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Summer Nakasendo Way


8 Days , 7 Nights

Activity Level

Start / Finish

Nagoya / Matsumoto

Technical Level

A summer walking tour in central Japan.

The summer version of Walk Japan’s pioneering Nakasendo Way, adapted to the season's weather. Guided tour that makes the most of the most verdant time of the year as we make our way from one historical post town to another. Wayside inns and friendly hosts provide us with regional delicacies.

July & August.

The Summer Nakasendo Way tour is a fully-guided tour suitable for anyone who can walk for more than three to four hours in comfort. In general, the route is gently undulating but it also includes some short, steeper climbs. Temperatures and humidity are higher in the Japanese summer, hence the slightly higher difficulty rating than our regular Nakasendo Way tour. Please read more on Tour Levels here.


An 8-day, 7-night tour starting in Nagoya and finishing in Matsumoto. Accommodation is in Japanese inns and a hotel. The maximum group size for this tour is 12 persons. We have no minimum size. If we accept a booking we guarantee to run the tour.


Walk Japan's Summer Nakasendo Way tour takes us to areas at higher altitudes and is designed to provide a comfortable walking experience in summer. It explores the best sections of one of Japan's ancient highways, the Nakasendo; the lovely Kaida Plateau; and Matsumoto, a delightful regional city dominated by its castle, which is registered as a Japanese National Treasure.


Firstly, we explore the mountainous central section of the Nakasendo Way, an old road that starts in Kyoto and finishes in Tokyo. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Nakasendo was a strategic thoroughfare but with the advent of railways and then modern highways it largely fell from prominence. Today, it is a quiet backwater that provides a perfect way to explore Japan through bucolic countryside, Japanese history and society. Travellers of ages past lodged in the post towns, still evocative of an older age, that line the Nakasendo. We also find overnight accommodation here in friendly family-run inns, where, in the evenings, we relax and enjoy excellent meals in traditional surroundings.


Next, the Kaida Plateau provides a further welcome escape from the high heat and humidity of the lowlands. Kaida, at the southern end of the Central Alps, was first made famous in the 1880s by Walter Weston, a British missionary, inveterate explorer and mountain climber. Weston clambered all over the mountains of the region and also travelled along the Nakasendo. He wrote of his experiences in Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japanese Alps, his fascinating book that is still in print to this day. Our accommodation on the plateau is a lovely family-run Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths and a splendid view to Mt. Ontake-san, a volcano that provides a dramatic backdrop to the pastoral scenery surrounding us.


Matsumoto, our final destination, is an elegant regional city on a high plateau in the Central Alps. Once the seat of a daimyo samurai baron, Matsumoto retains its imposing tenshukaku castle keep, which still dominates the city.


Pilgrims of old were known to travel more for leisure than for avowedly sacred reasons. Similarly, this tour is for enjoyment and not a test of our mettle – though you may always stop to pray at the wayside temples and shrines if you wish. Average daily walking distances are a moderate 10–16km (6.2–10 miles). The porters and pack animals of ages past no longer exist. Instead, we use modern means to send our main luggage ahead so we can travel light while walking. Onward transport can also be arranged for those who desire a more relaxed day.


More information about the history of the Nakasendo highway is available at our complementary website Nakasendo Way: A Journey to the Heart of Japan.

This itinerary for the Summer Nakasendo Way trip is ground-only, beginning in Nagoya and ending in Matsumoto. Train connections are easily made between Nagoya or Matsumoto and Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, and further afield. Prior to the tour, Walk Japan will provide detailed instructions for travelling to the meeting point at Nagoya Railway Station from Osaka's Kansai Airport (KIX), Tokyo's Narita Airport (NRT) and Chubu (Nagoya) International Airport.


Day 1 Nagoya - Ena

The tour meets in Nagoya Station at 2pm for transfer by train to Ena for our first Japanese inn experience of the tour. Your Walk Japan tour leader holds the briefing here over dinner, a beautifully-presented kaiseki traditional dinner.


Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.
Total elevation gain: N/A.


Day 2 Ena - Magome

After breakfast, we visit a charming local museum before transferring to the start of our walk on the outskirts of Nakatsugawa, an old post town and now a pleasant regional town. In the afternoon, we continue along the old highway, passing quiet residences with carefully tended gardens, farmhouses and stepped paddy fields as we begin our climb to the Magome Pass, which we reach tomorrow. Wonderful views over the surrounding countryside make today memorable and an ideal way to begin our walking together.


We reach our accommodation, set in a delightful location aside the old road, after a long climb, though we negotiate this at a gentle pace. A warm welcome from our hosts awaits us at the top.


Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner provided.
Total walking: 10km (6.2 miles).
Total elevation gain: 288m (944 ft).


Day 3 Magome - O-tsumago

We walk to nearby Magome post town through bucolic countryside scattered with farmhouses surrounded by well-tended gardens. Magome, set on the side of a hill, was the home of Shimazaki Toson who wrote Before the Dawn, considered to be Japan's first modern novel.


We have time to explore the town and relax in one of the charming cafes before setting out on the classic hike of the Nakasendo over the Magome-toge Pass through verdant forests, aside crystal rivers to O-tsumago, a quiet hamlet in a deep forested valley. We stay the night here in a homely Japanese inn built in the distinctive traditional style of the region.


Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 10km (6.2 miles).
Total elevation gain: 461m (1,512ft).


