Nakasendo Trail self-guided walking 5 days

Villages of old Japan

Highlights

  • Village to village walking on the loveliest parts of the old Nakasendo Trail
  • Visit the exquisitely-preserved villages of Magome, Tsumago and Narai
  • Bathe in the thermal waters at a hot-spring Ryokan
  • Walking over 5 days in the picturesque Kiso Valley and Karuizawa
  • See Matsumoto castle, one of Japan's best historic castles
  • Hike country trails and quiet rural roads, with some moderate ascents and descents
The Nakasendo or 'Road through the Central Mountains' was part of feudal Japan's network of highways. Travellers moving between Kyoto and Tokyo took several days to travel the Nakasendo, staying overnight in Juku post towns. Today's visitors can walk sections of the original route by day and stay in local inns by night.
The Nakasendo or 'Road through the Central Mountains' was part of feudal Japan's network of highways. Travellers moving between Kyoto and Tokyo took several days to travel the Nakasendo, staying overnight in Juku post towns. Today's visitors can walk sections of the original route by day and stay in local inns by night.

All our self-guided Nakasendo Trail tours offer the opportunity to spend a leisurely second night at the comfortable Ryokan in Kiso-Fukushima, part-way along the trail. Please ask for information about our tour extensions; enjoy spectacular views of Mount Fuji from the Hakone hot spring area and the rural village of Oshino Mura, or the peaceful, agricultural community of Asuka at a charming Japanese inn or with a local family for a unique homestay experience.

 

Daily luggage transfer is available as an optional extra service - read about luggage options here

 

This tour offers more advanced hiking. Please see here for trips best suited to families.

 

 Downloadable PDF itinerary

What′s included

  • 4 nights at Japanese inns along the Nakasendo Trail
  • 4 breakfasts and 4 dinners
  • Train tickets from Kyoto or Tokyo to the trail and from the trail to Tokyo
  • Train tickets for intermediate journeys on the Nakasendo Trail
  • Detailed day-by-day itinerary and walking directions
  • Topographical maps
  • Local support by telephone

What′s not included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Pay locally for bus journey on Day 1
  • Single room supplement(s) if required

Day 1 Hike from Magome to Tsumago

We supply train tickets for your journey from Kyoto or from Tokyo to Nakatsugawa, including a ride on the world-famous Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Nagoya. At Nakatsugawa, you board a local bus for the short journey to Magome. Walk over Magome Pass to Tsumago, one of the best-preserved and most evocative of the Nakasendo post-towns. Spend the night at a family-run Minshuku in Tsumago or the nearby hamlet of O-Tsumago, with a delicious home-cooked Japanese dinner and breakfast included. After dinner, enjoy a stroll through the village streets in the magical quiet of the evening, wearing the yukata gown supplied by your inn.

 

Walking distance: 8.3km / 5.2 miles

Elevation gain: 326m / 1,069 feet of ascent and 430m / 1,410 feet of descent

Time required: About 3 hours

 

Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)

Meals: Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Daikichi Minshuku
Located in the post-town of Tsumago, Daikichi is run by three generations of the same family. We use a range of family-run Minshuku in the villages of Tsumago and O-Tsumago.

 

Day 2 Hike from Tsumago to Nojiri

The longest day on the trail is a beautiful and varied hike from Tsumago to Nojiri. Or choose the shorter alternative to Nagiso instead. The trail travels through small valleys and past forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar, through some of the least-developed scenery on the tour. Continue by train to Kiso-Fukushima. Stay at a lovely hot spring Ryokan set in a peaceful valley above the town. Complimentary transfer from the station is provided by the Ryokan). The Ryokan has lovely indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths.

 

Walking distance: 18.4km/ 11.5 miles
Elevation gain: 723m / 2,275 feet of ascent and 644m / 2,112 feet of descent
Time required: About 6 hours

We offer a shorter alternative of 1 hour (3.7km / 2.3 miles). You can choose which option you prefer on the day - no need to decide in advance!

 

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Komanoyu

A comfortable hot-spring Ryokan above Kiso-Fukushima, with indoor and outdoor baths - perfect after a day of hiking!

Day 3 Hike from Yabuhara to Narai

The Ryokan will drive you back to Kiso-Fukushima after breakfast. We supply train tickets for the short journey from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara, starting point for the hike over the Torii pass to Narai. Explore this evocative village before check-in at your family-run inn in the heart of the village. Your hosts will serve a home-cooked Japanese dinner and breakfast.

 

Walking distance: 6.2km / 3.9 miles
Elevation gain: 344m / 1,128 feet of ascent and 270m / 885 feet of descent
Time required: About 3 hours

In Kiso-Fukushima we offer an optional, fairly strenuous, circular walk to a local waterfall. The circular walk is 7km / 4.3 miles with 632m / 2,075 feet of ascent, 637m / 2,090 feet of descent and takes 2-3 hours. You can take this walk in the morning, before heading onwards to Yabuhara. 

 

Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Iseya

One of several family-run Minshuku we use in the village of Narai. The building is a traditional merchant house.

Day 4 Hike from Narai to Hirasawa

After breakfast, walk the short distance to the small town of Kiso-Hirasawa, famous for its lacquerware. There are many small shops selling beautifully-crafted tableware and furniture. Board a train at Kiso-Hirasawa station for your onward journey to Karuizawa or Komoro for your final overnight stay. Both locations have lovely inns with a real sense of history and fine Japanese baths. Ride first to Matsumoto where you can visit the famous castle before connecting onwards to your final stop – total travel time by train is around three hours, not including the optional break of journey in Matsumoto. Arrive at your accommodation in time for a wonderful dinner with local produce.

 

Walking distance: 2.5km / 1.6 miles
Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent
Time required: About 1 hour

 

Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers Inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Tsuruya Ryokan

A venerable, Meiji-era Ryokan, ideally located for the final section of the Nakasendo Trail.

 

 

Day 5 Hike from Karuizawa to Yokokawa and transfer to Tokyo

After breakfast, your final walk on the Nakasendo Trail is from Karuizawa to Yokokawa. Leaving Karuizawa, the trail takes you over the Usui-toge Pass and down a gentle descent along one of the most beautiful sections of the Nakasendo, and certainly the least-developed. From Yokokawa, board the local train to Takasaki and change there for your ride on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Tokyo. The train journey takes around two hours and you will arrive in Tokyo in the late afternoon or early evening.

 

Meals: Breakfast


Walking distance: 16.7km / 10 miles
Elevation gain: 372m / 1,220 feet of ascent and 862m / 2,828 feet of descent
Time required: About 5-6 hours

The walk can be shortened by 3.3km / 2 miles by a taxi ride at the start of the day.