Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Nakasendo Way walking tour
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Highlights

  • The beautifully preserved Nakasendo post towns such as Tsumago & Narai
  • Walking through the beautiful Kiso Valley on the Nakasendo Trail
  • Following in the footsteps of the Tokugawa Shoguns on the road through the mountains
  • Staying in small beautiful traditional ryokan and minshuku
  • Sumptuous evening meals beautifully presented at the family table
  • Discovering the beauty, tradition and hospitality of rural Japan

Walk The Nakasendo Trail, a route used since feudal times and part of a network of ancient highways which links Kyoto and Tokyo through the central mountains.

This tour includes only the walking section of our longer Nakasendo Trail from Kyoto to Tokyo and starts on day 1 when you catch the train and bus to Magome, where your 5 day walk on the Nakasendo Way begins.

Following ancient paved village paths and mountain trails you walk between perfectly preserved Nakasendo post towns such as Tsumago, Nojiri, Yabuhara and Hirasawa. Each night you will stay in small local minshuku or ryokan where you will be welcomed as one of the family. Impeccable service, beautiful rooms and delicious food are the hallmark of these charming establishments, which will no doubt be a highlight of your trip. Your walk ends in Yokokawa where you catch the train to Tokyo.

Day 1: Travel to Magome & Walk to Tsumago

Travel 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, 415m descent, 3 hours


Dinner & Overnight: Family-run minshuku in Tsumago.


DAY 2: Walk Tsumago to Nojiri & Train to Kiso-Fukushima

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, 820m ascent, 1060m descent, 6 hours (shorter option available to reduce walk to 1 hour)


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


DAY 3: Train to Yabuhara. Walk 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: 6.2 km, 270m ascent, 270m descent, 3 hours


Dinner & Overnight: An Edo-period house converted into a minshuku (family-run travellers’ inn) in Narai


DAY 4: Walk Narai to Kiso Hirasawa & Train to Karuizawa

From Narai you walk the short distance to Kiso Hirasawa, then continue to Karuizawa by train via Matsumoto and Nagano. 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.


Continue by train (2 hours) to Karuizawa, a former post-town which is now famous as a summer resort.


Walk: 2.5km negligible ascent and descent, 2 hours (from Narai to Kiso-Hirasawa and in Karuizawa)


Dinner & Overnight: Tsuruya Ryokan, Karuizawa is a venerable, Meiji-era ryokan


DAY 5: Walk from Karuizawa to Yokokawa: 6hrs & Train to Tokyo

Start by hiking up to Touge, and then a long, gentle descent through beautiful forests to the town of Sakamoto-juku, and continue on to Yokokawa. From there, board your train for Tokyo (2 hours). It is also possible to shorten this day by taking a short taxi (arranged locally, small extra cost) to Touge to cut this day down to 4-5 hours walking.


Walk: 17km, 375m ascent, 850m descent, 5 - 6 hours


Overnight: Not included. Tokyo recommended

Accommodation


We use local family-run minshuku (guest houses) in the juku (post towns) each night. They 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.


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.



 

 

 



Daikichi Minshuku



Daikichi Minshuku - Tsumago

Located along the Nakasendo trail in the post-town of Tsumago-juku, Daikichi is run by three generations of the same family and is one of the family-run minshuku we use in Tsumago.


 

 

 


 

 

 



Komanoyu Ryokan



Komanoyu Ryokan

A beautiful ryokan with with lovely big, onsen baths with indoor and outdoor sections.


 

 

 

Availability

This trip is available to start on any day of the week subject to availability between 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 are now extremely busy for the months of April and May 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. 


Meals 

Japanese cuisine is the highlight of many people’s visit to Japan, and this is especially the case on the Nakasendo Trail. 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 and minshuku 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.


Baggage Transfers

Luggage transfer is not included during your walk as standard and you have a couple of options here. The first option is to arrange luggage transfers by a service called Takkyubin which is a courier service in Japan and can only be booked in Japan. This is cheap, reliable and costs approx £12 per day. With this service your bags will not be moved each day but instead will be waiting for you at your accommodation a couple of nights later. On the Nakasendo trail we recommend forwarding your luggage from Kyoto
(or wherever you are staying before the walk) to Kiso-Fukushima. You carry overnight essentials in your daypack for your night in Tsumago. You then forward your luggage from Kiso-Fukushima to Tokyo (or wherever you are staying after the walk); you carry your overnight essentials for your nights in Narai and Karuizawa. Our information pack has full details of how to use this service, which is really easy.


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.


The other option is to arrange a daily baggage transfer service if you prefer to access your bag every night and this can be booked in advance through ourselves. Daily Luggage Transfer offers the option of bringing luggage by train and bus to the trail, and then having it transferred from inn to inn on a daily basis. However, as it can be quite difficult to navigate public transport with luggage, we recommend Takkubin as the most convenient method. On the Nakasendo Trail this service is available from Magome through to Narai. You will need to carry your bags with you from Narai onwards.


