Winter is a terrific season to visit Japan. Most winter days are crisp, clear and cold, with brilliant sunshine. Snow falls rather rarely in the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto - but if you are lucky enough to catch Kyoto's Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion dusted by a fresh snowfall, it's a truly magical sight. Further into the mountains and towards the Japan Sea coast, snow falls deeply. There's nothing more enchanting than the winter landscapes of traditional wooden villages like Magome and Tsumago against a backdrop of snowdrifts. Imagine the comforting warmth of a steaming-hot Japanese bath after day outside. Or imagine the wonder of sitting in an outdoor Rotemburo thermal water pool as snowflakes glide gently through the air around you. There are so many reasons to choose winter for your Japan walking adventure - fewer visitors, special seasonal foods, the stunning special illumination of particular garden, temples or shrines.
The Nakasendo trail linked Kyoto to Tokyo during Japan’s feudal period. It was the ‘road through the mountains’ travelled by feudal lords and their retinues, samurai warriors, merchants, and travellers. Along the route were 69 ‘post towns’, where weary travellers could rest before continuing on the next leg. We spend five days walking on the loveliest parts of the trail enjoying the peace and serenity of the winter landscapes. Depending on the depth of snow, we may use our snowshoes to follow the route. We follow quiet village roads and unpaved hill trails through the picturesque Kiso Valley where there are some beautifully-preserved old villages. We stay overnight in traditional country inns enjoying exquisite, warming regional cuisine prepared from the freshest ingredients. We soak in natural thermal Onsen hot springs, and enjoy the warm hospitality of our hosts. A Japanese bath is the perfect way to end a day walking on the snowy trails!