November 6 – 16, 2017. An 11 day, 10 night creative tour along the Nakasendo Way for artists and writers.
Join us on a unique creative adventure following the footsteps of Japan’s famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho through an autumn landscape. This year we travel the ancient Nakasendo Highway beginning in Nagoya; staying in inns, hot springs and local hotels, walking for a part of each day (train inbetween) and ending our tour in Tokyo. Open to writers, poets and creative artists of all modalities, daily creativity workshops will take their inspiration from our explorations of the haiku form. Bringing our attention to observing the small details of nature in the present moment, we learn how to take this stimulus into our chosen art form, creating a haiku journal of poems, observations, sketches, photos and writings as we go.
The famous haiku poet Basho travelled the Kisoji in 1685, one of several pilgrimages he made as an exercise in spiritual and artistic refinement. In 1687, Basho traveled along along parts of the Nakasendo, immortalizing his journey in “Knapsack Notebook (Oi no kobumi).” “Sarashina Journal (Sarashina Kiko)” followed in 1688.
So often seen off,
Or seeing you off, journey’s end –
Autumn in Kiso
The woodblock artist Hiroshige, travelled this way too. His famous series, Sixty-Nine Stations are images of the Nakasendo rest areas. In its heyday in the seventeenth century, the Nakasendo was crowded with travellers, including feudal lords, samurai, itinerant merchants poets, artists and pilgrims. Now largely forgotten and quiet, the road provides a pleasant path through scenic countryside and, also, the history of Japan. We pass through and stay in picturesque, old post towns en route, in much the same way as the Japanese traveller of old. Charming, traditional inns, which have somehow survived into the modern world, provide us with friendly and atmospheric overnight accommodation. In the evenings, in an ambience reminiscent of Hiroshige’s woodblock prints of feudal Japan, we relax and enjoy excellent meals.
The average daily walking distance is moderate . Transport, however, can be arranged for those who desire a more relaxed day. Baggage goes by taxi, except when we travel by train. We climb several passes, but they have fairly gentle inclines and can be taken at a comfortable pace.
Twin Share: $6950AUD Early Bird Pay half now, complete payment by Feb 28.
Twin Share: $7295AUD Regular price, pay by May 1.
Single supplment: $450AUD
Note: due to limited rooms in our traditional ryokan accomodation, limited single supplements can not be guaranteed for all nights, and will be given to the earliest bookings.
Inclusions and exclusions.
A fully guided tour including local travel from tour meeting point to finishing point; accommodation (limited singles in ryokans, mostly twin share) for 10 nights; 10 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 10 evening meals, baggage transfers, and entrance fees. Not included are flights, all lunches and drinks with meals, laundry and personal extras.
ITINERARY – NAKASENDO WAY 2017
Note: you will need to arrive into Nagoya on Nov 6. Travel by train from your arrival point. Find all train info here.
Check in to your accommodation in Nagoya, a centrally located 4 star hotel. Meet Jan, your tutor and your Walk Japan tour leader at 6pm in the lobby of the accommodation for a tour briefing before dinner at a local izakaya pub.
Accommodation: Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel https://www.associa.com/nma/
Nagoya — Ena
Total walking: Approx. 9.4km (5.8 miles) Elevation: Start at 289m (948ft), end at 272m (892ft) Highest elevation: 394m (1,292ft)
After breakfast attend introductory workshop. Mid morning we catch a local line to Takenami on the Nakasendo highway. We walk a gently undulating route along ridge tops that offer many fine views of the distant mountains. This section of the highway dates back to the 7th century when the valleys on either side remained uncultivated and virtually impassable. The modern highway lies far away to the south so our walk is virtuallyuninterrupted by traffic of any kind. Arrive into Ena mid afternoon, a small city that was known as Oi in its heyday as a post town. Before heading to our accommodation, we make a quick visit to the Hiroshige Print Museum in town. It has a fine collection of prints and a good exhibition on the print making process you can even try your hand at making your own print. Catalogues and postcards of the prints, few and far between on our travels, are available to buy here. Our accommodation here is a historic inn on the Nakasendo run by three generations of women (the 13th, 14th and 15th generations, to be precise) and is known for its excellent macrobiotic kaiseki food. After dinner readings.
