Past and Present Come Together on Nakasendo in Nagano
Uncover the authentic charm of Nagano by experiencing the culture and history of its residents. This itinerary invites you to step into their lives by introducing you to a centuries-old post town, a wasabi farm, an abundance of natural scenery, and various adventures. Learn about the prefecture’s heritage while immersing yourself in the lush environment after 150 minutes riding shinkansens from Tokyo Station to Matsumoto Station.
Day 1 Melt into Scenery
Day one starts at Matsumoto Station, from where you will head to Kamikochi in Chubusangaku National Park. Kamikochi is a picturesque ravine with towering peaks surrounding a clear stream. Enjoy a trek through this scenic, mountainous area that reaches heights of about 1,500 m. Choose from two routes: the Azusa River course, which offers views of the Azusa River and Mt. Yakudake, and the Forest Course, which winds through pristine wooded areas.
Nature lovers will want to keep their eyes peeled along your hike as many seasonal flowers, alpine plants, and wild birds thrive among Nagano’s mountains. Note that cars are not allowed within Kamikochi to protect the natural environment.
Day 2 A Leisurely Bike Ride
Enjoy a slower pace on day two with a relaxing itinerary centered around Azumino— a city in the foothills of the Northern Alps. The day starts with a cycling tour of the area where you can enjoy pedaling through the old-fashioned, pastoral landscape of Azumino. The route is reasonably flat, so you can focus on the scenery and breathing in the clean mountain air. Make a stop at the Daio Wasabi Farm, one of Japan’s largest wasabi farms, to learn about the iconic Japanese crop while strolling the vast grounds. After seeing how the root is cultivated, head to the restaurant to try various dishes and even sweets made with wasabi.
Day 3 Rolling with the Stream
The Chikuma River forms the backdrop for your adventure on day three. Your first port of call is the Ueda area. Get a feel for how Nagano residents have lived for hundreds of years by exploring Ueda Castle Park, temples and vast rice terraces. After a stroll through Ueda, cool off with rafting and standup paddleboarding (SUP) on the Chikuma River. The region’s scenery changes dramatically with the seasons. Spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit, with abundant rapeseed flowers and fresh greenery. In autumn, the river banks brighten up with colorful foliage.
Day 4 Tracing the Footsteps of History
Nakasendo was one of the two historical routes that connected Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo) during the Edo period (1603-1867). On day four of your journey, you have the opportunity to walk a 6-kilometer section of the centuries-old trail. Follow the route through the Torii Pass between Yabuhara-juku and Narai-juku, old post towns where travelers could rest and stock up on supplies. This section was once one of the most challenging parts of the Nakasendo for travelers, and the quaint hiking trail through the mountains retains the atmosphere of hundreds of years ago. While hiking the stone-paved road, take time to reflect on those travelers who would have walked this route as part of their livelihood.
Day 5 A Pilgrimage on Two Wheels
Hop on an electric bicycle and ride a historical trail between the villages of Kiso-Fukushima and Ontake. Start at Satomiya Shrine, a sub-shrine of Ontake-jinja Shrine and a sacred place of the native, syncretic Ontake faith. From there, head to the second station of Mt. Ontake, where Edo period structures remain. Learn about Mt. Ontake and its connection to local religion while experiencing its rich natural surroundings. Along the route, visit Kiyotaki Falls, long used as a training ground for ascetics of the Ontake faith, for a traditional Buddhist waterfall cleansing experience.
Day 6 Back in Time, One Last Time
On your final day, you have the chance to hike another part of the Nakasendo. This time, your journey will take you between the former post towns of Tsumago-juku—one of the largest and best-preserved of the Nakasendo post towns—and Magome-juku via the Magome Pass. Get the feeling you have traveled back in time as you wander the stone-paved roads around Magome-juku, enjoy views of Mt. Ena, gaze upon teahouses near the pass and take in pastoral village scenery around Tsumago-juku. The road between the two post towns is about 9 kilometers long and takes between 2.5 and 3 hours to traverse, allowing ample time to stop and savor the sights along the way.
The centuries-old trails and routes that thread through the mountains of Nagano have shaped the area’s heritage and culture. Get a taste of Japan as it once was while exploring post towns, trekking forested hillsides and cycling through beautiful scenery. Nagano is the perfect destination to experience history with a dose of adventure.
The contents of this page are meant as an example to use in creating your travel plans and do not represent a package tour. Lodgings, travel, guides, and all other accommodations must be arranged for by the traveler.