Welcome to Narai Juku on the Nakasendo!
The Nakasendo is an ancient road that offers visitors a taste of Japan’s rich nature and history. Long before the Edo period (1603-1867), the Nakasendo was an important route connecting Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, and Edo (now Tokyo).
A walk along the Nakasendo is a journey that allows visitors to experience the nature and history of Japan, including well-preserved inn towns and beautiful countryside scenery.
This article introduces five of the most popular sections of the Nakasendo. Two of them start and end at Naraijuku, so we hope you will enjoy them.
We will start with the section from Kyoto.
Section 1: Magome Juku – Tsumago Juku (Magome Pass) (Level )
Magome-juku and Tsumago-juku are two of the most popular post town of Nakasendo, both of which retain strong traces of their Edo period (1603-1868) past.
The 9-km walking path on Magome Pass, which separates the two post towns, is a popular hiking course that retains much of the old highway’s appearance and offers many attractions along the way, including “Odaki” and “Medaki” waterfalls and Otsumago (large wife’s cage).
|Tusmago Juku||10 minutes by bus from Nagiso St.|
|Magome Juku||25 minutes by bus from Nakatsugawa St.|
The best places to stay are the inns located in Magomejuku and Tsumagojuku. Enjoy the nightlife at these historic inns.
Guest House Motomiya
Section 2：Tsumago ~ Nojiri (Level)
The route is 18.4 km from Tsumago Juku to Nojiri Juku, and there is no crossing of a mountain pass. The tour will walk along the Nakasendo and Yogawa roads. The Yogawa Road was used as a detour route when the Nakasendo was flooded, and as it passes through fields and villages, visitors can enjoy the tasteful old road as if they were travelers in the Edo period.
The Atera Valley near Nojiri Juku is also a popular spot with its beautiful emerald blue fresh water.
|Tsumago Juku||10 minutes by bus from Nagiso St.|
|Noriji Juku||1 minute on foot from Nojiri St.|
When Ending point would be Tsumago
The best is staying in Tsumago Juku.
When Ending point would be Nojiri
It is the best that staying at Onsen ryokan in “Fukushima-juku” in Kiso Fukushima.
This is because there are few accommodations in Nojiri-juku.
Fukushima juku takes about 30 minutes by train from Nojiri Juku.
|Fukushima Juku||Onyado Tsutaya|
Section 3：Yabuhara〜Narai(Torii Pass) (Level)
Torii Pass, which connects Yabuhara-juku and Narai-juku, is 1,197 meters above sea level, the second highest point on the Nakasendo, and was famous as one of the most difficult points on the Nakasendo.
In the Edo period ,many travelers stopped at Narai-juku to rest their feet on their way over the Torii Pass, so Narai-juku became crowded that it was called “Narai Senken,” meaning the one thousand Narai houses. And Narai became the longest post town in Japan, stretching for about 1 km.
|Narai Juku||2 minute on foot from Nojiri St.|
|Yabuhara Juku||5 minute on foot from Nojiri St.|
When Ending point would be Narai
It is the best staying in Narai Juku.
We recommend staying at Narai-juku or at a hot spring inn in “Fukushima-juku” in Kiso Fukushima.
This is because there are few lodging facilities in Yabuhara-juku.
- Yabuhara – Narai: About 5 min. by train
- Yabuhara – Fukushima: Approx. 30 min. by train
|Fukushima Juku||Onyado Tsutaya|
Section 4：Narai-juku – Kiso Hirasawa + Matsumoto Castle (Level)
The course is approximately 2 km between Narai and Kiso Hirasawa, and parades around Matsumoto Castle.
Kiso Hirasawa is a village born between Naraijuku and Nigawajuku, and has flourished as a lacquerware town since the Edo period, with over 200 lacquerware stores still standing side by side.
Because many historic lacquerware stores and warehouses remain, Kiso Hirasawa, like Narai-juku, has been designated as a national Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
Matsumoto Castle + Castle Town Walk
Take the train between Kiso Hirasawa and Matsumoto (about 40 minutes) and explore Matsumoto Castle.
Matsumoto Castle is the oldest of the five existing castle towers and is designated as a national treasure. The keep can be climbed for 700 yen and visitors can enjoy the interior of the castle as it was then.
|Narai Juku||1 minute on foot from Narai St.|
|Kiso-Hirasawa||1 minute on foot from Kiso-hirasawa St.|
|Matsumoto Castle||15 minute on foot from Matusmoto St.|
When Ending point would be Narai or Kiso-hirasawa
It is the best that staying in Narai-juku
When Ending point would be Matusmoto
We recommend hotels near Matsumoto Station or onsen ryokan in the Asama Onsen Hot Spring Resort area.
Asama Onsen is a 30-minute drive from Matsumoto Station. All ryokans offer a shuttle bus service, so train travelers are also welcome.
Section 5：Karuizawa Juku – Yokogawa (Usui Pass) (Level)
This tour takes you on a 16.7 km road over the Usui Pass from Karuizawa-juku to Yokogawa. The Usui Pass is one of the three most difficult passes along the Nakasendo Highway.
It is said that “Kiso no Kakehashi, Ota no Watashi, and Usui Pass are the only ones to be crossed.
It is now a trekking course. Today, the pass is used as a trekking course and is a scenic spot from which one can view the three mountains of Jomo, Mount Haruna, and Mount Asama.
Incidentally, the Usui Pass is a “one side pass”, and while it is an 800-meter climb from the Yokogawa side, it is only a 200-meter climb from the Karuizawa side, so the degree of difficulty varies greatly depending on which side you climb from.
|Karuizawa Juku||25 minute on foot or 5 min. by cab from Karuizawa St.|
|Yokokawa||1 minute on foot from Yokokawa St.|
Regardless of which side of the mountain you choose to climb, we recommend staying in Karuizawa.