Trip Leader: Mrs Kate Sommerville
Please note that parents are responsible for the arrangement of visas if required. Please ensure that your child’s passport is valid for the period of travel, including the date of departure from Japan. For safety’s sake we recommend that your child’s passport has a minimum of 6 months validity period as required for all other overseas countries.
Japan on Foot is a unique walking exploration of Japan which will allow students from Years 10 -13 to explore both the city and countryside culture of Japan. Walking through “Totoro” landscapes the trip will allow students to explore one of the old highways of Japan, the Nakasendo, or ‘road through the central mountains’.
Starting in the bright lights of modern Nagoya the trip will then lead students to a more reflective and peaceful stage through quiet pretty villages and small towns. Students will learn about the samurai way of life especially the Shogun era, sleeping in traditional inns on futons, bathing in traditional onsen and eating traditional meals whilst sitting on tatami floors. Every day there will be a different cultural experience including Tea Ceremony, traditional folk singing, woodblock printmaking, karaoke. There will be a visit to the world famous Hiroshige Art museum, students will read the famous novel ‘Before the Dawn’ about the downfall of a samurai shogun and will walk over the snowy Torii pass.We will end the trip in Nagoya with an opportunity to sight see, sing karaoke, go shopping and enjoy a wide range of Japanese snacks.
Every day students will walk between 10km and 16km with the option for a longer walk of 24km on one day.There will be a daily haiku competition and students who sign up for the trip will be expected to attend weekly Japanese sessions in the half term leading up to the trip so that they can get the most out of their time in Japan. Fluent Japanese speaking students who sign up will lead these sessions. This trip will suit students who are interested in all aspects of Japanese culture and would like to experience both city and country life.
DAY 1: Nagoya ~ Yamaguchi
Arrive Centrair (Nagoya) Airport, where the group is met by your Walk Japan Tour Leader. We then transfer to our accommodation for the first night, a 2 hour journey by private vehicle to Shinchaya, an inn located at the southern gateway to the Kiso Valley.
Upon arriving at our inn, we take some time to learn the vital do’s and don’ts of living in the traditional Japanese style; Where do we take off our shoes? Where are the beds, or rather futons? How do we use the baths? Etc. After dinner the Tour Leader provides a tour briefing on what to expect over the coming days.
Accommodation: Japanese style inn
DAY 2: Yamaguchi ~ Magome ~ O-Tsumago
The area around Shinchaya is steeped in history, and we take some time to explore the photogenic surrounds before walking on to Magome post-town, birth-place of 19th century author Shimazaki Toson. His novel, Before the Dawn, describes life during the tumultuous period following Japan’s opening up to the West. After some free time in the old town, we follow the old road, first up to the appropriately named Magome Pass and then downhill to a clearing in the cedar forest and a traditional teahouse. We stop here for some lunch before continuing via some waterfalls to our next inn in the small hamlet of O-tsumago and then on to the village of Tsumago close by.
Tsumago is the best preserved and arguably the most attractive of post-towns found anywhere in Japan. The inhabitants take great pride in their town, and have banished telephone poles, electric lines and vending machines from the main street. Following a guided tour of a former high class inn, once reserved only for the senior samurai, and now a museum, we walk back to our inn for bathing and dinner.
Total walking: 12km
Total elevation gain: 461m (1,512ft)
DAY 3: O-Tsumago ~ Nagiso ~ Kiso-Fukushima
We follow the old highway on to Nagiso through picturesque hamlets and fields, visiting the site of Tsumago Castle for grandstand views of the valley below. As we enter Nagiso town, we also catch a glimpse of Momosuke-bashi, an impressive wooden suspension bridge, lying across the Kiso River. Here we learn about how Fukuzawa Momosuke developed hydro-electric power in the Kiso Valley, and about Sadayakko, Momosuke’s partner and the most famous geisha of her age, who in turn led a colourful life.
We now start one of the alternative routes of the old highway through this area, avoiding the easy riverside way which is now overlaid by a busy modern highway. Instead, we take the original route of the Nakasendo here. Over 3-4 hours, it takes us gradually higher and higher through quiet farming hamlets until a final ascent through forest to Ne-no-ue Pass. At many points along our climb, we see the remains of the extensive narrow gauge logging railway system that once reached far into the mountains of the Kiso Valley in the early 20th Century.
From the pass, it is an hour-long descent to Nojiri, from where a 40-minute rail journey takes us to Kiso-Fukushima. Our centrally-located inn has a welcome attraction: its own onsen thermal hot spring baths to relax in before dinner.
Total walking: 24km
Total elevation gain: 714m (2,340ft)
DAY 4: Kiso ~ Fukushima ~ Kaida Plateau
After breakfast, we first visit the reconstructed barrier station that straddles the old highway before we transfer to the beginning of our walk through the landscapes of the Kaida Plateau and over the Jizo Pass.
The Plateau, regarded as one of the most beautiful areas in Japan, has a distinct alpine feel and we reach over 1,300 metres (4,265 ft.) as we crest our pass for the day. Clear weather will provide us with views to Mt. Ontake (3,007 metres, 9,865ft.), the active volcano that dominates the area.
After lunch, our afternoon’s excursion takes us over another high pass before descending to our accommodation, another inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths, and set in a small hamlet on the Plateau.
Total walking: 24km
Total elevation gain:673m (2,200ft)
DAY 5: Kaida Plateau ~ Kiso Fukushima ~ Yabuhara ~ Narai
Today our main luggage is sent to Nagoya by overnight courier. We will therefore need to keep any evening essentials with us in our backpacks for tonight.
After breakfast we head back to Kiso Fukushima, stopping at a local supermarket to purchase provisions for a picnic lunch, before transferring to Yabuhara and continuing our walk over the Torii Pass, the 3rd highest on the Nakasendo Way.
Narai, another picturesque post-town, is on the far side of the pass and its shops, restaurants and cafes provide a warm welcome. Our inn is in the centre of town and it serves as a lovely environment for our last night on the Nakasendo Way
Total walking: 10km
Total elevation gain: 373m (1,220ft)
DAY 6: Narai ~ Ena ~ Nagoya
An early transfer to Nagoya by train, stopping in Ena for lunch and a visit to the excellent Hiroshige Print Museum. Here we learn about the print-making process, make our own prints and see originals on display.
Arriving in Nagoya, we visit Osu Kannon shrine and the distinctive shopping district surrounding it. Post-dinner, we partake in a Japanese favourite, Karaoke, for a celebratory end to our tour.
Total walking: 5km
Total elevation gain: N/A
DAY 7: Nagoya ~ Centrair (Nagoya) Airport ~ Home
Transfer with your Walk Japan programme leader to Centrair Airport for our flight back home.