Combine the natural beauty of the Japanese Alps with visits to historic post towns in this 6-day walking adventure. Hike across mountain passes and descend into villages filled with craft shops, gorgeous architecture, and picturesque streets, all while enjoying dramatic views of the alpine scenery. End your trip with an unforgettable hike through Kamikochi Wetlands, but not before sleeping each night in traditional onsen ryokans and enjoying daily hot spring baths.

Highlights

  • Conquer Magome Pass and explore the post town village of Nakasendo
  • Discover the emerald waters of Kamikochi Wetlands in the Japanese Alps
  • Soak in hot-spring baths each night at traditional onsen ryokans
  • Enjoy the craftsmanship of traditional lacquerware in the town of Hirasawa
  • Hike through alpine forests and indulge in dramatic mountain scenery

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Magome - Hike to Tsumago and Nagiso Tsumago
Day 2 Hike the Wild Scenery from Nagiso to Nojiri Nagiso
Day 3 Explore Kiso-Fukushima - Enjoy a Forest Day Hike Kiso-Fukushima
Day 4 Hike to Narai - Discover the Lacquerware of Hirasawa Village Narai
Day 5 Walk Along the Emerald Waters of the Kamikochi Wetlands Kamikochi
Day 6 Hike in Oku-Hida - Explore Takayama and Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Magome - Hike to Tsumago and Nagiso

Traditional Japanese House
Traditional Japanese House

Welcome to Japan! After arriving in Tokyo or Kyoto, you'll take the train to Nakatsugawa, which includes a ride on the world-famous Shinkansen bullet train. In Nakatsugawa, you'll board a local bus for the short journey to Magome.

Your first hike of the trip starts in Magome, where you'll stretch your legs over Magome Pass all the way to Tsumago. Tsumago is one of the most preserved post towns in Nakasendo. You can stroll the charming streets lined with wooden houses and evergreen trees. In the afternoon, you'll transfer to your traditional onsen inn for the evening, a short drive from the main village of Tsumago.

Walking Details:

  • Distance: 7.5 miles (11 km)
  • Elevation gain: 1,069 feet (326 m) of ascent and 1,410 feet (430 m) of descent
  • Time required: About 3 hours

Day 2: Hike the Wild Scenery from Nagiso to Nojiri

Traditional Hot Springs Baths
Traditional Hot Springs Baths

Today is your longest walking day, complete with a beautiful and varied hike from Nagiso to Nojiri. The trail travels through small valleys and past forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar. Enjoy some of the your's most wild scenery on this rural, alpine hike.

After arriving in Nojiri, continue by train to Kiso-Fukushima. Tonight you'll stay at a lovely hot spring ryokan set in a peaceful valley above the town. The ryokan offers a complimentary transfer from the train station, as well as lovely indoor and outdoor hot spring baths.

Walking Details:

  • Distance: 9.2 miles (14.7 km)
  • Elevation gain: 1,945 feet (625 m) of ascent and 1,730 feet (530 m) of descent
  • Time required: About 5 hours (hike can be extended by one hour)

Day 3: Explore Kiso-Fukushima - Enjoy a Forest Day Hike

Autumn Foliage in the Alpine Region of Fukushima
Autumn Foliage in the Alpine Region of Fukushima

Enjoy a leisurely morning, followed by a day to relax and explore the historic, riverside town of Kiso-Fukushima. This alpine village is surrounded by dense forests and filled with fresh, mountain air. Meander the stone pathways in search of traditional architecture, spectacular gardens, and quaint cafes. Warm up with a traditional meal of Japanese noodles in the afternoon.

Opt for an optional walk through a scenic forest before returning to your ryokan to soothe any sore muscles with a soak in the hot springs.

Walking Details:

  • Distance: 4.3 miles (7 km)
  • Elevation gain: 2,075 feet (632 m) of ascent and 2,090 feet (637 m) of descent
  • Time required: About 2-3 hours of optional walking

Day 4: Hike to Narai - Discover the Lacquerware of Hirasawa Village

Narai Post Town in the Kiso Valley, Japan
Narai Post Town in the Kiso Valley, Japan

Start your day with a short train ride from Kiso Fukushima to Yabuhara, the starting point for today's hike that will take you over Torii Pass to the town of Narai. Enjoy the scenery as you walk through dense deciduous forests with stunning views of the surrounding hills.

After arriving in Narai, spend some time exploring this expressive post town before returning to the trail for a short walk to Kiso-Hirasawa, a historic lacquerware town. From here you'll take a train and bus to your inn for the evening. You'll stay at another wonderful onsen ryokan with traditional hot springs baths.

Walking Details:

  • Distance: 5.5 miles (8.7 km)
  • Elevation gain: 1,130 feet (345 m) of ascent and 885 feet (270 m) of descent
  • Time required: About 4 hours (opt for an easier walk of 3.9 miles (6.2 km) and 3 hours)

Day 5: Walk Along the Emerald Waters of the Kamikochi Wetlands

The Azusa River in the Japanese Alps
The Azusa River in the Japanese Alps

After breakfast, you'll travel by bus to the biodiverse wetlands of Kamikochi, a popular site for nature hiking. Enjoy the dramatic mountain and lake scenery, as well as the many native species that call the wetlands home. The trail follows the emerald waters of the Azusa River, nestled in the Japanese Alps and surrounded by ponds, lakes, and snow-covered mountain peaks.

After your hike, settle into your secluded onsen ryokan in the village of Oku-Hida for the evening.

Walking Details:

  • Distance: 6.4 miles (10.2 km)
  • Elevation gain: minimal ascent and descent
  • Time required: About 3-4 hours (opt for a shorter walk of 2 miles (3.2 km) and 1.5 hours)

Day 6: Hike in Oku-Hida - Explore Takayama and Depart

The Streets of Takayama, Japan
The Streets of Takayama, Japan

Rise early for one final hike in the mountains of Oku-Hida and catch the stunning views out over the local range. Afterwards, take a bus to Takayama where the tour ends. Explore this engaging town, well known for its crafts (particularly yew-wood carving), Shunkei lacquerware, pottery, and furniture. You may also wish to explore
the ruins of Takayama Castle and walk along the temples.

In the afternoon, make your way back to the airport in Kyoto or Tokyo, or continue onto your next destination in Japan.

Walking Details:

  • Distance: 4.1 miles (6.6 km)
  • Elevation gain: 2,300 feet (700 m) of ascent and descent
  • Time required: About 3 - 3.5 hours