Take this small-group guided tour that meets the current guidelines for travelling to Japan, and find yourself teleported to Edo period Japan as you walk from village-to-village along forested trails.

Special Summer Opening: Nakasendo and Kiso Valley

Starting from USD4185 / 9 days

Special Summer Opening: Nakasendo and Kiso Valley

A short small-group guided walking tour with three hikes of 3-6 hours of village-to-village walking on the Nakasendo Trail

 

Highlights

  • Enjoy the key walks and villages along the old Nakasendo Trail
  • Visit Tsumago, Magome and Narai; three lovingly maintained historic villages along the trail
  • Experience thermal onsen baths at multiple hot spring ryokan inns
  • Enjoy walking in historic Kyoto and Nara with your experienced bi-lingual guide
  • Stay at a charming family-run minshuku inn, offering warm hospitality
  • Experience a Bullet Train journey from Tokyo

The Nakasendo 'Road through the Central Mountains' was a key route in feudal Japan's network of highways. Merchants and travellers moving between Tokyo and Kyoto spent multiple days to travel the Nakasendo, staying in juku post towns on each evening. A key section of the original route in the Kiso Valley region retains much of the nature and character of this historically significant period of Japan's history, enabling you to walk from village to village along forested trails, overnighting in traditional inns, with excellent local cuisine and baths.

Our 9-day guided Nakasendo tour spends two nights in Kyoto, where the trail begins, three days of excellent walking along the Nakasendo trail, before ending in Tokyo. By day we will walk along the ancient route as it passes through beautifully-preserved villages along a gentle path, and by evening we will stay in traditional country inns enjoying exquisite regional cuisine prepared from the freshest ingredients, soak in natural hot springs, and enjoy the warm hospitality of our hosts. Enjoy bathing in hot spring water after a day on the trails!

What's Included

  • Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide from arrival to departure
  • Eight nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns (ryokan and minshuku)
  • 8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 8 dinners
  • All transportation between tour locations
  • Entrance to museums, temples and other sights on the group's itinerary
  • Forwarding of one item of luggage on 3 occasions

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals
  • Entrance fees to museums, temples etc. not mentioned in the itinerary

Itinerary

Itinerary Map
Day 1 Meet at your arrival airport in Tokyo to begin the tour

On arrival, proceed through customs and immigration. Your guide will meet you in the arrival hall at the airport. Your group will gather and then check in to your hotel near the airport. This evening we will have a Group Orientation and a Welcome Dinner.

Accommodation: Hotel
Meals: Welcome Dinner

Day 2 Travel by bullet train to Kyoto, Sightseeing in Gion and visit to Kiyomizu-dera Temple

This morning we send our main luggage ahead by overnight luggage transfer service and travel from Tokyo by Japan’s famous bullet train to Kyoto. You’ll have a chance to pick out an ekiben  train bento to enjoy for lunch on the train. On our arrival in Kyoto, we’ll drop our overnight essentials at our hotel before we begin our discovery of Kyoto. 

We will walk through some of Kyoto’s geisha districts on our way to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Geisha and maiko are skilled performers of traditional Japanese music and dance and there are few remaining. A number of tea houses remain in the area and traditional machiya abound. We will walk along the beautiful lanes of the Shirakawa area, and the Shirakawa canal. If we are lucky, we may spot a geiko or maiko on their way to an evening appointment. Even if we are not lucky, the beautiful lanes we walk will give you a feeling of walking back in time.

Accommodation: Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 Hike from Kurama to Kibune, visit Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrine

We begin today with a walking tour this morning, where we first visit the Sanjo-ohashi Bridge, the western end of the Nakasendo Trail. 

From here, we will travel north to Kurama and enjoy a gentle walk through the Kitayama Mountains from Kurama to Kibune. Then, we visit ancient UNESCO World Heritage shrines that pre-date the founding of the city — Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines. The shrines are beloved by Kyoto residents and still retain some of the primeval forest that once covered this area.

Walking distance:
4km / 2.5 miles
Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent
Time required: About 2-3 hours walking

Accommodation: Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 Hike from Magome to Tsumago

Journey by train from Kyoto 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, 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: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5 Hike from Tsumago to Nojiri

Our walk on the trail today offers a beautiful and varied hike from Tsumago to Nojiri. Or choose the shorter alternative to Nagiso instead. The trail heads through small valleys passing forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar, through some of the least-developed scenery on the tour. Continue by train to Kiso-Fukushima and stay at a lovely onsen ryokan set in a peaceful valley above the town. 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
A shorter alternative of 1 hour (3.7km / 2.3 miles) is also possible.

Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6 Hike from Yabuhara to Narai

Travel the short train journey from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara, the starting point for the hike over the Torii Pass to another juku village, Narai. Explore this atmospheric village before travelling on by train to the castle town of Matsumoto and to your ryokan for the evening.

Walking distance: 8.7km / 5.5 miles
Elevation gain: 344m / 1,128 feet of ascent and 270m / 885 feet of descent
Time required: About 4 hours

Accommodation: Minshuku (family run guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7 Sightseeing in Matsumoto and Tokyo

This morning, explore the engaging castle town of Matsumoto, visiting Matsumoto castle, which is one of Japan's best historic castles.

After lunch, head onwards to Tokyo by train, which is both the end point of the Nakasendo trail and of our tour. Tonight we stay at a comfortable Japanese-style hotel in the city.

Accommodation:
Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8 Sightseeing in Tokyo

Today enjoy a day of sightseeing in Tokyo, beginning in historic Nihonbashi, the Eastern end of the Nakasendo Trail. We then travel to the Asakusa district where we walk through the lively Nakamise shopping street and visit the Buddhist Senso-ji Temple. Asakusa is an old quarter in Tokyo’s shitamachi (low city) which still displays some narrow streets reminiscent of Edo period Tokyo. Its main attraction is Senso-ji, a large Buddhist temple with a five-story pagoda, dating originally from the 7th century and rebuilt after its destruction during World War II. With Asakusa Shrine nearby, the complex serves as the site for several religious festivals throughout the year.

We then travel by Tokyo's efficient subway system to Meiji Shrine. the serene grounds of the Meiji Jingu shrine, mausoleum of Emperor Meiji. He was the first Emperor to reside in Tokyo and he became the symbol of modern Japan. This park was created more than 100 years ago and has now become an important green oasis for Tokyoites.

A short walk takes us to bustling Harajuku. Famous as Tokyo’s street fashion district, Harajuku’s heart is Takeshita-dori, its main shopping street, which is lined with boutiques and cafes. The area is known for its street fashion and for leading global style trends. We will then return to our hotel to freshen up before our Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Farewell Dinner

Day 9 Tour ends this morning

Our tour ends today after breakfast. We transfer together to our departure airport. Bid a sad farewell to Japan for now and we hope you'll return one day to explore more!

Meals: Breakfast

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