Accommodation: Ena Ichikawa Inn http://ichikawaryokan.jp
Ena – Shinchaya
Approx. 6km (3.7 miles) Elevation: Start at 302m (991ft), end at 501m (1,643ft) Highest elevation: 501m (1,643ft).
Creative travelling tasks given. Travel by rail to Nakatsugawa in the Kiso Valley, arriving in time for lunch. Nakatsugawa is an old post town and now a pleasant regional town. We embark on the climb that tomorrow takes us over Magome Pass, which leads to the Kiso Valley and the heart of the Nakasendo. Superb views of the way ahead, and the way we have come, make this a memorable journey, while this afternoon is also an opportunity for your guide to introduce important features of the ancient highway and travel in Edo period Japan, ever present as we walk. Our inn tonight is at a place called Shinchaya (“New Tea House”), and it is steeped in history. The last section passes along one of the best preserved parts of the old highway, and perhaps one of the most photogenic too. It is a stiff climb, but it is all made worthwhile by the delightful location of our inn, which is the gateway to the Kiso Valley. Arriving after lunch, we hold our writing workshop in the dining hall of our inn. Our evening meal for the night is farmhouse style and includes many tasty morsels little associated with Japanese cuisine.
Accommodation: Shinchaya Inn
Shinchaya — Magome Shinchaya
Total walking: Approx. 5km (3.1 miles)
After breakfast, we walk through hilly countryside to Magome. Magome is an attractive old town perched on the side of a hill and was home to Japan’s first modern novelist, Shimazaki Toson (author of Before the Dawn). Shimazaki’s famous novel describes life in Magome in the middle of the 19th century as his father, and Japan, came to terms with interaction with the west. We will have lunch in acharming cafe in Magome with a splendid view of Mt. Ena in the distance. Following this, free time in the afternoon to explore Magome and write before heading back to our inn for dinner.
Accommodation: Shinchaya Inn
Total walking: Approx. 10km (6.2 miles) Elevation: Start at 494m (1,621ft), end at 420m (1,378ft) Highest elevation: 801m (2,628ft)
After breakfast we bid farewell to our innkeepers at Shinchaya, and follow yesterday’s pathway through the post town of Magome and onward to Magome Pass. We meander slowly downhill through the woods and pass a pair of historic waterfalls before we reach our next inn in the small hamlet of O-tsumago, and about 20 minutes further on, the village of Tsumago itself. Tsumago is the best preserved and arguably the most attractive of all the post towns. 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 top samurai, and now a museum, we enjoy dinner and an evening bath at our accommodation, a mountain top onsen thermal hot spring resort. After dinner, we end the evening with a writing session.
Accommodation: Hotel Kisoji http://www.hotelkisoji.jp
Tsumago — Kiso- Fukushima
Total walking: Approx. 9km (5.6 miles). Elevation: Start at 537m(1,761ft), end at 410 (1,345ft) Highest elevation: 537m (1,761ft).
We follow the old highway on to Nagiso through picturesque hamlets and fields, passing by the site of Tsumago Castle. As we enter Nagiso town, we catch a glimpse of Momotsuke – bashi, an impressive wooden suspension bridge, lying across the Kiso River.Wecatch a train to Kiso- Fukushima, where we have lunch and explore the town. Our accommodation in the centre of town is a Japanese inn with thermal hot spring baths. A soak in the baths prepares us for yet another sumptuous dinner. A writing workshop rounds off our evening.
Accommodation: Iwaya Inn http://www.kisoji-iwaya.com
Kiso -Fukushima ーKaida Plateau
Total walking: Approximately 6km (3.7 miles). Elevation: The pass starts at 1,139m (3,737ft) and ends at 1,158m (3,799ft).
Departing our inn, we first visit the reconstructed barrier station that straddles the old highway. We then transfer part-way to the Kaida Plateau, where ourmorning’s walk follows an ancient path, up over the Jizo Pass. The plateau is dominated by Mt.Ontake, an active volcano that is considered sacred by Esoteric Buddhists. Lunch today is at a charming family-run cafe, from which we enjoy a full frontal view of Mt. Ontake particularly breathtaking on a clear day. We spend some time writing there. Afterwards, we transfer to our accommodation: another delightful, modern Japanese inn with onsen baths.
