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Winter Nakasendo Way


7 Days , 6 Nights

Activity Level

Start / Finish

Nagoya / Matsumoto

Technical Level

Winter walk centred on the Kiso Road section of the Nakasendo Way.

The winter rendition of the classic walking tour of Japan, the Nakasendo Way. Guided tour to Gifu and Nagano Prefectures in the footsteps of travellers over the centuries. A beautiful region that takes on a special wintry hue. Warm accommodation and generously hearty food aside the old highway and on the Kaida Plateau.

December - March.

The Winter Nakasendo Way is a fully-guided tour suitable for anyone who can walk at a gentle pace for three to four hours in comfort. In general, the route is gently undulating but it also includes some short, steeper climbs. The lower temperatures of winter include the probability of snow at some points along the route, hence the slightly higher difficulty rating than our regular Nakasendo Way tour. Please bear in mind, however, that roads and alternative transport are never far away, should we encounter difficult weather conditions. Please read more on Tour Levels here.


A 7-day, 6-night tour starting in Nagoya and finishing in Matsumoto. Accommodation is mainly in traditional 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.


Timed to include both the Western and the Chinese New Year holiday periods, Walk Japan's Winter Nakasendo Way tour provides modern-day walkers with a comfortable taste of Edo Period Japan in winter. We cross several high passes, where encountering snow is likely, but the emphasis is on comfort and each day we find warm welcomes and surroundings in Japanese inns. Here we can relax, on one occasion around an open hearth fire, and enjoy the excellent meals of locally sourced produce that are a feature of all Walk Japan's tours. Thermal hot spring baths are another feature of the Winter Nakasendo Way. Always a joy and a great way to wind down at the end of any day, these are particularly enticing during the winter months.


We begin our tour on the lowlands of Nagoya then transfer by train to the Nakasendo Way’s mountainous central section, which is also often known as the Kiso Road. Here, in the depths of the Japanese countryside, we begin our walk. On the first day we pass by farming communities, stepped fields and bamboo groves before a last stretch along a preserved section of ishidatami stone paving that brings us to our first inn. Over the following days, we walk through the picturesque post-towns of Magome and Tsumago, traverse farmlands and forests, stay in an atmospheric traditional village inn, continue our walk over a high pass and visit a historic barrier station of Kiso-Fukushima.


We visit Kaida Kogen, a high plateau that is, with good reason, self-styled as one of the most beautiful areas in Japan. Our walk continues over another pass on the Hida Way, which connected Takayama with the Nakasendo Way. The pass provides spectacular views of Mt. Ontake, a sacred peak and active volcano. We walk to our inn for the night which has its own natural thermal hot springs. The next day we return to the Nakasendo Way and another lovely walk over a high pass to the post town of Narai. The tour finishes in the city of Matsumoto, ideally situated for those who wish to travel on to Tokyo or Kyoto, as well as those who would like to continue their winter adventures in the Central Mountains of Nagano Prefecture, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics.


Our Winter Nakasendo Way tour follows some of the most scenic and enjoyable sections of the old highway – this is a walking tour, rather than a trek, and average daily walking distance is a moderate 10km (6.2 miles). Forward transport, however, can be arranged for those who desire a more relaxed day. Our main luggage is sent ahead each day and you need only carry what you require for each day’s walk.


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 Winter Nakasendo Way trip is ground-only, beginning in Nagoya and ending in Matsumoto. From Matsumoto it is an easy train journey to either Tokyo, Nagoya or Kyoto. Prior to the tour, Walk Japan will provide detailed instructions for travelling to the meeting point at Nagoya 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 our first Japanese inn experience of the tour. The 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, a former 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 walking together.


We reach our accommodation, set in a delightful location aside the old road, after a long climb, which we negotiate 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

From our accommodation, ahead lies the Kiso Road, the central section of the Nakasendo Way, which weaves through the beautifully verdant Kiso Valley. A short walk brings us to Magome, a delightful hillside post town that was home to Shimazaki Toson. Toson wrote Before the Dawn. Set in the days of Japan's change from a feudal country dominated by the samurai to a fledgling industrial nation, the book is considered to be Japan's first modern novel.


From here we continue on over the Magome Pass for the classic hike of the old highway through forests, aside fast-flowing streams. There is a reasonable probability that snow will cover our route as we descend from the Pass to our inn for the night in the hamlet of O-tsumago. Prior to dinner, we visit an onsen thermal hot spring bath for a relaxing end to the day.


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


Day 4 O-tsumago - Kiso-Fukushima

Walk onto Tsumago and spend time exploring this beautifully maintained, traditional post town. We visit the excellent Waki-honjin high-class inn and attached museum before walking 4.5km (2.8 miles) to Nagiso. Here, an interesting footbridge provides us with a hint of two colourful people once associated with the area; a geisha, who appeared on the front of Harper's Bazaar magazine in 1900, and her tycoon partner. We catch a train to Kiso-Fukushima, where we have lunch. The exploration of this town that follows includes a visit to the reconstructed barrier station that stood here during the Edo Period. Our accommodation in the centre of town is a Japanese inn with thermal hot spring baths.


Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 9km (5.6 miles).
Total elevation gain: 107m (351 ft).


Day 5 Kiso-Fukushima - Kaida Plateau

After breakfast, we transfer to the beginning of our walk through the snowy landscapes of the Kaida Plateau. The plateau, regarded as one of the most beautiful areas in Japan, has a distinct alpine feel and we reach over 1,300 metres (4,265 ft.) as we crest our pass for the day. Clear weather will provide us with views to Mt. Ontake (3,007 metres, 9,865ft.), the active volcano that dominates the area. Depending on snow conditions, we may use snowshoes to make our way. Our accommodation, another with onsen baths, is set in a small hamlet on the plateau.


Accommodation: Japanese inn.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: 5km (3.2 miles).
Total elevation gain: 264m (866 ft).


Day 6 Kaida Plateau - Matsumoto

We transfer to Yabuhara for our walk today over the Torii Pass, through forests to the lovely post town of Narai. Depending on the snow depth, we may use our snowshoes again today to crest the pass. There is some free time to explore, relax in cafes and shop in Narai before travelling onto Matsumoto and our hotel, a charming and comfortable establishment in the centre of the city, where we enjoy our last meal together.


Accommodation: Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Total walking: approx. 10km (6.2 miles).
Total elevation gain: 373m (1,223 ft).


Day 7 Matsumoto

After breakfast a guided visit to Matsumoto's impressive castle, one of only four listed as national treasures in Japan. The Winter Nakasendo Way tour ends after visiting the castle, but your Walk Japan tour leader will be on hand to help you purchase your train tickets for your onward journey within Japan. Travel to Tokyo, Nagoya or Kyoto is easily accomplished from here by train.


Accommodation: N/A.
Meals: Breakfast provided.
Total walking: approx. 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 complementary 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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