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Nakasendo Trail, Tokyo, Kyoto, Mount Koya & Nara
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Highlights

  • Tokyo, the modern capital of Japan.
  • Following the ancient Nakasendo Trail.
  • Staying in traditional ryokan and minshuku.
  • Exploring the largest wooden building in the world, Todaiji temple in Nara which houses a 16-metre tall bronze Buddha.
  • Taking part in morning prayers at your temple lodging in Mount Koya.
  • Exploring fascinating Gion, Kyoto's geisha district.

Combine four days of walking along the Nakasendo Trail with time to explore Japans' highlights; vibrant Tokyo, ancient Nara, Mount Koya & Nara.

You’ll discover the highlights of Japan over 11 days, including four days hiking the Nakasendo Trail, a historic highway used since feudal times. Explore the former imperial capital of Nara with its numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, Mount Koya with its beautiful forest and wonderful location high in the mountains, and Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto with its 400 shrines and 1600 temples and famous Geisha district.

 

DAY 1:
Arrive Tokyo

Arrive in vibrant Tokyo and check in to your centrally located hotel.


Overnight: Shiba Park Hotel, Tokyo


DAY 2:
Explore Tokyo


You will have a full day in Tokyo to explore the old and new of this vibrant city.
Highlights include Ueno Park and the Tokyo National Museum, the grand Meiji Shrine, the trendy Harajuku district, and the famous Tsukiji Fish Market.


Overnight: Shiba Park Hotel, Tokyo


DAY 3:
Nakasendo Trail - Magome to Tsumago

Start your 4 day hike on the Nakasendo Trail by travelling by train to Nakatsugawa and onwards by bus to Magome, where you begin your walk on the Nakasendo Trail to Tsumago over the Magome-toge Pass. This is one of the most challenging parts of the Nakasendo rising to 801m above sea level.


The Nakasendo Trail had 69 post towns, numbered from Edo (Tokyo) and Magome is the 43rd. Tsumago is the 42nd Nakasendo post town. It is beautifully preserved and truly evocative of a traditional Nakasendo post town from the late Edo period.


Walk: 8.3km / 5.2 miles, 239m ascent and 415m descent, 3 hours


Dinner & Overnight: Daikichi Minshuku, Tsumago


DAY 4:
Nakasendo Trail - Tsumago to Nojiri

Leaving Tsumago, the trail travels through small valleys and past forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar, through some of the least-developed scenery on the tour. At six hours this is the longest day of walking on the Nakasendo Trail and from Nojiri you continue by train to Kiso-Fukushima.


Walk: 18.4km / 11.5 miles, 820m ascent, 1060m descent, 6 hours
(shorter option to reduce walk to 1 hour)


Dinner & Overnight: Komanoyu, lovely hot spring ryokan set in a remote valley above Kiso-Fukushima (pick-up from the station is provided)


DAY 5:
Nakasendo Trail - Yabuhara to Narai


Your journey continues first by train from Kiso Fukushima to Yabuhara, where you start today’s walk.
Between Yabuhara and your destination, Narai, the trail climbs the Torii-toge Pass, one of the hardest parts of the Nakasendo.
Narai was once known as “Narai of 1000 inns,” as this was the most prosperous of the 69 post towns along the Nakasendo Trail. Travellers prepared or recovered in the many inns here before and after tackling the steep Torii-toge. The residents of Narai chose to renovate their historic houses and impose strict rules on ownership and use so the town remains a real gem on the Nakasendo.


Walk: 6.2km / 4 miles, 270m ascent, 270m descent, 3 hours


Dinner & Overnight: An edo-period house converted into a minshuku.


DAY 6:
Nakasendo Trail - Narai to Hirasawa/By Train to Nara

From Narai you walk the short distance to Kiso Hirasawa. Kiso Hirasawa flourished on the Nakasendo Trail as a centre of lacquerware production and today you will find many small shops selling beautifully-crafted tableware and furniture. From Hirasawa continue by train to Nara.


