Magome to Tsumago

Magome To Tsumago- An Epic Day Hike

Magome To Tsumago – An Epic Day Hike

Are you planning a trip to Japan and looking for an escape from busy city life? Why not try hiking on a historical trail from Magome to Tsumago?

WWB Writer Najlaa has created an epic day hike guide from Magome to Tsumago so you can experience a Japanese historical hike up close.

Walking from Magome to Tsumago will bring you on an expedition away from the city to a countryside that passes through time.

Here is what I will cover in this Magome to Tsumago – an epic day hike guide:

  • Magome To Tsumago – What Is It?
  • The Nakasendo Trail Magome To Tsumago
  • How To Get To Magome-Tsumago Trail?
  • Where To Stay In Magome And Tsumago?
  • The Best Time To Hike From Magome To Tsumago
  • What to do In Tsumago?
  • Food You Must Try In  Magome And Tsumago
  • Magome-Tsumago Top Hiking Tips

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Magome to Tsumago – What is it?

Magome to Tsumago

Magome-Tsumago is an 8km trail at the Japan Central Alps, also known as Kiso Mountain in Nagano prefecture. Also, it is known as one of the best and famous hiking spots in Japan

As it passes through several historical and natural wonders, this makes it perfect for an epic trip from the city.

The History

Magome and Tsumago are two restored Edo-period towns which are part of the Nakasendo highway in Kiso Valley. The towns served as a post town to accommodate those who travelled from Tokyo to Kyoto during the Edo period (17th – 19th century).

Hence, Magome-Tsumago was an important road that connected Tokyo and Kyoto during that time. 

In the 1970s, during the restoration project, both towns closed their streets from cars, restoring old buildings and even hiding their power lines to maintain the old Japanese town’s look and feel.

So nowadays, if you walk from Magome to Tsumago, it feels like having a journey through time to the feudal-era.

The Nakasendo Trail Magome to Tsumago

The Magome to Tsumago hiking trail, also part of Nakasendo trail, are some of the sections that are still walkable until today. 

Being 8km long, it will only take you about 2 – 3 hours to complete the trail starting from Magome. Therefore, you can explore both towns Magome and Tsumago in a day.

Magome – The Starting Point

Magome to Tsumago

Magome town usually is the starting point of the Nakasendo trail from Magome to Tsumago. 

It was the 43rd of 69 post towns along the Nakasendo Highway.  

Also, the 11th post town  in Kisoji. Kisoji is an old trade road that extends from Nagano prefecture to Gifu prefecture, which become part of the Nakasendo highway.

Magome is a stunning village with lots of restored Edo period buildings and houses that stand along the main route. 

Among the buildings, you will find some cafes, souvenir shops, and ryokan ( Japanese Inns), where you can visit and enjoy. 

Before you start your hiking journey, take your time to explore the town, and take the opportunity to grab your camera to create lots of lovely Edo-era memories.

The town is also the hometown of the famous Japanese novelist named  Shimazaki Toson (1972 -1943). If you are a fan of classic Japanese literature, then you have to visit the Toson Memorial Museum, a small museum dedicated to his life and works. 

His grave is also near his home in the local cemetery.

There are also a few small museums within the town, a traditional watermill, as well as a watchtower that guards the entrance of the Magome town that you must see.

Aside from that, there is also a Kosatsuba, a notice board from the days of Tokugawa Shogunate. The notice board stated the rules and the laws, some of which are about banning the Christian and death sentence of tree-fellers.

As you are about to start your journey towards Tsumago, have a short stop at the Magome lookout point located at the end of the town to catch a panoramic view of the Magome town. 

Hiking The Nakasendo Trail 

Magome to Tsumago

The Nakasendo trail will bring you through a beautiful and calming light cedar forest, countrysides, and shrines that fulfil the Edo period atmosphere. 

In the first part of the hike, the path goes uphill; but as you go on, the route will slowly start to go downhill, and the rest will be easy.

As you walk further, you will cross with an asphalt road and then back to the charming forest. 

