nakasendo way, japan

Japan is probably most famous for its big cities, crammed full of people, sky skyscrapers and neon lights. But as we discovered, it’s also got beautiful countryside with some stunning scenery and little traditional villages which feel a million miles away from the fast paced life in the cities.

Keen to break up our city stays, we signed up to a 3 day walk of the Nakasendo Way, an ancient walking trail that was used by lords in the Edo period to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto. We used a company called Oku Japan to make all the arrangements – the walk was ‘self-guided’ so you’re not in a group with loads of strangers but Oku Japan sort you out with accommodation, train tickets, maps, and directions so you don’t have to worry about anything.

We set off from Kyoto via high speed bullet train to start the walk in a small village called Magome, one of the 69 traditional post towns along the Nakasendo Way that used to provide a place to stay for travellers (and still do). We stocked up on snacks and drinks and were soon out on the path without another soul in sight. Soon we were walking through bamboo groves, passing waterfalls and rivers, and looking out for black bears which live in the area.

We stayed the night in Tsumago in a traditional minshuku – a bit like a small bed and breakfast hosted by a local family. After dinner, where we tucked into everything form fresh fish to grasshoppers, we set out for an evening stroll in the village, its dark wooden houses just lit up by small glowing lanterns making us feel like we were in an old Japanese film.

The next day was the hardest day, an 18km walk and with most of it going up hill, it’s not for the faint-hearted – or maybe just not for the unfit like us. We were rewarded with stunning views and fields of cherry blossoms along the way however, and luckily our hotel for the night was a hot spring hotel so we got to soak our muscles in the traditional Japanese baths at the end of it.

Our final day was just a brief two hour walk mostly downhill before we took the train to Tokyo, back to the big city and bright lights. We were tired and glad of a sit down but we were so happy we took the time to walk part of the Nakasendo Way – it was great to experience a different side of Japan and see some of its natural beauty – we’d 100% recommend it to anyone.

Book a trip with Oku Japan here.