Walk: 2.5 km/ 1.5 Miles, negligible ascent and descent, 2 hours


Overnight: Sakuraya Guesthouse, Nara


DAY 7:
Free Day to explore Nara

With no less than eight UNESCO World heritage sites Nara is a fascinating city to explore. Take your time today to explore some of these including the largest wooden building in the world at Todaiji temple which houses a 16-metre tall bronze and gold Buddha.
Nara Park is another lovely place to explore with its free-roaming deer who live in the park.


Overnight: Sakuraya Guesthouse, Nara


DAY 8:
By Train and Cable Car to Mount Koya


From Nara, travel by train on to Hashimoto and then a slow scenic train to Gokurabashi. At Gokurabashi, transfer to the cable car which travels up the mountain to Koya San.
Mount Koya has been a place of religious devotion since the 9th century and is the centre of Shingon Buddhism, introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobu Daishi. A highlight of your time here is the chance to stay overnight at temple lodging (shukubo) where you can taste shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) and attend morning prayers.


Dinner & Overnight: Saizen-in Shukobo (temple lodging)


DAY 9:
By Train to Kyoto


After an early rise and attending the temple’s morning service, make your way to Kyoto by cable-car and then train arriving in time for early evening.
Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan, serving as the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868. Today it is one of the world’s most culturally rich cities scattered with hundreds, if not thousands of pockets of incredible beauty.


Overnight: Hearton Hotel or Kyoto Royal Hotel


DAY 10:
Free Day to explore Kyoto

With over 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shinto shrines and 24 museums there is plenty in Kyoto to keep you riveted for a day.
In the evening, take time to explore the famous Gion district and perhaps even glimpse an elusive geisha or meiko making their way through the narrow streets.
If you would like a guided tour of Kyoto, we can arrange this for a supplement for you.


Overnight: 4* western-style hotel, Kyoto


DAY 11:
Onward Travel

Your trip ends this morning after breakfast. Fly out from nearby Kansai Airport, or extend your trip with extra nights in Kyoto.


Additional Nights and Options

Many of our clients choose to add extra nights along the walk to sample more of the wonderful attractions available. Please contact our team should you wish to add extra nights along the way. We can also arrange guided sightseeing tours of Tokyo and Kyoto with a local guide for you - please contact one of our team if you would like to add this on.


Walk only itinerary

If you would prefer to make your own arrangements before and after your walk we offer a 5 day/4 night itinerary on just the Nakasendo Trail.

Accommodation

In Tokyo and Kyoto we use carefully selected 3 or 4* hotels. We use local family-run minshuku and ryokan for the 3 nights on the walking section and in Nara. And in Mount Koya you stay in monastery temple lodging. The minshuku, ryokan and temple lodgings are generally simply furnished and less formal, but have excellent food and a wonderful personal service. Here are some examples of the accommodation we use most often.


Meals

Japanese cuisine is the highlight of many people’s visit to Japan and this is especially the case on this tour. Your trip includes all breakfasts and 4 evening meals whilst on the trail.


Most meals will be Japanese cuisine, though breakfast in western-style hotels usually includes more familiar choices.


Dinner and breakfast in ryokan, minshuku and guesthouses are set meals, usually with a whole succession of different dishes which will delight you. Alcoholic and soft drinks are not included with meals. Tipping is not customary at hotels and restaurants in Japan.


Solo Walkers & Single Rooms

This trip is available to solo walkers and a limited number of single rooms are available, although a single/solo supplement is payable.

Availability

You can start this trip on any day of the week subject to availability betwen April and November.


Accommodations are busy and may charge extra during the following
Japanese holiday periods: New Year (29 December to 04 January), Golden
Week (29 April to 05 May) and O-bon (09 - 17 August)


The inns on the walk are now extremely busy for the months of April and October so
please be aware that bookings during this time may require a change of
itinerary or accommodation. We recommend booking this tour as far in
advance as possible as the inns do fill up quickly.

