In recent years, the old mountain route between Kyoto and Edo (now called Tokyo), known as the Nakasendo (literally, “Middle Mountain Way”), has become one of Japan’s most famous hiking routes.
The Nakasendo is an ancient inland highway that spanned 500 kilometres (310 miles) through the heart of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Starting in Kyoto, it passed over Lake Biwa, across the mountains at Sekigahara, through the plains north of present-day Nagoya, next to the snowy peaks of the southern Japanese Alps, across the plain between Matsumoto and Karuisawa, and down to the Kanto plain which surrounds present-day Tokyo to to the city of Edo, Tokyo's predecessor.
In the early years of the 17th Century, Japan was united under the feudal leadership of the Tokugawa family which had its headquarters in Edo, some 500 kilometres east and north of the capital region around Kyoto. The Edo regime or shogunate (named after the leader’s title, “shogun”) moved quickly to establish a communication system and transportation channel to or from Edo throughout the empire. Five highways including the Nakasendo were designated for this purpose.
Of the five, the Nakasendo is still with us. While the Tokaido (the largest and busiest highway) has now been overlaid with modern highways and train lines to the extent that only a few stretches of the old road can be identified, the Nakasendo runs through areas of Japan that have been less transformed by economic growth and change. Thus, long stretches of the highway remain much the same now as two hundred years ago.
The "Modern" Nakasendo Trail
Now largely forgotten and quiet, the road provides a pleasant path through scenic countryside and, also, the history of Japan. On this village-to-village walk, travellers can stay in traditional country inns enjoying exquisite regional cuisine prepared from the freshest ingredients, soak in natural hot springs, and enjoy the warm hospitality of their hosts.
Sakura's Natural Beauty Against the Old Japan
Enter your text Arguably the prettiest section of the route runs through the Kiso Valley. In spring the valley is decorated with cherry blossoms and in autumn the golden foliage of Japanese maples. The Nakasendo trail is one to try when you’re looking to see cherry blossom season against the old-world vistas of Japan that the Kiso Valley is known for....
The photograph is courtesy of David Altschul Photography.
Laying aside glossy modern structures and fancy streets, this trail will take you through quiet rural villages and mountain passes covered with blooming cherry blossom trees – Explore this scene of countryside beauty in our newest guided tour addition, Walk With Sakura 2020.