

Aimee Scurr, Scarborough (QLD) – July 2018

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TRIP date selection

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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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