Time of Year

It is tough to beat the spring months of April and May but the summer months from June to September are also great as are the autumn colours in October and November.


Single Rooms & Solo Walkers

This trip is available to solo walkers and a limited number of single rooms are available, although a single/solo supplement is payable.


Grade & Terrain

The 4 days walking on this tour are graded moderate and the longer walking days can be shortened if you want to cut down the distance. On most days you will be walking between 2 and 6 hours so you should be an occassional to regular walker to get the most from the trip or do so training prior to the trip.


Navigation, Route Notes & Maps

The walking part of the tour is waymarked (in English and Japanese) and we provide detailed route notes and topographic maps so you should have no problem following the trail.


Equipment

Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, lightweight clothes, waterproofs and a day pack.


Baggage Transfers

Luggage transfer is not included during your walk. Your accommodation during the walk provide robes to wear in the evening and shoes are not worn inside, so you only need your hiking gear and can travel very light. In Japan there is an overnight luggage forwarding service which is cheap, reliable and costs about £12 per bag per day.


On this tour we recommend forwarding your luggage from Tokyo (or wherever you are staying before the walk) to Kiso-Fukushima (Day 4), from Kiso-Fukushima to Nara (Day 6), and from Nara to Kyoto (Day 10). You carry overnight essentials in your daypack for your nights in Narai, Tsumago and Mount Koya. Our information pack has full details of how to use this service, which is really easy.


Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.


General Information

The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommend routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear, sun hat, sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.


Getting to and from Japan

By Air: The best airport to arrive at is Tokyo Narita, which has flights from international destinations. Ideally you should book an open jaw ticket departing from Kyoto or alternatively try and get your airline to throw the internal flight in.


You can also fly out of Tokyo Narita (NRT) and take an internal flight or the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo from Kyoto (3h30) at the end.


Getting around

Your package includes all the train tickets required as per the itinerary. The public transport system in Japan is world class and your pre-departure information pack has detailed information on how to use your tickets and the trains and how to travel internally. It really is a piece of cake.


Local buses are not included and should be paid for locally.


Our specialist Laura travelled to Japan in 2014 and you can read her experience of using public transport, on the blog.


Visas

Please check your visa requirements with the foreign office or the embassy in your country of residence before travelling to Japan.


British nationals wishing to visit Japan for three months or less for business, tourism or family purposes etc (but not to work for a local employer) may do so without a visa. You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket. Please visit www.fco.gov.uk for up to date information.

Getting to and from Japan

By Air: The best airport to arrive at is Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT), which has flights from international destinations. Ideally you should book an open jaw ticket departing from Osaka Kansai (KIX) which is the closest airport to Kyoto or alternatively try and get your airline to throw the internal flight in.


You can also fly into Tokyo Narita (NRT) and take an internal flight or the shinkansen (bullet train) back to Tokyo (3h30).


Getting around


Your package includes all the train tickets required as per the itinerary. The public transport system in Japan is world class and your pre-departure information pack has detailed information on how to use your tickets and the trains. Local buses are not included and should be paid for locally. Again your information pack will have detailed information on how to do this and it is very easy.


Our specialist Laura travelled to Japan in 2014 and you can read her experience of using public transport, on the blog.


Visas


Please check your visa requirements with the foreign office or the embassy in your country of residence before travelling to Japan.


British nationals wishing to visit Japan for three months or less for business, tourism or family purposes etc (but not to work for a local employer) may do so without a visa. You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket. Please visit www.fco.gov.uk for up to date information. US Nationals can visit www.state.gov to check on entry requirements. 

Included

  • 4 Nights hotel accommodation in Kyoto.
  • 5 Nights minshuku or ryokan (guest house) accommodation on the Nakasendo trail and in Nara.
  • 1 Night in temple lodging in Mount Koya.
  • 10 Breakfasts
  • 4 evening meals
  • Train tickets from Tokyo to the Nakasendo Trail, for intermediate journeys on the Nakasendo Trail, from the Nakasendo Trail to Nara, from Nara to Mount Koya, and from Mount Koya to Kyoto.
  • Detailed information pack with local travel information, detailed route notes, topographical maps and hints and tips.
  • Telephone support from our local, English speaking, representative.

