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Nakasendo Extension

You may not have heard of the Nakasendo but in a few years I wager that this will be as famous a walk as the Italian Cinque Terre – especially as Joanna Lumley incorporated it in her TV programme about Japan in 2016.

In perfect contrast to the excitement of urban Japan this ancient footway wends its way between Kyoto the historic city of the Emperor and the Shoguns seat of power in Edo ( the former name for Tokyo). As well as being an imperial highway this was a route for the Samurai and their massive cortège who travelled this road to pay homage to the Shogun. Delightful small post towns sprang up to service the needs of the eminent travellers rather as did stage coaching towns in the British countryside.

This lengthy trek through the mountains was also a means for the Shogun to keep the Samurai in check as the drain on their finances, energy and time in bringing a massive cortège along this mountainous path diminished the threat of any challenge to the Shogun (as did his taking the wives and children of each Samurai hostage!).

Of course we will not be walking the whole way, especially as much of the extremities of the route are through amorphous suburbs of cities. Our four day, three night trip takes you to some of the most scenic parts of the mountainous interior of this delightful country.

This walk will be fully guided by a bilingual guide who will not only lead you along the trail but provide full historic, geographic, environmental and cultural insights into this experience. You will stay overnight at small traditional Japanese Ryokans or Inns along the route with limited accommodation capacity.

Unfortunately owing to the nature of the walk and accommodation this extension is limited to a maximum group size of 12. Having already filled our original group allocation we have been lucky to get four extra places. If you are consider this walk you will need to book very quickly.

THURSDAY 23rd MAY 2019

Whilst others return to the UK you will have an extra day in Kyoto and time to savour the delights of this city once more. The serene and relaxing gardens of the Heian Shrine are well worth a visit and there will be time to explore the city, the serene river or canalside walks or the contemporary art and design. FREE EVENING.

Overnight at Granvia Kyoto.

FRIDAY 24th MAY 2019

KYOTO TO SHINCHAYA
Moderate 7km walk

Leaving Kyoto you will take the bullet train to Nagoya where you will change onto the local train whose single track will accompany us for much of this trip.

After about a 1.5 hour’s ride we will descend at Nakatsugawa and have lunch. Natsugawa was one of the most important towns on the Nakasendo and now is a market town and communication hub.

Suitably fortified by lunch we will start with a 7Km afternoon itinerary ascending from the valley. The Kiso river runs through steep gorges and as we rise above the plain there are excellent views to be had back towards Nakatsugawa and the Kiso river.

The Nakasendo pathways has plenty of the traditional cobble slabs paved sections, some are original and others restored, which make this one of the most photogenic sections of the highway. After the ascent of the afternoon it will be a real pleasure to arrive at our Inn at Shinchaya – a rural idyll with the most stunning garden and delightful family who run it.

SATURDAY 25th MAY 2019

SHINCHAYA TO O-TSUMAGO
Moderate 10Km walk

Today we will ascend and cross the Magome pass to O-Tsumago.

Shortly after leaving the inn we will visit the small post town of Magome, a stunningly scenic well preserved Japanese town (which also has one of the best coffee shops on the whole trail). We should arrive before the tourist buses that include this atmospheric village on their standard itinerary and be able to enjoy this typical example of a rural post town in relative tranquillity.

We will carry on slowly ascending along the path, sometimes a track, sometimes paved and sometimes on a distinctively tarmacked road, passing tea houses and small restaurants as we go. One of these will be our lunch stop at the hamlet of Jiri, where the owner is a dab hand at Origami!

It is not far from there that we pass some waterfalls and reach the top of the pass and then it is a descent on forest paths to the hamlet of O-Tsumago. As we enter the hamlet we will pass the fish ponds and vegetable gardens that might well provide dinner. The Maruya Inn is delightful but simple and once again a night in a traditional Japanese room awaits you.

Though our overnight accommodation is here we will continue for another half an hour to spend some time in Tsumago another well preserved post town with historic wooden buildings. Once again this town charming with traditional shops and a post office which will got our postcard back to the UK in only four days! It also hosts a museum which gives a really well laid out insight into the history and economy of the region from ancient highway to the seat of the nineteenth century forestry industry.

