Nakasendo Trail self-guided walking

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    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.

    Ian recently returned from taking this walk.  Read about his experience here


    • 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


    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 at another of the excellent nearby accommodations, with a delicious home-cooked Japanese dinner and breakfast included. (D)

    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. (B, D)

    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. (B, D)

    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. (B, D)

    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. (B)


    • 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
    • Our Preparing for your trip and Travelling in Japan Guidebooks
    • Optional orientation at our Kyoto office