Accommodation: Yamaka-no-yu http://www.yamakanoyu.com
Total walking -Approx. 5km (3.1 miles)
Our morning excursion takes us over Nishi-no-toge, another high pass that, on a clear day, provides views high over the plateau to Mt. Ontake. We then return to our accommodation by bus, and enjoy lunch there. After a visit to a nearby merchants house, we spend the rest of our afternoon writing at our inn.
Accommodation: Yamaka-no-yu http://www.yamakanoyu.com
Kaida Plateau —Narai-Karuizawa
Total walking: Approx. 11km (6.8 miles) Elevation: Starts at 926m (3,038ft) and ends at 934m (3,064ft). Highest elevation: 1197m (3,927ft)
Transfer to Yabuhara where we start our 8 kilometre walk over the Torii pass to the lovely post town of Narai. Here we have free time to explore, relax in cafes and shop in Narai before transferring by train, through the grand mountains of Japan’s Central Alps, to Karuizawa. Once an old post town on the Nakasendo Way, Karuizawa is now the epitome of a High- class mountain resort town in Japan. We stay in a top-class, historic inn that has deep associations with some of the nation’s top literary figures, including Tanizaki Junichiro and Akutagawa Ryunosuke. After dinner, time permitting, we conclude our evening with a short writing session.
Accommodation: Tsuruya Inn http://www.tsuruyaryokan.jp
Total walking: Approximately 10 km. Elevation: Starts at 976m (3,202ft) and ends at 1,205m (3,953ft).
We step out of our inn onto the Nakasendo and are soon walking up through maple forests to the Usui- toge Pass. The Pass gives spectacular views across to Mt. Asama, an active volcano. At 1,180 metres the Usui- toge is the second highest point on the Nakasendo that we visit. We then return to our accommodation for a final writing session. In the afternoon, we speed our way to Tokyo from Karuizawa by bullet train. We walk to Nihonbashi bridge, where the Nakasendo Way terminated, for a fitting finalé to our last meal together.
Accommodation: Mitsui Garden Hotel Shiodome Italia-Gai http://www.gardenhotels.co.jp/shiodome-italiagai
The tour ends after breakfast in your accommodation. Your tour leader will be on hand to assist with onward travel to the airport or other post-tour destination.
Praise for our 2016 Japan Journey
“So many thanks for a most inspiring and stimulating experience in Japan. I loved Matsushima — strolling in temple garden. Loved the hot baths, esp when you found an outside one!The soiree— a glimpse into the deep talents of many diverse individuals! Loved it — the songs, the poetry, the stories, and the pilgrims retreat place. Want to return to wander and dream there!Our accommodations, food, guide and of course the walks, the workshops, were all first class. Ted was a great guide….succinct, knowledgeable, intelligent and funny, helpful. He was good at noticing when I was having trouble down steps with big bag for example. And you! always so cool, calm. Thanks for all your fine attention to all the details and looking after our group. And I loved our spontaneous conversations with a diversity of Japanese people. So many haiku moments….as you reminded us…every moment is a haiku moment!!” Caroline Josephs, Sydney (Read her Japan haiku here).
“Thanks again for a terrific trip. We both loved it, and we got Jane away from work for the first time in forever–recharged her batteries! So glad we came! And I am so enjoying the magazine you assembled from our trip. For my page, I appreciate your kind introduction and conclusion and the apt illustrations, beautifully done.” David Oates, Athens, Georgia, USA. (Read his Japan haiku here).
“Dear Jan, it was indeed a wonderful experience, many thanks!” Jacqueline Buswell, Sydney. (Read of her poetic journey here).
“Thank you for a wonderful trip!” Gabrielle Wang, Melbourne. (View Gabi’s illustrated haiku here).
See photos from our 2016 Haiku Walking journey following Basho’s Narrow Road to the North (Tokyo – Kyoto) here.