As you are now acclimatised to Japan, you will want to visit the Onsen (hot baths) and we will take you to the local ones to allow you to clean up and soak off before dinner.

SUNDAY 26th MAY 2019

O-TSUMAGO – KAIDA PLATEAU – KISO FUKASHIMA
Moderate morning then moderate/strenuous walk - 12Km in total

This was a really spectacular day. Some steep paths but effort brings its own reward with snow capped mountains excellent cake and a model railway to boot!

Our destination for this morning is Nagiso and it is a moderate walk to get there from our rural hamlet. From Nagiso we get the help of the train to take us further up the Kiso valley to the busy local town of Kiso-Fukashima.

Though we will spend the night here, this afternoon’s trip is rather special. Leaving the Nakasendo we will be taken up into the verdant valleys to start our walk at the Karasawa-no-Taki waterfalls. These picture postcard waterfalls are passed as we ascend the steep path that after an hour or so brings us onto the Jizo pass and the Kaida plateau. We are now even deeper into real rural Japan and home to the local Kaida horses that served the Samurai so well over the years.

It also happens to be the location of an amazing restaurant widely held to offer the best home baked cake in the area. However, the coffee and cake are a mere drop in the ocean of the warm hearted hospitable owners combined talents. As you gaze over the snow capped holy mountain of Mt Ontake from their garden you are in for a musical treat and if you like trains you will soon understand why this is the Poppoya Café as Poppoya is ‘choo-choo’ in Japanese. It is reward indeed for this afternoon’s effort.

A short walk takes us to the village bus stop where the perfectly punctual local bus takes 40 minutes to get back to Kiso-Fukushima.

Tonight’s accommodation is very comfortable at the Onyado Tsutaya , though still Japanese style. They have an indoor and outdoor baths, the latter overlooking the Kiso river. Excellent food and their home-made Grapefruit Sake leaves lasting memories.

MONDAY 27th MAY 2019

KISO-FUKASHIMA – NARAI – NARITA
Short but moderately strenuous walk

A short walk today but this time you will cross the watershed and high point of the Nakasendo and leave the Kiso river. Take the train two stops to Yabuhara and then another steep but delightfully forested pass up to the shrine that marks the top of the pass. Then a slightly longer but more gentle descent in to the town of Narai.

This is perhaps the most attractive of the post towns we shall see and marks the end of the walk so a perfect place to shop for handicrafts or souvenirs or just stroll up and down the delightful streets. It is also our venue for lunch.

(Those who are feeling a little ‘walked out’ or tired can just stay on the train for one stop past Yabuhara and you will find yourself in Narai where you can wait for the walking group.)

From Narai you will take the train mid afternoon and by the early evening you will find that you have been transported from the rural idyll and green mountains of central Japan back to Narita airport and your overnight stay before your flight home.

 

Logistics

You will need very little for the walk and most should fit into your day bag. Every night you will wear your Yakuta so apart from a change of underwear and top you will need few clothes. As ever, tooth brushes and razors are provided.

Bring collapsible walking poles and a rainproof top (Gortex, if you have, as the temperatures are generally warm). Walking boots, of course, though no spare shoes needed as you will be stockinged or slippered at most in the inns. Hats, sunscreen and DEET insect repellent needed.

Your cases will be sent from Kyoto to Narita Airport hotel.

You should be a reasonable walker to do this trip. Some sections are quite steep and poles will help greatly but our timings are very unambitious and there are lots of stops. Toilets (immaculate of course) seem to abound, even in the most isolated spots!

Our tour company produce fantastic information sheets and we will send you their amazing electronic brochure in due course.

 

Nakasendo post conference extension includes:

  • Extra night at Granvia Kyoto on 23rd May
  • Fully guided customised itinerary on Nakasendo
  • Accommodation in traditional Japanese Inns
  • All meals
  • Baggage transportation
  • Bilingual guide
  • Extra night in Tokyo on 27th May

 

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