Day 4 O-tsumago - Kiso-Fukushima

Today we walk to nearby Tsumago, a beautiful village and probably the best preserved example of a post town anywhere in Japan. We explore Tsumago before continuing along the Naksendo Way to Nagiso for a total morning walk of about 6km (3.7 miles). We have time to admire Momosuke-bashi, an impressive wooden footbridge, which is suspended across the Kiso River here. It was built by Momosuke Fukuzawa, an industrialist and colourful character active in Japan’s early modernisation. A short local train ride to Junikane, a small, unmanned station deep in the Kiso Valley, takes us to the start of our second walk of the day. Setting off, we soon pass under the Kakizore aqueduct, an impressive structure also built by Fukuzawa. Built in 1923, the aqueduct still funnels water to one of his hydro-electric dams, which are found throughout the Kiso Valley.


Following the course of the Kakizore River we pass through a delightful hamlet that is so peaceful that it seems the proverbial pin can be heard dropping. A gently rising path finally brings us to little-visited Ushiga-taki waterfalls. Cool waters cascading over bright, almost white rock into the clear emerald-green waters of the plunge pool are the highlight of our afternoon walk together. Our path continues on to Nojiri, where we again board a train for Kiso-Fukushima, the main town of the Kiso Valley. Here we stay in a pleasant modern Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths to revive us before settling down to a sumptuous evening meal.


Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 15km (9.3 miles).
Total elevation gain: 438m (1,437ft).


Day 5 Kiso-Fukushima - Kaida Plateau

After an early breakfast we enjoy a stroll around this historical town squeezed into a deep valley and include a visit to the reconstructed barrier station; a checkpoint of the Edo Period. We transfer by vehicle to the beginning of today's main walk along an old path, which we follow up over the Jizo Pass and then down onto the Kaida Plateau.


The plateau is dominated by Mt. Ontake, an active volcano that is considered sacred by a Buddhist sect. After lunch, the afternoon walk is an excursion over another high pass that, on a clear day, provides views high over the plateau to Mt. Ontake and some of the other mountains of Japan’s Central Alps. We descend from here to our accommodation, a delightful modern inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths set in a small village. We stay here for the next two nights.


Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 14km (8.7 miles).
Total elevation gain: 673m (2,210ft).


Day 6 Kaida Plateau - Nomugi Pass - Kaida Plateau

Today, we set out by vehicle to the start of our walk along part of the old Nomugi Road, which ran from Takayama to Matsumoto over the Nomugi Pass (1,672m/5,485.5ft.). A busy thoroughfare in both the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and Taisho Period (1912-1926), when young women walked this way to find work in the silk factories of the Matsumoto region, it is now a quiet backwater. Following the trail aside streams through forests of cedar, oak, beech and maple we climb a series of switchbacks to reach the pass. At the top we stop to enjoy the spectacular views to Mt. Norikura in Japan’s Central Alps and also to relax over a picnic lunch.


Our descent finally brings us to a reconstructed inn built in the local vernacular of Japan's mountainous central region. Here travellers of old, including the silk workers, would have found shelter for the night or rested awhile before journeying on. We take the latter option before transferring by vehicle back to our inn on the Kaida Plateau.


Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 7.4km (4.6 miles).
Total elevation gain: 337m (1,105ft).


Day 7 Kaida Plateau - Matsumoto

We return to Kiso-Fukushima to take a short local train ride to Yabuhara. From the station we walk 8km (5 miles) over the Torii-toge Pass through forests to another lovely post town, Narai. There is some free time here to explore, relax in cafes and shop before we transfer together by train to Matsumoto, nestled in Japan’s Central Alps on a plateau famous for its apples, grapes and wine. We spend the night in one of the city's venerable hotels.


Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 10km (6.2 miles).
Total elevation gain: 373m (1,220ft).


Day 8 Matsumoto

Breakfast in our hotel is followed by a guided visit to Matsumoto castle, one of only four listed as national treasures, and the city centre. The tour finishes after visiting the castle but Matsumoto has plenty more to explore if you wish to spend more time in the city on your own.


Express trains connect Matsumoto to Tokyo and Nagoya, where onward shinkansen bullet trains speed to Kyoto. Your tour leader will help you organise your tickets as required.


Accommodation: N/A.
Meals: Breakfast provided.
Total walking: 2km (1.2 miles).
Total elevation gain: N/A.


This itinerary is subject to change.


More information about the history of the Nakasendo highway is available at our dedicated website Nakasendo Way: A Journey to the Heart of Japan.

Map image
The itinerary for the Nakasendo Way: The Kiso Road tour is ground-only, beginning in Nagoya and ending in Matsumoto.


The airport closest to the tour’s start at Nagoya is Nagoya’s Central Japan Airport. Transport is also easily made from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport and both Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda International Airports.
From Nagoya’s Central Japan International Airport, Meitetsu Line trains depart to Nagoya. The journey costs about JPY1,340, per person and takes approximately 40 minutes.
From Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, Haruka Express trains depart to Shin-Osaka Station, where shinkansen bullet trains then depart for Nagoya. The journey costs about JPY8,300 per person and takes approximately 2 hours.
From Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport, Keikyu Line trains depart to Shinagawa Station, where shinkansen bullet trains then depart for Nagoya. The journey costs about JPY11,090 per person and takes approximately 2 hours.
From Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, Narita Express trains depart to Tokyo Station, where shinkansen bullet trains then depart for Nagoya. The journey costs about JPY13,470 per person and takes approximately 3 hours.


The pre-tour pack includes detailed instructions, including a map, for travel to the accommodation at the start of the tour.


Tour participants are advised not to book themselves out on an early morning flight at the end of the tour, as the journey from Matsumoto to the nearest international airport takes approximately 3 hours 30 minutes.

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