At midway of the trail, there are two lovely waterfalls Otaki and Metaki Falls (Male and Female Falls); and a rest-stop area where you can enjoy some Japanese snacks and tea served by the traditionally dressed staff.

Along the Magome to Tsumago trail, you will see that the path is well reserved with proper signage in Japanese and English. So, you will not easily get lost throughout your journey. 

There are also several bell posts along the trail to help you scare off the bears that wander around the forest.

Tsumago – The Exit Point

Magome to Tsumago

Tsumago is the exit point of the Magome-Tsumago trail. The 42nd of 69 post towns on Nakasendo Highway and the 10th stop on the Kisoji route.

The Tsumago town suffered less destruction from the fire that happened during the feudal era.

Thus, many buildings and houses did not require heavy restoration during the 1970s restoration process, resulting in the town feeling more authentic from other towns..

After the restoration, Tsumago received protection from the Japanese government, hence, obtained the status of Nationally Designated Architectural Site in 1976. It is considered one of the best-preserved towns in Japan as of today.

While castles and shrines display the past life of the elite community. Tsumago’s main road, lined with rustic wooden shops, restaurants, inns, and houses, showed glimpses of the life of ordinary Japanese people during those times.

Surrounded by scenic forested mountains as a backdrop of the town, you will be thrilled to explore and be part of the journey through time.

Magome Tsumago Trail or Tsumago Magome Trail – Which Is Better?

The trail between Magome and Tsumago is doable both ways. If you are planning for a day trip, then you can hike both ways.

However, taking the Magome Tsumago trail is the most recommended route because the Tsumago Magome trail has more altitude gain than Magome-Tsumago. 

Thus, the Tsumago Magome hike might be a little hard for some of you.

Alternatively, since they are accessible by bus, you may hike to one town and then catch a bus to the other, or vice versa. For the bus timetable, you may refer here. 

How To Get To Magome-Tsumago Trail?

The most convenient way to the Magome to Tsumago trail is to drive a car, as public transport to Magome and Tsumago towns are not as frequent as in cities. 

Even so, it is still possible to get there by public transport. 

By Car

If you are travelling by car, you may reach Magome to Tsumago trail by taking the Chuo Expressway from Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, or Nagoya. 

Below is a summary of the approx duration it will take to drive to the Nakasendo trail:

When you reach the town of Magome, you need to park your car outside Magome town as it is closed for vehicles from entering. 

By Train

Magome to Tsumago

To reach the Magome-Tsumago trail by train, first, you have to go to Nakatsugawa station.  The reason is that there is no direct train to the Magome to Tsumago trail, and Nakatsugawa is the nearest station to Magome town.

As you reach Nakatsugawa station, catch a 25 – 30 minutes local bus ride for you to arrive at Magome town.

In the town of Magome, you can start your historical Magome to Tsumago hiking journey.

Cost for the local bus: JPY570 ( USD5 ) per one way trip

From Tokyo To Nakatsugawa Via Nagoya

The fastest way to Nakatsugawa station from Tokyo is by taking the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Nagoya station for 1 hour 50 minutes. 

Then, take the JR Shinano Limited Express from Nagoya station for another 50 minutes to reach Nakatsugawa station.

Do take note, if you are using JR Rail Pass, please take the Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari train instead due to the Tokaido Shinkansen Nozomi not covered by the rail pass.

Cost: Free if using JR Rail Pass or JPY13,230 ( USD122) per one way trip 

From Tokyo To Nakatsugawa Via Shiojiri

From Shinjuku station, take a JR Azusa train bound for Matsumoto to Shiojiri station. The ride will take around 2 hours and 25 minutes to reach the station.

Please take note that some of the JR Azusa trains do not stop at Shiojiri station. So, before you ride the train, please ensure the train stops at Shiojiri station.

Then, at Shiojiri station, transfer to JR Shinano train bound for Nagoya to Nakatsugawa station for another 1 hour 10 minutes ride. 

Cost without JR Rail Pass: JPY10,240 ( USD94 ) per one way trip

From Kyoto/Osaka To Nakatsugawa

If you are from Kyoto, you need to take a 35 minutes Tokaido Shinkansen ride to Nagoya station. But if you are from Osaka, you need to ride the Shinkansen for an additional 15 minutes to reach Nagoya station.

