Explore Japan on foot
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!
January 26 to February 2, 2019 February 16 to February 23, 2019
* 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.
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
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 the centre of Kyoto. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
Today we travel by train to Nakatsugawa, one of the old post-towns on the Nakasendo Trail. The original main road through the town retains its Edo-Period heritage with traditional sake shops, restaurants in period wooden buildings and old storehouses. We start our walk here and head towards the next post-town of Ochiai. From Ochiai we ascend through cedar forests and traverse a section of the trail whose cobblestones date right back to the Edo Period. Over the next four days we explore the best-preserved portions of the ancient Nakasendo Trail through villages and hamlets, all set against the magical winter scenery. Our lodging tonight is a charming family-run inn in the post town of Magome.
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 at a family-run inn with a real sense of history.
This morning we continue our exploration of Tsumago including a visit to the Wakihonjin museum housed in a building which dates back to the 19th century. Today's walk begins after lunch and is a short but enjoyable stroll from Tsumago to Nagiso along country lanes. From Nagiso we board a local train for the brief journey to Kiso-Fukushima, a delightful post- town which was once an important Sekisho checkpoint on the Nakasendo. We stroll through the town before heading out to our comfortable Ryokan inn on the outskirts of the community. The Ryokan prides itself on its wonderful cuisine and its terrific indoor and outdoor thermal baths - a perfect way to warm up on a winter evening.
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 snow shoes 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.
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.
After breakfast, we leave Asama Onsen and travel by train to Tokyo. We leave our luggage at the city-centre hotel and enjoy a half-day walking tour of Tokyo, visiting Hama-Rikyu gardens, located near the mouth of the Sumida-gawa 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 ‘centre 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.
The tour ends today after breakfast. 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 in Japan if you are extending your stay.