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

Nature Immersion

Cultural Interest

Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

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

Overview

The Shimosuwa Trip

This longer itinerary includes the most popular sections of the Nakasendo Way as well as some rural trails off the beaten path. You’ll walk through the picturesque Kiso Valley and 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 the hot springs district of Shimosuwa
  • 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

DAY 1: MITAKE TO HOSOKUTE (12KM)

Make your way from the Nagoya train station on the Meitetsu Line to Mitake Station (80 mins travel time). Mitake is where you will have a short briefing before you depart on your walk (meeting times will be in your travel documents). Our local RAW Travel representative will be able to recommend a local lunch spot (own expense) prior to your walk. You will begin your walk through the town and then 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 Province Café as you head towards Hosokute and your accommodation for the evening.

Meals: D

DAY 2: HOSOKUTE TO ENA (21KM)

Enjoy your first traditional Japanese breakfast and prepare for an exciting day following in the footsteps of the Samurai. Today you will walk over 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 before then travelling along the ridge tops and descending into Ena. In Ena you can visit the museum known as the Hiroshiga, which features some wonderful 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 will pass through towns and villages and parts of the city, across rice paddies and fields and even through home gardens, talking to the locals along the way and taking in the Japanese culture. Nakatsugawa was number 45 of the 69 traditional post towns of the Nakasendo Way, and you can spend the rest of the day exploring. Many of the old buildings and shops still work today. Also worth a visit is the Naegi Castle ruins, located just north of the town.

Meals: B,

DAY 4: 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).

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 this is a good spot to take a rest break. 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 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 5: TSUMAGO TO KISO-FUKUSHIMA (19KM 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 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 6: FREE DAY – 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 Mt Ontake, one of Japan’s most sacred mountains. There is an option to take a gondola and hike to the top (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: KISO-FUKUSHIMA TO NARAI (8KM WALKING; 14KM TRAIN)

Today you will catch the train from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara and start your 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 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 8: TRAIN FROM NARAI TO SHIMOSUWA & 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 7 years the ancient pillar riding festival of Onbashira takes place, where locals ride a giant log down the hill.

Meals: B, D

DAY 9: DEPART SHIMOSUWA

Today is departure day. After your traditional Japanese breakfast, you can take the train to your next destination.

Meals: B

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Map

Explore

Mitake

Mitake was number 49 of the 69 post towns of the Nakasendo Way connecting Edo with Kyoto. It flourished with the passage of people, materials, information and culture, and was said to be one of the liveliest post towns in southeastern Gifu.

CLICK ON A PIN TO REVEAL INFORMATION ABOUT THAT LOCATION
Hosokute

Hosokute was first established in 1610 as a temporary post town between Okute-juku to the east and Mitake-juku to the west. It was originally built to alleviate the major congestion of travellers along this section of Nakasendo.

Ena

Ena was an important post town and the Edo heritage can still be seen today. The Hiroshige Museum of Art features some wonderful woodblock prints of the Nakasendo Way and is well worth a visit.

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
  • 8 nights accommodation along the trek (traditional Japanese guest houses – shared bathroom facilities)
  • Daily meals as listed in the itinerary
  • 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, Japan
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Customer Star Rating of 5

Customer Testimonials

Truly fantastic. No crowds, great accommodation and beautiful walking. Almost too much food!

Jenny Carden, Elwood (VIC) - June 2023

Customer Star Rating of 5

Customer Testimonials

A consistently fabulous trip. Lovely ryokans, great cultural and personal experiences.

Heidi Auman, Fern Tree (Tasmania) - May 2023

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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.

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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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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