Step back in time and immerse yourself in nature on this five-day hiking trip along the historic Nakasendo Trail. Feudal lords and samurai once walked this mountain path connecting Kyoto and Tokyo, stopping to rest in historic jukus, or Edo-era post towns, each night. You'll follow in their footsteps as you trek through picturesque valleys, explore idyllic villages, sleep in traditional inns, and relax in the thermal waters of hot springs along the hike.


  • Explore well-preserved jukus, or post towns from the Edo Period
  • Bathe in a hot spring at a traditional Japanese inn
  • Enjoy peaceful nature trails and mountain views
  • Visit the splendid 16th-century Matsumoto Castle

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Walk from Magome to Tsumago Tsumago
Day 2 Hike from Tsumago to Nojiri Nojiri or Kiso-Fukushima
Day 3 Traverse the Torii Pass to Narai Narai
Day 4 Visit Matsumoto Castle Karuizawa or Komoro
Day 5 Hike the Usui-toge Pass - Depart Tokyo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Walk from Magome to Tsumago

The gently rolling path of the Nakasendo Trail
The gently rolling path of the Nakasendo Trail

Welcome to Japan! Start your journey by traveling from Kyoto or Tokyo to the town of Nakatsugawa by bullet train, then take a short bus ride to the village of Magome. From there, you'll walk along the Nakasendo Trail over the Magome Pass to the exquisitely preserved post town — or Edo-era rest stop — of Tsumago. Go back in time as you stroll through the village streets; cars aren't allowed on the main street and electrical wires are carefully concealed. You'll spend the night at a minshuku, or family-run inn, where you'll enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal. After dinner, stroll around town wearing the kimono-like yukata gown supplied by your hosts.

Day 2: Hike from Tsumago to Nojiri

Nakasendo Trail bamboo forest
A bamboo forest on the trail from Tsumago

Today will be the longest hike of the trip, taking you along a beautiful section of trail from Tsumago to the post station of Nojiri. The 11.5-mile (18 km) path snakes through valleys and bamboo and cedar forests, offering some of the most unspoiled scenery of the trip. The walk should take around six hours.

Alternatively, choose a shorter, one-hour walk to the village of Nasigo. Then hop on the train to Kiso-Fukushima, where you'll stay at a traditional inn, or ryokan, for the night. The ryokan is set in a tranquil valley and features both indoor and outdoor hot spring baths for you to relax in.

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Day 3: Traverse the Torii Pass to Narai

The post town village of Narai, the mid-way point of the Nakasendo Trail
The post town village of Narai, the midway point of the Nakasendo Trail

This morning you'll have the option of challenging yourself to a somewhat steep, circular hike to a serene local waterfall. This two to three-hour walk is 4.3 miles long (7 km) with an ascent of 2,075 feet (632 meters). Otherwise, hop on the train to Yabuhara and traverse the Torii Pass on a three-hour hike through the forest to get to the village of Narai. This post station marks the center of the Nakasendo Trail. Explore the village before checking into your minshuku, where you'll enjoy another home-cooked dinner.

Day 4: Visit Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle
The late 16th-century Matsumoto Castle

After breakfast, walk to the nearby town of Kiso-Hirasawa. Wander around the small shops selling beautifully crafted lacquered furniture and tableware. Then board the train to the fascinating Matsumoto Castle, which dates back to the late 1500s. Continue by train to the town of Karuizawa or Komoro, where you'll spend the final night of the trip. Both towns feature historical inns with traditional Japanese baths. Regardless of where you stay tonight, you'll enjoy a dinner prepared with locally grown ingredients.

Day 5: Hike the Usui-toge Pass - Depart Tokyo

View from the Usui-toge Pass
View from the Usui-toge Pass

The final stretch of the adventure leads you from Karuizawa to Yokokawa. Hike over the high plateaus of the Usui-toge Pass to a gentle descent along one of the most pristine parts of the trail. Take in the gorgeous mountain views on this 10-mile (16.7km) trek. You can choose to take a taxi for part of the way. In Yokokawa, you'll board the train and make your way back to Tokyo, arriving in the early evening. Transfer to the airport to catch a flight out. Safe travels!

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Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Japan? Check out these other Japan itineraries, with walking tours, cultural journeys, and best-of trips to hit the highlights. 

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Map of Hike Japan's Nakasendo Trail - 5 Days
Map of Hike Japan's Nakasendo Trail - 5 Days