Nakasendo Trail self-guided 5 days
In feudal times people travelling between Kyoto and Tokyo would use the Nakasendo way – the road through the central mountains – one of a network of ancient highways. Along the route travellers rested at juku - post towns -and it is still possible to walk the original route by day, and stay at the local inns by night. The walking is mostly paved village paths and unpaved hill trails, with some gentle ascents and descents. Our tour offers four days walking through the picturesque Kiso Valley where there are some beautifully preserved old villages, and a fifth walk further east from Karuizawa.
・ 4 nights at Japanese inns along the Nakasendo trail booked & prepaid
・ train tickets from Kyoto or Tokyo to the trail and from the trail to Tokyo (pay locally for a bus journey on Day 1)
・ train tickets for intermediate journeys on the Nakasendo trail
・ detailed day-by-day itinerary and walking directions
・ topographical maps
・ local telephone support
・ 4 breakfasts & 4 dinners (pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches)
・ daily luggage transfer is available as an optional extra service - read about luggage options here
Day 1 - transfer to Magome and walk to Tsumago
We supply train tickets for your journey from Kyoto or 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. There is a walk of around 3.5 hours over Magome Pass to Tsumago, one of the best-preserved and most evocative of the Nakasendo post-towns. Overnight at a family-run minshuku in Tsumago, with a delicious home-cooked Japanese dinner and breakfast included. After dinner, enjoy a stroll though 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
Day 2 - 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 pick-up 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!
Day 3 - 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 atmospheric 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
Day 4 - Narai to Kiso-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, your final overnight stay on the Nakasendo Trail. Ride first to Matsumoto where you can visit the famous castle before connecting onwards to Karuizawa via Nagano – total travel time from Kiso-Hirasawa to Karuizawa is around three hours, not including the optional break of journey in Matsumoto. On arrival in Karuizawa, stroll along the streets of this hill-resort town and 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
Day 5 - Karuizawa to Yokokawa and train 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.
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