Japan self guided trekking vacation, Nakasendo Trail

“Walking along one of Japan’s oldest trails, stay at traditional inns and enjoy abundance of hot spring baths. An eastern edification if ever there was one.”

Highlights

Four days of village-to-village walking on Nakasendo Trail | Kisa Valley walks | Imperial Nara | Kyoto | Tokyo – Sacred Mount Koya | Stay in shukubo temple lodging – Stay in ryokan inns | Hot spring baths | Traditional meals

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Departure information

This trip can be tailormade at a time to suit you and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
Our top tip:
Make the most of the hot spring bath facilities and immerse yourself in divine Japanese culture.
Trip type:
Self-guided tailor made trip, with varying lengths.
Activity level:
Easy to moderate, with some very gradual ascents. 5 days of walking on 10 day trip.
Accomm:
minshuku guesthouses and ryokan inns. One night in temple lodgings. Hotel in Tokyo/Kyoto.
Included:
Accomm., breakfasts, Trail dinners, train tickets, map, Kyoto guide.
Solos:
This trip can be tailored for solo travelers at extra cost.
Vouchers
Accepted

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Japan self guided trekking vacation, Nakasendo Trail

Environment

You will experience the ‘satoyama’ landscape of rural Japan, the border area between arable flat land where rice is grown, and the mountains. Managed sustainably over centuries, it is biologically diverse and supports a wide variety of wildlife. The presence of small-scale tourism in the Kiso Valley has encouraged the conservation of these areas, and discouraged the development of golf-courses and other projects which have negative effects on the local biodiversity. We support conservation through the Nature Conservancy Council of Japan.

Community

The villages you will visit along the Kiso Valley section of the Nakasendo trail were, until the 1970s, falling into disrepair and with few jobs, young people were moving to the cities. The villagers then began a concerted conservation and restoration effort, repairing the old wooden houses, and turning some of them into small ‘minshuku’ guest houses. Over the past 30 years this gradual conservation has continued, and the Kiso Valley villages have enjoyed a steady stream of income and sustainable development from the visitors who come.

You will be staying at these traditional ‘machiya’ houses, some over 200 years old. They are owned and run by several generations of one family, and all income from visitors stays in the village and brings the benefit of jobs for the younger generation. Your food will be prepared from locally-sourced fish, meat, and vegetables. Many owners also grow their own vegetables and rice. We support The Japan National Trust which helps protect the traditional buildings of rural Japan.

11 Reviews of Japan self guided trekking vacation, Nakasendo Trail

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 02 May 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


We loved the beautiful walks and meeting the super kind inn keepers. A highlight was the tea house on the way to Tsumago, in the rain.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Japan is fabulous. The people are helpful. Don't be scared. Just go!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Awesome!

Reviewed on 24 Apr 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


We loved the whole thing - staying in the traditional inns, the self-guided hiking, the beautiful scenery, the hot spring bathing areas and, of course, the food.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


This trip was well organised enough for you to feel like you have your independence and at the same time, all the logistics are organised for you. The maps and trail directions are really clear and easy to follow. The inns we stayed in were of really high quality, the people were friendly and the transportation was easy to figure out. The hike meanders through forests, bamboo groves, and through villages and hamlets, so there is a wonderful glimpse of old Japan to see.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It benefited local people and the villages we passed through.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I thought it was brilliant. Lovely to get away from the masses of people in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kamkura. Very well organised, excellent hospitality, lovely trails
through the forests and valley.

Reviewed on 30 Mar 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The trail was remote, stunning, quiet and interesting. The ryokans were spotless and the food fresh and continuing perfect.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Check train times and organise walking to ensure arrival to meet time. Check food availability on route carefully.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I'm sure we supported the local villages. The upkeep of the heritage ryokans and villages is aprreciated and accurate.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Perfect

Reviewed on 22 Sep 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Hiking the Nakasendo trail, seeing smaller towns, and staying at the ryokan in Kiso-Fukushima were extraordinary.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Do it! But, don't carry a heavy pack; the trail can be challenging. Use the luggage courier services and train station lockers when possible.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Low impact is encouraged in many ways. The trail preserves history and culture. Its use respects that history and provides some economic benefits to trail towns.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Superior!