Grade & Terrain

The route is graded as moderate. The walking is mostly on paved village paths and unpaved mountain trails, with some gentle ascents and descents. On most days you will be walking for between 2 and 6 hours and ideally you should be a regular walker to get the most from the trip or do some training prior to the trip. The walk is highly customisable and we can advise which days to leave out if you want a shorter or more gentle walk.


Navigation

The route 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.


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, emergency evacuation and hospital care.


General Information:

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


Getting around

Your package includes all the train tickets which you will require for use for transfers during your tour. The public transport system in Japan in world class and your pre departure information pack has detailed information tickets, trains and how to travel internally.


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 Osaka Kansai Airport (KIX), which has flights from international destinations. Ideally you should book an open jaw ticket departing from Tokyo 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) to Kyoto (3h30).


The West Japan Rail Company operates services between Kansai Airport and Osaka/Kyoto. For timetable information please visit http://www.westjr.co.jp/global.en/travel-information/timetable. The Airport Express HARUKA (Kansai Airport Line) takes approx 75 mins to Kyoto.


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


Getting around


Your package includes a 7 day Japan Rail Pass which you will use for transfers during your tour. The public transport system in Japan in world class and your pre departure information pack has detailed information tickets, trains and how to travel internally.


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.

Included

  • 4 Nights minshuku or ryokan (guest house) accommodation on the Nakasendo trail
  • 4 Breakfasts
  • 4 evening meals
  • Train tickets from either Kyoto or Tokyo to the start of the walk and from Yokokawa to Tokyo
  • 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
  • Drinks with meals
  • Lunches
  • Local bus is on day 4, and should be paid locally (around ¥800, £5 or $9)
  • Baggage forwarding is not included, though we provide instructions for how this can be easily arranged locally or you can pre-book as an optional extra

Extras

  • Extra Nights in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka (prices on request for Kyoto or Osaka)
  • Single Room Supplement
  • Daily Luggage Transfers (Magome to Narai)

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 fit do I need to be?

The route is graded as moderate. The walking is mostly on paved village paths and unpaved mountain trails, with some gentle ascents and descents. On most days you will be walking for between 2 and 6 hours and ideally you should be a regular walker to get the most from the trip or do some training prior to the trip. The walk is highly customisable and we can advise which days to leave out if you want a shorter or more gentle walk.

Which is the best airport to fly to?

The best airport to arrive at is Osaka Kansai Airport (KIX), which has flights from international destinations. Ideally you should book an open jaw ticket departing from Tokyo 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) to Kyoto (3h30).

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 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. 

Can my luggage be transferred?

Luggage transfer is not included during your walk as standard and you have a couple of options here. The first option is to arrange luggage transfers by a service called Takkyubin which is a courier service in Japan and can only be booked in Japan. This is cheap, reliable and costs approx £12 per day. With this service your bags will not be moved each day but instead will be waiting for you at your accommodation a couple of nights later. On the Nakasendo trail we recommend forwarding your luggage from Kyoto (or wherever you are staying before the walk) to Kiso-Fukushima. You carry overnight essentials in your daypack for your night in Tsumago. You then forward your luggage from Kiso-Fukushima to Tokyo (or wherever you are staying after the walk); you carry your overnight essentials for your nights in Narai and Karuizawa. Our information pack has full details of how to use this service, which is really easy.

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.

The other option is to arrange a daily baggage transfer service if you prefer to access your bag every night and this can be booked in advance through ourselves. Daily Luggage Transfer offers the option of bringing luggage by train and bus to the trail, and then having it transferred from inn to inn on a daily basis. However, as it can be quite difficult to navigate public transport with luggage, we recommend Takkubin as the most convenient method. On the Nakasendo Trail this service is available from Magome through to Narai. You will need to carry your bags with you from Narai onwards.

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.

Nakasendo

5

Very well organized: tickets, maps, hike description and accommodations. Not strenuous at all. The first 2 days hiking through the countryside and the villages were lovely. On the following days the hikes were to often on paved roads which we didn't like at all.

Ursula

Hawaii

true

Wonderful hike in the Japanese mountains.

5

We had fantastic days walking the Nakasendo trail. The distances are shorter than on most other hikes we've done, but there is quite a lot of ups and downs, which make them seem longer than the actual distances. Still, there were only two real full hiking days, and one with just a very short hike, so we wouldn't have minded a little more hiking. Despite that, hiking was wonderful with beautiful and varied landscapes, traditional villages and interesting things to see. The maps and the guidebooks didn't really match each other and reality, and we were confused about the way quite a few times. It was generally better to follow the signs along the trail, although they also were not 100% clear. I advise anyone hiking this trail to use all extra options suggested, such as the optional waterfall hike, which was one of the highlights of the trip. Also, on the last day the guidebook suggested we take a taxi the first trip. That would have meant that we missed the most beautiful hike, through gorgeous forest landscape. We didn't encounter many other hikers on the trip, except for on the inns in the evenings. On the last part of the last day, the hike felt very remote. It was a wet and misty day with beautiful forest, but we encountered quite a lot of leeches. This is mentioned in the guidebook, but worth preparing for. Then it is a very steep climb downhill, where you have to be careful in wet weather. On the end of that day, we encountered several families of monkeys, very close, which was a great memory. The idea of traveling small stretches with train worked well, although we would of course have preferred not having to think about catching a train. Accommodation was great, very traditional which we really liked, and meals were splendid, especially on the last night. I have no hesitation in recommending this trail and would love to hike more in Japan.

