6-Day Walking Tour of Nakasendo
The Nakasendo Way is an ancient highway connecting Tokyo (then Edo) and Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1867). The best-preserved portion of the Nakasendo Highway is a picturesque and popular trail through the mountains that runs through the Kiso Valley right in the middle of the Honshu (main) Island of Japan. Walk along this historic trade route and stop at some of its “post towns,” resting stops for fatigued travelers, to glimpse Japan as it was in the past. The trail is easy to walk and very pretty – dotted with interesting monuments and villages.
This 6-Day Walking Tour of Nakasendo model itinerary covers the most naturally beautiful and culturally rich section of the Nakasendo. You can use it on its own or connect with other parts of Japan easily. Unlike many other Nakasendo walking tours, we have mixed different types of accommodation from the rustic minshuku (guest house with shared bathroom) where samurais and merchants would have stayed hundreds of years ago to high quality ryokans with private facilities. As a bonus we added a luxury onsen (hot spring mineral bath) ryokan experience at the end, too.
The walking distance each day can be adjustable. Talk to us about how far you would like to walk each day, what sort of accommodation and transport you prefer, and if you would like to have a private guide, or you feel confident to travel independently with our detailed instructions.
Important notes about our model itineraries:
Our model itineraries are developed to show viewers the ideas for an itinerary and price guide. The itineraries can be further customized, and the accommodation and guide time can be adjusted to suit you. The number of people in your group will affect the price, too. We will give you more firm quotation once we develop your personal itinerary.
Day 1: Transfer to Nakatsugawa and walk to Magome
Today you will transfer to Nakatsugawa by train ready to start walking the Nakasendo trail to Magome. Magome is located in the central part of Honshu (main island), and is just over two hours from Kyoto by shinkansen, local train and bus. This 6-Day Walking Tour of Nakasendo is designed for our guests to follow easily as a self-guided tour. However, like all other Journey to the East Private Tours, private guides are available if you wish.
Today, we recommend that you take a local bus from JR Nakatsugawa Station to Ochiai, and start walking a section of Nakasendo to Magome (4.5 km). Magome is one of the most popular post towns along the Nakasendo Way and it is very pretty with quaint craft shops and cafes.
Typical accommodation here is in minshuku style, traditional Japanese wooden houses with rooms divided by fusuma sliding doors. You will have a private room, but bathroom facility is often shared. You will be provided with a hearty homemade dinner at the minshuku tonight. (Western style accommodation is available outside the town.)
Day 2: Walk from Magome to Tsumago
After a traditional Japanese breakfast with a bowl of rice, miso soup, grilled fish and egg, you will start your walk on the Nakasendo Way this morning from Magome to Tsumago (8km - 2.5 to 3 hours). There is a luggage forwarding service in this section.
Enjoy the rural and mountainous scenery along the way casting your thoughts back to the samurais and merchants who would have walked on the same road hundreds of years ago.
Upon arrival at Tsumago, have lunch at one of the lovely restaurants, look around the shops and small museums, and go to your accommodation tonight. Again, the most popular style of accommodation is minshuku, but a limited western style option is also available and included in this itinerary.
Day 3: Walk from Tsumago to Nojiri
Today is the longest walking day on the trail from Tsumago to Nojiri which is approximately 14 km and takes 5-6 hours. You may choose a shorter walk instead.
The trail travels through small valleys and pasts forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar.
Continue by train to Kiso-Fukushima, where you will stay overnight at a quality ryokan before the hiking the next part of the Nakasendo.
Day 4: Walk from Yabuhara to Narai
After breakfast, walk from the ryokan to JR Kiso-Fukushima Station. Then take a local train from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara (15 minutes). Start your walk today from Yabuhara to Narai through the Torii Pass (5km). (Longer walk options available.)
At Narai, have a look around this pretty post town before enjoying an overnight stay at another traditional minshuku.
Day 5: Kiso Hirasawa
After breakfast enjoy a short 2.7 km walk to Kiso Hirasawa.
Unlike other towns along the Nakasendo, Hirasawa wasn’t a place for travelers to stay, rather a place for artisans to live and produce lacquerware products. Even today, it retains the atmosphere of an old lacquerware craftsman's town, with a historical townscape and many active lacquerware producers.
Along the way, stop at Kiso Lacquerware Museum which shows the tools used in the production of lacquerware and the production process and has interesting items such as an Olympic medal made of lacquerware used in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
From Kiso Hirasawa proceed by train and local bus to Asama Onsen where you can spoil yourself in 5 star luxury relaxing at true onsen ryokan with gorgeous kaiseki dinner and enjoy soaking your muscles in your private onsen bath after the last 5 days of walking.
Day 6: Matsumoto to Tokyo
After a traditional Japanese breakfast, leave your ryokan and head to Matsumoto where you can visit Matsumoto Castle which on the outside, it looks like a five-storied structure, but it's actually a six-storied castle if you go inside. This architectural style is only found in two castles in Japan—Matsumoto and Himeji castles. It also has beautiful black lacquered walls, making it an invaluable national treasure of Japan.
Alternatively if you would like an additional day of walking the Nakasendo, travel by train to Karuizawa where you can take the final 16 km hike to Yokokawa. The trail takes you over the Usui-toge Pass and down a gentle descent along a forest trail to Yokokawa station, from which you can make the journey back to Tokyo.
The cost of accommodation in Tokyo tonight is not included in the price guide of this model itinerary, however we are happy to arrange accommodation in Tokyo if required.
Tokyo has so much to see and do, so if you want to extend your stay please let us know. Whether you need to go to your exiting airport on this day, or would like to continue travelling we are happy to help you with the whole package.
- 5 nights accommodation including a 5 star ryokan on the last night
- 5 breakfasts & 4 dinners
- Transfer from Kyoto to Nakatsugawa on express trains on the first day
- Transfer to Tokyo on express trains on the last day
- Suica IC card with 2,500 yen starter credit
- Comprehensive itinerary and walking maps
- English language emergency support
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Entrance fees to attractions
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)