Excluded

  • International flights.
  • Travel to Tokyo/from Kyoto
  • Transportation costs other than the train tickets above - at the start of the Nakasendo Trail, the bus from Nakatsugawa to Magome is payable locally, the Osaka city subway rides between Shin-Osaka and Namba are payable locally.
  • Drinks with meals
  • Lunches
  • Evening meals in Tokyo, Nara and Kyoto
  • Local buses
  • Baggage forwarding is not included, though we provide instructions for how this can be easily arranged.

Extras

  • Additional nights
  • Guided sightseeing tours in Tokyo and Kyoto.
  • Singe room supplement if single rooms required.

We are often asked the following questions and I hope that you will find the answers useful. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries.

How far in advance do I need to book?

We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the region is extremely popular especially during the spring and autumn months. However, we will always try our best to accommodate your plans.

How fit do I need to be?

The walk is graded easy to moderate and the longer walking days can be shortened if you want to cut down the distance. On most days you will be walking between 2 and 6 hours so you should be an occassional to regular walker to get the most from the trip or do so training prior to the trip.

How do the baggage transfers work?

Luggage transfer is not included during your walk. Your accommodation during the walk provide robes to wear in the evening and shoes are not worn inside, so you only need your hiking gear and can travel very light. In Japan there is an overnight luggage forwarding service which is cheap, reliable and costs about £12 per bag per day.

On this tour we recommend forwarding your luggage from Tokyo to Kiso-Fukushima (Day 4) from Kiso-Fukushima to Nara (Day 6), and from Nara to Kyoto (Day 10). You carry overnight essentials for your overnight stays in Narai, Tsumago and Mount Koya. Our information pack has full details of how to use this service, which is really easy and booked locally.

Which is the best airport to fly to?

The best airport to arrive at is Tokyo Narita (NRT), which has flights from international destinations. Ideally you should book an open jaw ticket departing from Osaka Kansai Airport (KIX) which is the closest airport to Kyoto or alternatively try and get your airline to throw the internal flight in. You can also fly out of Tokyo Narita (NRT) and take an internal flight or the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo (3h30) at the end of your tour.

Can you accommodate specific dietary requirements?

Yes, please just let us know at the time of booking. Most food during the walk is Japanese style. It is worth mentioning however that many dishes do contain the ubiquitous Japanese fish stock called dashi which is an ingredient in many soups and sauces so it is helpful if you are able to accept dishes containing this.

Do I need to speak Japanese?

No, our detailed info pack and a little bit of effort on your part will get you by. Most signs are also in English. Our specialist Laura travelled to Japan in 2014 and you can read her experience of travelling in Japan with little language skills on the blog.

What personal equipment do I need?

You will need good walking shoes/boots, comfortable walking clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers, a daypack, warm clothing in the early/late part of the year and hats etc during the summer. We supply a detailed packing list with your information pack.  

When is the best time of year?

It is tough to beat the spring months of April and May but the summer months from June to September are also great as are the autumn colours in October and November.

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

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macs adventureNakasendo Trail, Tokyo, Kyoto, Mount Koya & Nara
 
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(based on 1 review)

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4.0

Loved this trip

By Karla

from CA. USA

About Me Occasional Traveller, World Traveller

Verified Reviewer

Pros

  • Fun
  • Great Accommodations
  • Once in a Lifetime Experience
  • Well Organised

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Holiday
    • Relaxation
    • Trying Something New

    Comments about macs adventure Nakasendo Trail, Tokyo, Kyoto, Mount Koya & Nara:

    Great accommodations and itinerary which we altered slightly to meet our needs. Would have liked another day in Mt. Koya. Walking directions somewhat confusing and unclear not matching with the pictures shown.

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