Reviewed on 17 May 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Being immersed in the history surrounding the Tokugawa Shogunate period whilst enjoying the culture and hospitality of modern Japan in this beautiful mountain region.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Whilst the journey is a delightful walk, stop and enjoy the culture along the way. There are several museums in each town which will give you the historical exposure. Also, make sure you schedule the time to visit Matsumoto Castle. There are often locals whom provide a free tour escort service such that they can practice their language skills (other than Japanese) and you get a thorough understanding of the history.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Absolutely! In the towns of Magome, Tsumago and Narai through which the Nakasendo trail passes, the locals made the commitment some decades ago to preserve the history of this wonderful region. The visits by we tourists support their decision to conserve and maintain the past and enables them to continue for the benefit of future generations. We stayed in family inns which had been so for over 200 years with the sixth and seventh generation now looking after you.
Furthermore, on this vacation you use, entirely, your own legs or local public transport.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent

Reviewed on 16 Apr 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Walking the remote sections of Trail.Tour of Nara

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Trip requires good level of fitness both on the trail and city tours.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Post town shopping assisted local merchants and restaurants.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?



Reviewed on 29 Sep 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Walking the Nakasendo Trail and staying in the traditional Ryokans.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Do not worry if you do not want to undertake the walks you can find alternatives to do during the day. We met one older American couple who decided not to walk at all but simply explored the villages. We managed the walks with rucksacks even at our age. 66 and 71. Just take it slowly and pace yourself. Walking in the high temperature was not too much of a problem because most of the route is through the forests. We only gave up on the last walk when we reached the top of the pass due to the heavy rain. This also meant that the local cafes were closed and the local bus did not run.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, we gave employment to local people and transport. Our only comment would be that we hoped the leftovers to our delicious meals would not be wasted but put to good use.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


A great experience. We felt we had a very good introduction and understanding of Japan. We liked the combination of historic city, modern capital contrasting with rural Japan. Very well organized.

Reviewed on 01 Sep 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Experiencing the sincere and warm hospitality of Japanese Riokans and trekking by the wild forests of this uneven populated country.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Summer weather conditions are tough. If possible better go during autumn or spring months.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Local providers were clearly benefited and, the use of public transport reduced environmental impact.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Great, the organisation was very good, the cultural inmersion was inspiring and the landscape was surprising.

Reviewed on 08 Jun 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Walking through remote woods and forests on the Nakasendo trail and coming across ancient shrines and stonework commemorating centuries old samurai battles.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take your time on the walks - it's an easy schedule.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes - used local inns and restaurants. Low footprint when on the trail...

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent - thank you.

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The abandoned bus on the way down from Usuitoge; the last hour of the climb up Nenouetoge; the fabulous variety of the accommodation; the (very amusing) shock of Kuruizawa after four days in the bush and most previously the quiet
dignity of Narai. Eating fubu. The tour of the rafter structure of the ryokan at Narai. The nightly feasts.

But that's the short list.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Make sure you take every opportunity to walk. The two long walks are both, for different reasons, outstanding experiences. They're not talked up in the notes nearly as well as they should be.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Probably helped the ryokans with off season trade. Quite a lot of cheerful interaction along the way. Apart from train travel, very limited environmental impact. Conservation of the natural or historical social environment? Probably limitd
impact either way.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


It was all a very fine experience. Terrific organisation, didn't miss a beat anywhere; great choices of accommodation/food. It was our fourth week in Japan which made it easier, but it also was a consummate way to finish up. The combination of physical, topographical and cultural stimulation provided by this sort of travel is very very hard to beat. There were several occasions where I was simply floaty with delight. A knockout.

The five star criterion suggests uniqueness, but we've had other wonderful experiences doing similar things in other parts of the world. Equal best. Wonderful. A '5' if I can say that.

Reviewed on 28 Apr 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing the old villages and towns along our walk - meeting so many friendly and helpful people in surroundings completely different from our own.
And the food - different, flavorful, every meal exquisitely presented and excellent.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


The monastery at Koya San is NOT centrally heated, but very efficient kerosene heaters are provided. It is not as basic as was anticipated - the welcome, onsen bath surroundings were great and the cuisine though vegetarian was superb

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Certainly benefitted local people. Our environmental impact was hopefully minimal.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent plus. Logistically, gastronomically, scenically - in every way

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