Japan self guided walking holiday, Nakasendo Trail
Description of Japan self guided walking holiday, Nakasendo Trail
The Nakasendo Trail is not only one of Japan’s most ancient thoroughfares, it is also one of modern Japan’s most aesthetically exquisite walking trails. Used since the 8th century by feudal lords needing to traverse this magnificent, mountainous terrain between Kyoto and Edo (today’s Tokyo), this itinerary includes five days of walking along the trail, from one ancient ‘post town’ to another. Walks range from two to six hours long, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the traditional ryokan inns and minshuku guesthouses that the Nakasendo Trail is so famous for. Here you can soak in traditional Japanese baths and even thermal springs but also in the culture, always so enlightening for visitors who come to enjoy these unique walking trails in Japan. The best tastes of Japan will come from the dinners that will be lovingly prepared for you along the way.
Linking up with train networks along the Nakasendo Trail, this holiday starts in Kyoto and ends in Tokyo, with several days to enjoy both of these fascinating cities, with a private guide to lead you on one of the days. There is plenty of flexibility built into the itinerary to accommodate how much walking you would like to take on, and with walking terrain varying between paved paths going through post towns or more remote, rugged mountain ways, the Nakasendo Trail is accessible to many.
The best time to go walking on the Nakasendo Trail is between April and November, although it does rain from mid June until mid July, but with showers that are usually manageable. The Trail does get very busy during Japanese holidays, however, such as New Year (29/12-4/1), Golden Week (29/4-5/5) and the O-Bon Buddhist Festival in August. We welcome any enquiries to assist you with this walking holiday, but especially regarding pricing during these peak times.
|Day 1:||Your first day on the Nakasendo Trail, taking the train to the Kiso Valley, visiting Magome village at 800m overlooking the valley. Hike to Tsumago over the Magome Pass. Stay in a family-run minshuku guest house where dinner will be served by your host.|
|Day 2:||Walk 18km from Tsumago to Nojiri where you will take a train to a stunning ryokan overlooking above Kiso-Fukushima. After bathing in its hot springs, enjoy many courses of fine, traditional Japanese fare. A shorter walking option of 4km is also available today.|
|Day 3:||Take the train to Yabuhara to start today’s hike over the Torii Pass to Narai, which was traditionally the half way mark on the Nakasendo Trail for ancient travellers. Still stunningly well preserved, this ‘town of a thousand houses’ is where you will rest for the night in a traditional minshuku guest house, with another superb dinner served at the end of your walking day.|
|Day 4:||Take time to explore the ins and outs of Narai, and then walk 2.5km to Hirasawa where you can pick up the train to Karuizawa. At 1000m, this is a lovely mountain resort town, where you can stay in one of its luxury hotels or opt for the more traditional ryokan inn again.|
|Day 5:||A 16km finale walking over the Usui Pass to Sakamoto-juku is the perfect send off for your last day on the Nakasendo Trail. Say goodbye to the mountains and forests, and take the train at Yokokawa into the very different world of Tokyo, where you will stay in a city centre hotel.|
25 Reviews of Japan self guided walking holiday, Nakasendo Trail
Reviewed on 23 Nov 2019 by Donald DupreyThe hiking was varied and always interesting. The hills were spectacular with fall color. Read full review
Reviewed on 20 Nov 2019 by Celeste Von GlehnThe most memorable part of the holiday was the Nakasendo trail. Read full review
Reviewed on 03 Jun 2019 by Julie KimPerfect holiday for everyone on the trip. The most memorable parts were walking through O'Tsumago and Narai. Read full review
Reviewed on 28 Apr 2019 by Coles SterlingIt was a trip of a lifetime! We enjoyed the incredible walks everyday followed by the stays at ryokans! Read full review
Reviewed on 14 Dec 2019 by Vivienne DegenhardtWe enjoyed the whole experience . Read full review
Reviewed on 25 Oct 2019 by Chandra Kant SharmaThe walking on the second and third days was quite wonderful, as were the stays in small inns along the way. Read full review
Reviewed on 17 Apr 2019 by Ramona AlbaThis is an experience we will never forget. We’re already talking about doing a similar holiday in the near future! Read full review
Reviewed on 22 Oct 2018 by Salim and Sheila AftimosWe loved everything about Japan. The only negative observation was noting the overpackaging of goods, particularly with plastics. We think the Japanese people are beginning to realise the importance of tackling this problem. Read full review
Reviewed on 28 Oct 2018 by Stewart YagudaThe first three hiking days were amazing. Read full review
