length

9 Days

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

trip cost

From $3750 pp

Icons / stylised / time Created with Sketch.

length

9 Days

Icons / stylised / difficulty Created with Sketch.

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

Icons / stylised /cost Created with Sketch.

trip cost

From $3750 pp

Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

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

Overview

Overview

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

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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Highlights

Get Ready For

  • Journey through the heart of Japan
  • Visit Shimosuwa, the only hot springs district
  • Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley
  • Walk original ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 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)

Itinerary

Daily Details

Week 1
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.

Meals: D

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

Week 2
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.

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
  • 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
  • RAW Travel’s exclusive interactive navigation app
Excluded
  • Bus and train tickets*
  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Drinks other than water at meals
  • Expenses of 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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