Explore Japan on foot
The Nakasendo trail linked Kyoto to Tokyo during Japan’s feudal period. It was the ‘road through the mountains’ (as opposed to the Tokaido route which traveled the Pacific coast) traveled by feudal lords and their retinues, samurai, merchants, and travelers. Along the route were 69 ‘post towns’, where weary travelers could rest before continuing on the next leg. Our journey will start in Tokyo, known as Edo during Japan’s period of rule by the Shoguns. We will then spend four days walking along the Nakasendo. By day we will walk along the ancient route as it passes through beautifully-preserved villages along an easy 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!
May 7 to May 20, 2018 July 15 to July 28, 2018 October 14 to October 27, 2018 November 3 to November 16, 2018 April 3 to 16, 2019 April 12 to 25, 2019 May 8 to 21, 2019 May 20 to June 2, 2019 July 17 to 30, 2019 October 16 to 29, 2019 November 6 to 19, 2019 Dates subject to change without notice.
* per person * subject to change Tour price includes all transportation between destinations, accommodation, entrance fees, full-time services of tour leader, all breakfasts and 10 evening meals. Contact for single supplement.
Full time services of Japanese/English speaking tour leader.
Four days of village-to-village walking on the old Nakasendo trail – Imperial Nara and Kyoto – modern Tokyo - the mountaintop village of Yoshino - visit sacred Mount Koya and stay in a shukubo (temple lodging) – relax in the bath at a lovely hot spring ryokan – travel on the bullet train
Train ('shinkansen' bullet train and local trains), bus, and your legs..
Participants should be at least 12 years old. Everyone younger than 20 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Meet at the tour hotel in central Tokyo. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant. Meals: Welcome Dinner
Our first full day in Japan will be spent on a walking tour of Tokyo, starting at Nihonbashi (the ‘Japan Bridge’) considered to be the ‘center of Japan’ and the zero marker point for all Japan’s main roads since the Edo period. Afterwards, we visit Ueno and the Tokyo National Museum to see exhibits illuminating Japan of the Edo era, the heyday of the Nakasendo Trail. (If the Museum is closed because of a national holiday, we will visit the Kappabashi district, famous for selling kitchenware and small plastic models of food used in restaurant displays.) We continue on to the grand Meiji shrine and the fashionable Harajuku district. In the evening your tour guide will be on hand to offer suggestions for restaurants for dinner. Meals: Breakfast
Our travels through rural Japan begin with a journey from Tokyo to the remote Kiso valley. Over the next three days we will walk from village to village, staying in small, family-run country inns (Ryokan and Minshuku). After the opportunity to enjoy a lunch of buckwheat noodles in the local town of Shiojiri, we walk from Kiso-Hirasawa to Narai. Kiso-Hirasawa is known for its locally-produced lacquerware and there may be a chance to see the craftsmen at work. Stay in Narai, a beautifully-preserved post-town. Our lodgings will be an atmospheric traditional Minshuku. Walking distance: 2.5km / 1.6 miles Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent Time required: 1 hour Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
On our second day on the Nakasendo Trail, we walk from Narai to Yabuhara over the Torii Pass and then continue by train to Kiso-Fukushima. There we will stay in a lovely traditional Ryokan with its own natural hot spring. Soak in the indoor baths made of cypress wood or try the outdoor baths surrounded by trees. Walking distance: 6.2km / 3.9 miles Elevation gain: 270m/885 feet ascent; 344m/1,128 feet descent Time required: 3 hours Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
We transfer from Kiso-Fukushima to Nojiri by train and then by a short taxi ride to the Nenoue-Toge pass. We walk along a lovely section of the Nakasendo Trail through delightful small settlements and rice fields to Tsumago or the nearby hamlet of O-Tsumago. Only a few decades ago, Tsumago was neglected and falling into disrepair, but through concerted efforts by its residents it has been saved and restored. Now this post-town on the Nakasendo Trail is preserved by strict self-imposed rules that prohibit the sale, rental or destruction of the handsome houses. It’s a living museum, but one which is still inhabited by the local residents. We will arrive in the afternoon. Walking distance: 14km / 8.7 miles Elevation gain: 344m/1,129 feet ascent; 723m/2,275 feet descent Time required: 4.5 hours Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
From Tsumago we walk to Magome, our last stop in the Kiso Valley. The trail from Tsumago to Magome is the most beautiful and best-preserved part of the Nakasendo Trail. There will be time to eat lunch in Magome and explore the many small shops along the picturesque main street. You might also try gohei-mochi, skewered sticky rice covered in a sweet paste of miso, sesame and walnuts. We will travel by regular train and then Bullet Train to Kyoto, connecting onwards to Nara, where we check in to our western-style hotel. Walking distance: 8.3km / 5.2 miles Elevation gain: 430m/1,410 feet ascent; 326m/1069 feet of descent Time required: 3 hours Meals: Breakfast
In Nara, we have a guided walk in the morning. Many of Japan’s greatest cultural treasures are concentrated in and around the city, with eight UNESCO World Heritage sites - Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Kasugayama Primeval Forest, Nara Palace Site, Gankoji Temple, Yakushiji Temple and Toshodaji Temple. Many of these sites are in or near Nara Park, home to a thousand or more free-roaming deer. We will visit two of these World Heritage sites, Kasuga Taisha Shrine and Todaiji temple -its Daibutsuden is the largest wooden building in the world, housing a 16-meter tall image of the Rushana Buddha in bronze and gold. Prior to being rebuilt three hundred years ago, the awesome wooden structure was even larger than today. There will be some free time to relax, visit a Japanese garden or wander through the old town. Meals: Breakfast
From Nara, our journey takes us to the ridge-top village of Yoshino, and a comfortable Ryokan. Yoshino is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous places in the whole of Japan for viewing cherry blossom in the spring. We will visit Yoshimizu Shrine (connected to historical figures such as Minamoto no Yoshitsune, Emperor Godaigo, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi), and explore the area. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
We take the scenic train to Mount Koya, situated in a bowl-shaped valley filled with stands of cedar trees high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Since the 9th century Mount Koya has been a place of religious devotion and ceremony. Today there are more than 100 monasteries, many of which have Shukubo (temple lodgings). We stay in one of the temples and dine on shojin-ryori Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. We visit Kongo-buji temple and walk through the vast Okuno-in cemetery. Tomorrow morning, there is an opportunity to rise early and join the Buddhist morning service. Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
We take the train to Kyoto and check into our hotel. Kyoto was Japan’s capital for many centuries and is still regarded as the country’s cultural heart. In the evening, we enjoy a walk in Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district and there is the possibility of seeing a geiko (fully-fledged geisha) or maiko (apprentice geisha) making their way through the narrow streets. Meals: Breakfast
There is a guided half-day walking tour this morning. We first visit the Sanjo-ohashi Bridge, the western end of the Nakasendo Trail. We continue to Nanzenji, a tranquil Zen Buddhist temple whose history dates back to the mid 13th century. We then stroll along the Philosopher's Path, with craft shops, cafes, shrines and temples beside the clear waters of a small canal. The path ends near Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion. There is free time in the afternoon so you can explore the area further or shop for crafts. In the evening, there is a Farewell Dinner with your guide. Meals: Breakfast, Farewell Dinner
Our tour ends today after breakfast at the hotel in Kyoto. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for travelling to the airport if you have homeward flights, or on onward travel if you are extending your stay in Japan. Meals: Breakfast