- Yabuhara trail to Narai Post Town
- Torii Pass
- Narai Post Town and chopsticks-making experience
- Panoramic Ontake Ropeway
- Refreshing Akasawa Natural Recreation Forest
- Scenic Nezamenotoko
- Awe-inspiring Kakizore Gorge
- Tsumago - Magome Post Town Trail
|Period||Dec. 2019 - Mar. 2020|
|Destination||Torii Pass / Narai Post Town / Ontake Ropeway / Akasawa Forest Train / Kakizore Gorge / Tsumago Post Town / Magome Pass / Tsumago Post Town|
|Start / End||Nagano Station or your accommodation in Nagano City / Nakatsugawa Station|
|Operator||Snow Monkey Resorts|
*Please note, depending on the season some options may not be available.
This 3-day tour will give you all the opportunities you need for getting fantastic Instagram-worthy photos of the scenery along the ancient Nakasendo Trail in the area known as Kisoji in Japanese, which literally means Kiso Road “Kisoji”. The first day, takes you on a fantastic train journey, followed by a scenic hike, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Day 2 is more natural scenery, but this time from up high in the sky, followed by a healthy stroll through a historic, lush forest to refresh both body and soul. The final day, water is the theme when you visit a gorge with the clearest river you have ever seen running through it and a great rushing waterfall. Finish off your journey with another hike through historic post towns before heading to your next destination in Japan.
Day1: 9:00 Depart Nagano Station or your accommodation in Nagano CIty
11:30 Arrive at Yabuhara Station, and start hiking to Narai Post Town through Torii Pass
Depart Yabuhara and begin your walk along the Nakasendo Trail traveling through the Torii Pass, one of the hardest points along the entire 534 km trail.
14:00 Enjoy Narai Post Town, taking late-lunch after chopsticks making experience
Narai was once a thriving post town marking the halfway point along the Nakasendo Trail. It looks much the same today as it did back in the Edo period. The town of a “thousand buildings” as it was once called, is lined with a variety of shops and restaurants. Interestingly, this is perhaps the only post town along the ancient Nakasendo Trail that is still actively inhabited. The residents are committed to maintaining its historic appearance and visitors get a real sense of what life was like here 100 hundred or more years ago.
Walking up as you enter the town from the trail, you’ll come upon the Narai-juku Tourist Information Center on your right where you can try your hand at making your own chopsticks! The process takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. The tools are simple to use, but require a little bit of muscle and may be a little too fiddly for anyone younger than 8 or 9. Reservations can be made in English and are not required but are recommended.
16:30 Arrive at Kiso Fukushima
After the excitement of the day you will be ready to take a load off and enjoy a slow-paced evening at one of the hotels or inns in Kiso Fukushima, which we can book according to your preferences from among several choices. A post town style family-run inn, a standard ryokan, or a traditional high-end ryokan.
Day 2: 9:00 Depart your accommodation in Kiso Fukushima to Ontake Ropeway, visiting spiritual Mt. Ontake
After eating breakfast at your accommodation, your guide will pick you up and take you to Mt. Ontake where you will ride up the ropeway to the 7th climbing station. The ropeway is essentially a ski lift gondola that takes you up to what used to be a ski resort. The trip up (and back down) takes about 15 minutes, and the views are breathtakingly spectacular. There are also beautiful mountain streams and small waterfalls in the area around the ropeway station.The area is so idyllic, it feels like if you watched closely, you might see a band of fairies playing in the distance.
12:30 Lunch nearby Nezamenotoko, and head up to Akasawa Forest Train, enjoy refreshing forest hiking
Nezamenotoko is a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty. The name literally means “bed of awakening” and it is said its stunning beauty will awaken the senses of anyone who views it. It is also associated with the legend of Urashima Taro, as it is said he awoke from his adventures in this spot.
The Kiso area is famous throughout Japan for its forestry industry. The cypress found here was once used in the construction of castles and shrines. At one point, the forest was practically stripped bare until the government stepped in and forbid cutting down anymore trees, and the crime was punishable by death! Once the forest had regrown, the trees were once again used in the construction industry, but this time strictly regulated. The trees here are the designated lumber for Ise Grand Shrine, and in the early 1900’s a forest railway was built to aid the forestry industry. It remained in use for this purpose until 1975.
In the early 80’s the concept of forest bathing began right here in these woods, and the railway came back into use, but this time to carry people deep into the healing forest and share the area’s history. The Akasawa Natural Recreation Forest is now a Japan Heritage Site and the many miles of maintained forest trails within offer visitors a place to relax and refresh. I recommend taking the train out into the forest and enjoying a leisurely stroll along one of the paths on the way back. The station has a lovely little museum with lots of photos and memorabilia from the railway’s heyday, as well as a display of the actual train cars that were once in use.
17:15 2nd night in Kiso Fukushima
Tomorrow is another big day with a long walk between the last two post towns along the Kiso road “Kisoji”, so you may want to get an extra long soak in tonight to rest your legs, eat a hearty and delicious dinner, and prepare yourself for another day of excitement at your accommodation of choice in Kiso-Fukushima.
Day 3: 10:00 Depart your accommodation to Kakizore Gorge / exploring hidden waterfall
After eating breakfast at your accommodation, your guide will pick you up and take you to Kakizore Gorge, which will fill you with feelings of wonder and excitement as you walk over bridges, along paths against the high gorge walls, and climb long flights of stairs around the gorge and its crystal clear waters to be rewarded at the end with hidden treasure: a truly stunning waterfall called Ushigataki Falls. The site of the water rushing over the granite into a pool of deep, clear, emerald green water is awe-inspiring.
12:30 Arrive at Tsumago Post Town, enjoy the trail between 2 popular post towns
Tsumago Post Town is the last post town on the Nakasendo Trail within Nagano Prefecture. This was once a prosperous and flourishing town. The original honjin (main inn) was destroyed and rebuilt in 1995, but the original waki-honjin (secondary inn) still remains and was designated an Important Cultural Property in 2001. Both are open to visitors.
The trail that stretches between Tsumago and Magome has been relatively well-maintained making for a gentle journey that even non-hikers can enjoy. It is well-marked in both English and Japanese. Be aware that the Tsumago to Magome direction is a slightly more uphill hike than the other direction.
Magome is actually located in Gifu Prefecture, and compared to Tsumago it may appear to be a slightly more embellished re-creation in comparison to Tsumago’s stark authenticity. There are a few buildings of particular interest in this post town you might enjoy visiting.
17:00 Leave Magome to Nakatsugawa Station where the tour concludes (arrive at 17:30)
Congratulations!! You have seen almost everything there is to see in the Kiso area, and probably collected some fantastic photos for your Instagram followers to “ooh” and “ahh” over.
- Transportation from Nagano to all destinations through the tour
- Lunch (vegetarian options are available)
- English-speaking guide
- Chopsticks making activity fees in Narai Post Town
- Ontake Ropeway and Akasawa Forest Train Fare
- Shinkansen/bullet train ticket
- Additional rental gears (if required)
- Additional snacks, food & drinks