Cecilia

Stockholm, Sweden

true

Hike through rural Japanese valleys and mountains

5

The Nakasendo Trail takes you through Japaneses forests of Cedars and Maples. The trail is well marked and developed. It is broken up by some train rides to get to the best walking paths. Accommodations are traditional Japanese Inns. Some are small and basic and others have more amenities. The Japanese food was wonderful, particularly at the Fujioto Ryokan in Tsumago. I injured my knee on the last day of the trek. The staff of the Tsuruya Ryokan (Mr. M Sato) were very helpful getting me medical care and then on the train to Tokyo.

JonC

Washington State

true

Tranquility

4

This selected sections of the Nakasendo Trail is a wonderful experience for any occasional/older walker. Longest stretch was 18 km, but not strenuous and generally 8-9 km per day. All accommodations were of a high standard and the food provided was a delight to the eyes. The signing and guidebook kept us in the right direction with very little deliberation. Our trip was in late October so the forest colours were stunning and the weather was kind; minimum 15 Celsius and maximum 23 Celsius; making for extremely pleasant walking conditions. All connections on public transport were expertly coordinated and in place for us, making each day stress free.

Jules

Singapore

true

Wonderful experience

5

Wonderful experience. Accommodations were very authentic, service excellent and meals a wonderful experience for all senses. Accommodations on Day 3 were adequate but Minshuku did not have much character. However, food and service were excellent and they had a regular bed for us, which our western bones appreciated! Would definitely recommend this trip! The only change I would make would be adding some hiking on Day 4, but perhaps there are no trails in that area?

Patricia

Shoreview, MN, USA

true

Konnichiwa!

5

This was a wonderful experience after spending 12 days travelling at a much faster rate with a group from Tokyo to the far south. It was so good to slow right down and experience a very rural, historical and traditional part of Japan at walking pace - even in the pouring rain!

CatMac

Dumfries

true

Wonderful experience!

5

Our family (two adults and two teenagers) loved this hike and experience! The scenery was even better than expected - so lovely! And we really enjoyed walking through small towns and meeting local people. Everyone we met was very friendly and helpful. It's great that our materials suggested several optional experiences (going to see a castle, visiting small shops, hiking up a waterfall). These were excellent. The hike description guidebook was a little confusing, and not necessary. We found it easier just to follow the signs and maps along the trail. We also found that asking at tourist info places and train stations allowed us more timing flexibility than was mentioned in the materials.

Listfam

USA

true

Nakazendo Trail

4

The tour is generally well organised throughout. There was a small hiccup at the beginning of the tour in that the train tickets to two customers were not found in the envelop at the hotel, causing some confusions and anxiety. This mistake can be avoided if the itinerary, maps, and train tickets could be sent to us before our departure from Hong Kong. Any missing information or tickets can be detected at any early stage and rectified beforehand. Luckily, the mistake was quickly fixed and the walk could start the next morning on time.

Chan's Travel

Hong Kong

true

We had a wonderful experience

5

Our one day guide in Kyoto was fun and so informative. We loved seeing rural Japan. We loved the communal bathes. The trail was beautiful and the villages so historically interesting.

Two walkers

Portland OR

true

A good and well organized trip.

4

Oku did an excellent job with the accomodations and train tickets. With the notable exception of the last day, the trail signage was in English and Japanese making it very easy to follow. There were, however, two problems that should be addressed. First, the Ikariya Machida had no sign in Engish to identify them and after walking Narai 3 times and having two different Japanese helpers we still could not find it. Finally the tourist office had to find it for us and walk us there. Second, the trail guide from Karuizawa to Yokokawa needs work. The first turn on the trail after leaving the village at Usui-toge Pass is very confusing and important to get correct. There were actually 3 trails turning right and it could have been any of them. Worse, the photograph of the turn was taken from the other directions, coming up the trail we were suppose to go down. You should mention the numerous small shrines at the trail turn, the fact that two trails are right next to each other, and that it is the right hand trail of the pair that one should take. Take a new picture from the right direction. Several of the other pictures of important turns or landmarks along the trail were also photographed from the wrong direction. This may seem trivial to you but this was very stressful. The trail is very remote and one would have to walk several kilometers down a steep trail before knowing they had gone the wrong way. Couple this with having to catch the train and not having an Oku reserved hotel to report us missing if we got lost and itcreated a lot of needless anxiety.

Richard

Park City, Utah

true

Nakasendo Trail - Kyoto to Tokyo

4.7 23

100.0

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