At Nagoya station, transfer to JR Shinano Limited Express for a 50 minutes ride to Nakatsugawa station. 

Cost without JR Rail Pass: 

  • From Kyoto – JPY8,500 ( USD78 ) per one way trip
  • From Osaka – JPY9,450 ( USD87 ) per one way trip

From Nagoya To Nakatsugawa

From Nagoya, you can reach Nakatsugawa station directly in 50 minutes by taking the JR Shinano Limited Express train from Nagoya station.

But if you are looking for a much cheaper ride, you may take JR Chuo Rapid Line to Nakatsugawa station. However, the ride will take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes to arrive at the station.

Cost without JR Rail Pass:

  • JR Shinano Limited Express Train – JPY3,270 ( USD30 )
  • JR Chuo Rapid Line – JPY1,340 ( USD12 )

By Bus

Magome to Tsumago

Most buses that go to the  Magome to Tsumago hiking trail stop near the entrance of the path. Thus, taking a bus to the Magome-Tsumago trail is more convenient than taking the train as you do not require a lot of transfer.

From Tokyo

To reach the Magome Tsumago trail, you will need to take a Chuo Liner Kani bus bound for Nagoya station from Shinjuku Bus Terminal and get off at the Chuo-Do Magome stop ( approximately 4 hours 40 minutes ride).

At the Chuo-Do Magome stop, you need to walk for 20 minutes to reach Magome town.

Cost: JPY4,710 ( USD43 ) per one way trip.

From Nagoya

If you are coming from Nagoya, you will need to take a 90 minutes bus ride with the Meitetsu Highway Bus from Meitetsu Bus Center to arrive at Magome-Tsumago trail.

The bus will stop near the  Magome town entrance, and from Magome, you can walk up through the trail.

Cost: JPY2,500 ( USD23 ) per one way trip

There is no direct bus from Kyoto/Osaka to the Magome to Tsumago trail. Hence, travel by train is the recommended public transport from Kyoto/Osaka to the hiking trail. 

Where To Stay In Magome And Tsumago?

Magome to Tsumago

Your trip will not be complete without staying a night at either Magome or Tsumago.

By spending a night at either of the towns,  you will get to witness the night ambience of the Edo period as they light up the lanterns along the streets.

There are a few lovely ryokans (Japanese-style traditional inns) or minshuku (Japanese-style bed and breakfast) that you can check out around Magome and Tsumago:

Accommodation In Magome

  • Guesthouse Nedoko is an aesthetic Japanese inn in Magome where they provide dorms and private rooms with a shared bathroom, kitchen, and lounge.
  • Guesthouse Goku Magome is an inn located near the Magomefurasato school. They provide dormitory rooms and family rooms where each has a gorgeous view of  Mount Ena. 
  • Tajimaya features a 110-year old minshuku located at the heart of the town of Magome. Hence, it is perfect for someone who wants to experience an authentic Japanese inn. 
  • Magome Chaya offers simple traditional Japanese rooms with futon beddings, tatami mats, Shoji paper screens, and low Japanese furniture to highlight the classic ambience. 
  • Guesthouse Motomiya is a two-star accommodation that offers Japanese-style rooms to its guests. They are also one of the few inns that provide an American breakfast on their menu.

Accommodation In Tsumago

Most lodgings in Tsumago are minshuku, which is a family-run establishment. 

Staying in minshuku will be perfect for you if you enjoy being part of the classic Japanese home and its community.

The main attraction of staying at minshuku is that you will get the chance to have a warm home-cooked Japanese cuisine served by the family.

Here are some of the recommended minshuku in Tsumago that you should give a try:

Alternative Accommodation Near Magome and Tsumago

Accommodation at Magome and Tsumago tend to be fully booked, especially during peak seasons like Golden Week (29th April – 5th May) and spring season (March – April).

Therefore, it is wise to book accommodation as early as possible.

If they are all booked, do not fret!  There are a few other great lodgings that you can find near the Magome Tsumago trail.

  • