destinations

Winter Nakasendo Trail

The Tranquil Magic of Winter on the Nakasendo Trail

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 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 a 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 a particular garden, temples or shrines. The Nakasendo trail linked Kyoto to Tokyo during Japan’s feudal period. It was the ‘road through the mountains’ traveled by feudal lords and their retinues, samurai warriors, merchants, and travelers. Along the route were 69 ‘post towns’, where weary travelers 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!

Small Group tour
January 25 to February , 2020
February 15 to February 22, 2020
8 Days
* 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. Please contact for single supplement.
Daily breakfast, 2 lunches and 7 dinners
Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
Walk or snowshoe village to village on the loveliest parts of the winter Nakasendo Trail
Visit beautifully-preserved old post towns in the snowy Kiso Valley
Soak in natural thermal Onsen hot springs - indoors and outdoors!
Enjoy hearty, warming seasonal cuisine at welcoming Japanese inns
Escape the crowds of busier seasons and enjoy a magical perspective on Japan
Ride the world-famous Bullet Train
Age restrictions: Participants should be at least 12 years old. Everyone younger than 20 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Day 1 - Kyoto - (Hotel)

Meet at the tour hotel in the center of Kyoto. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

Meals: Welcome Dinner

Day 2 - Magome - (Minshuku Inn)

From Magome, we walk to Tsumago along one of the prettiest and best-preserved parts of the Nakasendo Trail. We'll likely encounter snow over the Magome Pass with fine opportunities for photographs. After the walk, there's time for lunch in Tsumago and then an afternoon to explore the many small shops along the picturesque main street with its lovely old wooden architecture. Try gohei-mochi, skewered sticky rice covered in a sweet paste of miso, sesame, and walnuts. Tsumago is a living museum, which is still home to local residents whose families might have lived here for generations. We stay overnight in Tsumago or the nearby hamlet of O-Tsumago at a family-run inn with a real sense of history.

Walking distance: 8.3km / 5.2 miles
Elevation gain: 325m/1,070 feet of ascent, 430m/1,410 feet of descent
Time required: 3 hours

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 - Tsumago - (Minshuku Inn)

On our fourth day on the Nakasendo Trail, we walk from Yabuhara to Narai over the Torii Pass. This section is likely to have the deepest snow on the tour and if the snow is deep enough, we'll provide snowshoes to make the crossing of the pass easier. This is a rewarding journey through trees to the charming village of Narai. We arrive in time to explore Narai and have lunch at one of the small local restaurants. Our overnight accommodation is in Narai at a family-run inn in the village.

Walking distance: 6.2km / 3.9 miles
Elevation gain: 345m/1,130 feet of ascent, 270m/885 feet of descent
Time required: 3 hours

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4 - Kiso Fukushima - (Hot Spring Ryokan)

Our walk on the Nakasendo Trail ends today with a short stroll from Narai to Kiso Hirasawa. Kiso-Hirasawa is famous for its locally-produced lacquerware. The walk takes around an hour and there may be a chance to see the craftsmen at work. We then travel by train to Matsumoto, a castle town nestled in the central alps region. We visit Matsumoto Castle, one of four castles designated as National Treasures of Japan before boarding a local bus to nearby Asama Onsen. The spa town has a history dating back 1,300 years and we stay overnight at one of the most elegant, authentic Ryokan inns, with beautiful wooden architecture from the Meiji era.

Walking distance: 2.5km / 1.6 miles
Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent
Time required: 1 hour

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5 - Narai - (Hotel)

After breakfast, we leave Asama Onsen and travel by train to Tokyo. We leave our luggage at the city-center hotel and enjoy a half-day walking tour of Tokyo, visiting Hama-Rikyu gardens, located near the mouth of the Sumidagawa river. There is a striking contrast between the gardens and the gleaming towers of the new Shiodome business area beyond. Next, we visit 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. This is where the Nakasendo Trail would once have finished. In the evening, there is a Farewell Dinner with your guide.

Meals: Breakfast, Farewell Dinner

Day 6 - Asama Onsen - (Hot Spring Ryokan)

Our walk on the Nakasendo Trail ends today with a short stroll from Narai to Kiso Hirasawa. Kiso-Hirasawa is famous for its locally-produced lacquerware. The walk takes around an hour and there may be a chance to see the craftsmen at work. We then travel by train to Matsumoto, a castle town nestled in the central alps region. We visit Matsumoto Castle, one of four castles designated as National Treasures of Japan before boarding a local bus to nearby Asama Onsen. The spa town has a history dating back 1,300 years and we stay overnight at one of the most elegant, authentic Ryokan inns, with beautiful wooden architecture from the Meiji era.

Walking distance: 2.5km / 1.6 miles
Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent
Time required: 1 hour

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7 - Tokyo - (Hotel)

After breakfast, we leave Asama Onsen and travel by train to Tokyo. We leave our luggage at the city-center hotel and enjoy a half-day walking tour of Tokyo, visiting Hama-Rikyu gardens, located near the mouth of the Sumidagawa river. There is a striking contrast between the gardens and the gleaming towers of the new Shiodome business area beyond. Next, we visit 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. This is where the Nakasendo Trail would once have finished. In the evening, there is a Farewell Dinner with your guide.

Meals: Breakfast, Farewell Dinner

Day 8 - Tokyo - ()

The tour ends today after breakfast. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for traveling to the airport if you have homeward flights, or onward travel in Japan if you are extending your stay.

Meals: Breakfast