Outside a minshuku

Macs Adventure, Walking

Walking in Japan – the Nakasendo or the Kumano Kodo Trail?

7 Aug , 2014  

Here at Macs Adventure we offer two fantastic walking holidays in Japan – the Nakasendo Trail and the Kumano Kodo Trail. The Nakasendo Trail goes through rural Japan and the central mountains on a route used since feudal times which linked Kyoto and Tokyo. The Kumano Kodo Trail is one of a series of pilgrim’s trail dating back to the 11th century which lead to the three grand shines of Kumano in the remote Kii Peninsula.

Both walks are spectacular in their own right and both give you a really authentic, off-the-beaten path experience of ‘real’ Japan but they are both quite different walks each with their own unique qualities to offer. Here are my recommendations for why you should choose either the Nakasendo Trail, or the Kumano Kodo Trail (if you can’t do both that is!)

The Nakasendo Trail


Whilst the walking is by no means easy, the days are mostly quite short and it is highly customisable. There is some ascent and descent involved but nothing too strenuous (the toughest day involves approx 700m of ascent but this can be shortened if required) so it makes for a fairly relaxed walk giving you plenty of time to explore the villages when you arrive.

The villages you stop at on the Nakasendo Trail are very pretty and delightfully quaint. If you enjoy visiting local craft shops then places like Tsumago and Magome have plenty of them and you will be able to purchase some lovely authentic Japanese gifts to take home to your friends and family

As you walk through forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar you really feel like you are in Japan. Even though you don’t climb up that high, as you come to clearings in the forest the views over the valleys are spectacular!

An overnight stay at Komanoyu Ryokan in Kiso-Fukushima is a real experience and highlight of the Nakasendo Trail! This beautiful Ryokan is a very luxurious experience  Рtheir food is delicious and the outdoor hot spring baths are very special.

Find out more about walking the Nakasendo Trail on our website.

The Kumano Kodo Trail

Kumano Kodo 2 (3)

On the Kumano Kodo

If you would prefer a bit more of a challenge and prefer more challenging walking then the Kumano Kodo Trail may suit you better. The mountains you pass through are not the highest but this trail does involve quite a bit of ascent and descent and the terrain underfoot is a bit more tricky. You walk through heavily forested mountain trails which have you feeling quite in the wilderness.

As you walk through the mountains between remote villages on the Kumano Kodo trail you can enjoy the Pilgrim experience and imagine what it must have been like for the imperial family and aristocrats who made this pilgrimage dating back to the 10th century. As you encounter the various oji shrines along the route where the Imperial family and aristocrats performed purification rituals and prayed for protection on their pilgrimage,  you do feel very spiritually aware and in touch with nature.

  • The villages on the Kumano Kodo are quieter and more remote than on the Nakasendo Trail so it gives you a much more rural experience.
  • An overnight stay in the village of Yunomine Onsen is quite the highlight as it is one of the oldest natural hot spring onsen villages in Japan. Here you will be served eggs which have been boiled in onsen waters and the healing properties of the water here are quite amazing!

Find out more about walking the Kumano Kodo Trail here.

Here is a little overview video of my time in Japan, which may help you out with which walk to choose.

I hope this helps you decide which is the right walk in Japan for you or if you can do both even better!

I loved my time in Japan, and if you’d like any advice please get in touch via [email protected] and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Laura By
I am never happier than when out on the road discovering new places and meeting new people. I have been lucky enough to work in every area of Macs Adventure from our UK team, to Europe and now Worldwide. I love helping people discover new places - whether that be the beautiful and rugged south coast of England, the gelato bars and cliff top paths of the Amalif Coast or the beautiful mountains and countryside of the Kumano Kodo Trail in Japan!