Japan Ancient And Modern – The Nakasendo Trail
Join Tuatara Tours on a fully guided walking tour of Japan and let Nicky, our Tour Manager (and fluent speaker of Japanese) take care of the details for you. Nicky spent 3 years living in Japan and looks forward to sharing her love of this fascinating country with you.
See Japan from a local perspective, not from a tour bus window. Our small group tours provide a more up close and personal experience of Japan , its culture and its people.
Your journey covers Japans capital cities, ancient and modern, and the most picturesque section of the Nakasendo, the ancient travellers highway that was a vital link between these capitals in the feudal era.
7-12 Day Tour
8 days / 7 nights
Above average level of fitness. Walk 20kms, Bike 45kms. Formed tracks and roads with average to steep inclines at times.
Contact Nicky for updates, we look forward to heading back to Japan as soon as we can travel again.
For those travelling from New Zealand today, Nicky will be at Narita Airport to welcome you. Once you have cleared customs and immigration, Nicky will be in the arrivals area to meet you and assist you through to Tokyo. The journey is approx. 1 hour and on arrival in Tokyo we head directly to our hotel in the Ginza District.
For those joining the group in Tokyo, Nicky will provide full instructions on how to get to the hotel and can also assist with any pre or post tour travel plans if you need ideas on how to maximise your stay in Japan.
This evening, if you wish to relax and have an early night, you may prefer to dine at the hotel, or for those that wish to venture out, there are several local eateries within a short walking distance of our hotel.
After breakfast at our hotel we’ll set out to explore Tokyo, on foot, by boat and by local train. Our journey takes us through central and northern Tokyo this morning but there is time in the afternoon for you to branch out further if you wish to.
Our first port of call is Hinode Pier, where we will take a boat cruise of the Sumida River for a great view of the Tokyo skyline. The Sumida River runs through Tokyo for 27km, travels under 26 bridges and flows into Tokyo Bay. Boats travel back and forth around 8 destinations on the river and our destination today is one of Tokyo’s most historical districts, Asakusa, where an atmosphere of the Tokyo of past decades survives.
Asakusa was for many years the main commercial and working class neighbourhood of Tokyo and is home to Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temple founded in the 7th century. Many of the small shops on Nakamise Street leading up to the temple have been providing temple visitors with traditional local snacks and souvenirs for centuries and we have the opportunity to browse some of these shops, and grab something to eat for our lunch here today.
After lunch, the choice is yours for the afternoon. You may wish to return to Ginza to stroll and window shop at some of the most elegant upmarket departments stores in Japan, or you may prefer to jump on the Yamanote loop line and head to Ueno, Shinjuku or one of Tokyo’s other districts to explore further. Nicky will be able to provide directions and suggestions for things to see and do.
This evening, we will regroup at the hotel and head out for an optional dinner at a local Izakaya, (a Japanese-style pub), to sample some traditional fare, and a few local beverages.
Tokyo to Nagoya to O-Tsumago
We have an early start today, to catch the bullet train to Nagoya for the start of our 4 day hike. From Nagoya Station we catch a train to Nakatsugawa, an old post town and now a pleasant regional town, and then head out on our walk.
Our first rest stop is at the quaint Magome post-town, with its traditional small shops perched on the side of the hill. We continue on to Tsumago, for a classic hike through old forests and bubbling streams along the Nakasendo , until we reach our inn in the hamlet of O- Tsumago. We visit nearby thermal hot spring baths to relax before we end our day over dinner.
O-Tsumago to Kiso to Fukushima
After waving goodbye to the innkeeper, we wend our way on through Tsumago before following the old highway on to Nagiso through picturesque hamlets and fields.
We now start one of the alternative routes of the old highway through this area. Our choice avoids the easy riverside way which is now overlaid by a busy modern highway. Instead, we take the original route of the Nakasendo here. Over 3~4 hours, it takes us gradually higher and higher through quiet farming hamlets until we ascend through a forest to Ne-no-ue Pass.
From the pass it is a steep descent for an hour to Nojiri train station, where a 40-minute rail journey takes us on to Kiso- Fukushima and our ryokan in the centre of town. The inn has a welcome attraction, its own thermal hot spring baths to relax in before dinner.
Kiso to Fukushima to Kaida Plateau
This morning we transfer part-way to the Kaida Plateau by bus and then head off on our walk. Our morning walk takes us over the Jizo Pass , through forests filled with majestic cypress and then down onto the Kaida Plateau itself. The plateau is dominated by Mt. Ontake, an active volcano that is considered sacred by a Buddhist sect.
After lunch, our afternoon’s excursion takes us over another pass that, on a clear day, provides views high over the plateau to Mt. Ontake. We descend from here to our accommodation, a delightful, family run modern Japanese inn with hot springs.