Reviewed on 26 Oct 2017 by John GunstonExperiencing a completely different culture was the highlight. Read full review
Reviewed on 10 Aug 2017 by Neil DillonThe walks through the ancient forests of Japan were above expectation, but the highlight I think was staying in the Ryokan - the charm and character of the inns and our hosts and the total immersion into a traditional Japanese experience with their tatami rooms, onsen baths and local cuisine. Read full review
Reviewed on 24 May 2017 by Dennis MinchinExcellent, looking forward to traveling with you again. Read full review
Reviewed on 02 May 2017 by Christa FiischerWe loved the beautiful walks and meeting the super kind inn keepers. A highlight was the tea house on the way to Tsumago, in the rain. Read full review
Reviewed on 28 Aug 2017 by Mary GordonAll the walking was memorable and parts (like seeing a bear and encountering leeches) were exciting. The food was exciting too! Read full review
Reviewed on 24 Apr 2017 by Joanne HeesonWe loved the whole thing - staying in the traditional inns, the self-guided hiking, the beautiful scenery, the hot spring bathing areas and, of course, the food. The hike meanders through forests, bamboo groves, and through villages and hamlets, so there is a wonderful glimpse of old Japan to see. Read full review
Reviewed on 30 Mar 2017 by Kim BuckinghamThe trail was remote, stunning, quiet and interesting. The ryokans were spotless and the food fresh and continuing perfect. Read full review
Reviewed on 07 May 2017 by Julian HewettGood walking, countryside/scenery, cherry blossom and Japanese Inns (Ryokan). Read full review
Reviewed on 22 Sep 2016 by Vanda GalenSuperior! Read full review
Reviewed on 17 May 2016 by Mark WhiteWhilst the journey is a delightful walk, stop and enjoy the culture along the way. Read full review
Reviewed on 16 Apr 2016 by Michael EagenBest bits: Walking the remote sections of Trail. Tour of Nara Read full review
Reviewed on 29 Sep 2015 by Elaine BlatchfordA great experience. We felt we had a very good introduction and understanding of Japan. We liked the combination of historic city, modern capital contrasting with rural Japan. Very well organized. Read full review
Reviewed on 01 Sep 2015 by Rafael BorenGreat, the organisation was very good, the cultural immersion was inspiring and the landscape was surprising. Read full review
Reviewed on 08 Jun 2015 by Liz BashfordBest bit: Walking through remote woods and forests on the Nakasendo trail and coming across ancient shrines and stonework commemorating centuries old samurai battles. Read full review
Reviewed on 16 Sep 2013 by David McRaeIt was all a very fine experience. Terrific organisation, didn't miss a beat anywhere; great choices of accommodation/food. The combination of physical, topographical and cultural stimulation provided by this sort of travel is very very hard to beat. There were several occasions where I was simply floaty with delight. A knockout. Read full review
Reviewed on 28 Apr 2013 by Gill BerryExcellent...in every way. The most memorable parts were... Seeing the old villages and towns along our walk - meeting so many friendly and helpful people in surroundings completely different from our own. And the food - different, flavorful, every meal exquisitely presented and excellent. Read full review
PlanetYou will experience the ‘satoyama’ landscape of rural Japan, the border area between arable flat land where rice is grown, and the mountains. Managed sustainably over centuries, it is biologically diverse and supports a wide variety of wildlife. The presence of small-scale tourism in the Kiso Valley has encouraged the conservation of these areas, and discouraged the development of golf-courses and other projects which have negative effects on the local biodiversity. We support conservation through the Nature Conservancy Council of Japan.
PeopleThe villages you will visit along the Kiso Valley section of the Nakasendo trail were, until the 1970s, falling into disrepair and with few jobs, young people were moving to the cities. The villagers then began a concerted conservation and restoration effort, repairing the old wooden houses, and turning some of them into small ‘minshuku’ guest houses. Over the past 30 years this gradual conservation has continued, and the Kiso Valley villages have enjoyed a steady stream of income and sustainable development from the visitors who come.
You will be staying at these traditional ‘machiya’ houses, some over 200 years old. They are owned and run by several generations of one family, and all income from visitors stays in the village and brings the benefit of jobs for the younger generation. Your food will be prepared from locally-sourced fish, meat, and vegetables. Many owners also grow their own vegetables and rice. We support The Japan National Trust which helps protect the traditional buildings of rural Japan.