Kaida Plateau to Narai to Nagoya-Kyoto
Returning from Kaida Plateau, we begin our climb of the Torii Toge (Torii Pass). The pass is named after the Shinto torii, or gate, that marks one of four protective sites surrounding the sacred Mt. Ontake. At 1,197 meters, Torii Pass is also the second highest point on the Nakasendo.
The descent into Narai post- town takes us along narrow mountain paths until we emerge at the outskirts of this famous post-town. This is an area well known for its lacquer ware and we will have some free time here to explore, relax in cafes and shop before travelling back to Nagoya.
From Nagoya Station we will travel onwards to Kyoto, our destination for the next 2 nights.
We head out today to explore Kyoto on foot and pack in as many of the beautiful and historic sites of Kyoto as the day will allow us. Kyoto was the Imperial Capital of Japan for more than 1000 years and is steeped in history and tradition. It has 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shrines and among those we will visit is Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most famous temples in Japan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will also pay a visit to Sanjusangendo, the temple of 1001 statues now designated as a National Treasure.
Walking through the city along the narrow back streets of Gion, we may catch a glimpse of Kyoto’s famous Maiko-san, the elegant and mysterious geisha , and for those that are interested there is an opportunity to watch the geisha dance and other Japanese traditional arts performed in an evening show (bookings essential).
The evening will be spent in one of Kyoto’s popular bars and restaurants where we can try some local fare and perhaps a few sake’s to celebrate our journey. (Additional Cost)
The morning is free in Kyoto for some last minute sightseeing, shopping or a stroll around the central city before making the journey back to Tokyo on the bullet train and then the Narita Express to Narita Airport.
If you wish to explore Japan further ,Nicky will be happy to help with suggestions on how to extend your time in Japan.
All transport within Japan – all accommodation in hotels or Japanese style Inns on a double / twin share basis- daily breakfast, 3 dinners and 1 lunch- admission to all temples and sightseeing spots in your itinerary-portage of luggage on the Nakasendo- services of Nicky as guide and interpreter throughout.
Tokyo: We stay at a modern western style hotel in central Tokyo, handy to the Ginza district and its elegant department stores. Rooms are double/ twin with ensuite facilities.
Hotels in Japan are quite small compared to Western equivalents, an average double room is only 20-30sqm. The room typically contains a small private ensuite bathroom, known as a “unit bath”, with shower over Japanese bathtub, toilet and hand basin. The room will usually have a television, an electric pot for boiling water for a hot drink, phone and internet access, hairdryer, air conditioning and a fridge.
The Nakasendo: We stay in Japanese minshuku (B&B) and Ryokan (Inns). These are traditional rooms with tatami mat floors, futon bedding and yukata robes for wearing in the evenings and to dinner.
On our tours some of the inns are more rustic and atmospheric, while others more modern and luxurious. Most are family run and have been in the same family for several generations. As is traditional, in some inns bathing and toilet facilities are shared but others have en-suite facilities.
Kyoto: We stay in a Western Style Hotel close to Kyoto Station, and shops and restaurants. Rooms are double/ twin with ensuite facilities and the hotel also has both European and Japanese restaurants, in house bar and room service.
Single Supplement: NZ$2475
Japan is a food lovers paradise, as well as all the traditional local favourites, Japan offers an amazing choice of international restaurants, coffee shops, bars and food outlets.
On your tour we provide a hearty breakfast each day to set you up for the day and you also have the opportunity to experience traditional home cooked dishes during your stay at the inns. The tour includes a daily breakfast, 3 dinners and 1 lunch.
We provide a comprehensive list of gear for you in the tour trip notes (sent to you on completion of the booking process.) Because the tours are planned for the warmer months of spring and early summer in Japan you will not need a large amount of heavy clothing however we do suggest a good rainproof jacket and a fleece, merino top or similar for the cooler evenings.
During your stay at the ryokans you will be provided with a yukata, or cotton kimono, which is your evening wear and can be worn around the inn and for dining.
We travel between the major cities using public transport and you need to carry your belongings with you on these trips (bullet trains and local trains) so luggage needs to be kept to one suitcase and one day pack for ease of handling. A medium size suitcase should be sufficient for all your clothing requirements, and ideally on wheels so that it can be pulled along.
Medical services in Japan are good but the cost of treatment is high and you can expect to pay the full cost of any treatment you receive. For this reason we require all tour participants to have a comprehensive medical insurance in place.
When should I arrive and how do I get to the hotel?
If you are travelling to Tokyo on the day of the tour, Nicky can advise the best flights and times to book so that you can travel with other group members from New Zealand.
If you are arriving for an extended stay prior to the tour, Nicky will advise how to get into Tokyo and where to meet us for the start of the tour as well as tips on what to see and do to maximise your time in Japan.
There is no tradition of tipping in Japan and it is not a requirement at restaurants or hotels that you tip for services provided. However if you feel you have been provided with excellent service and you would like to reward that, please feel free to offer a tip.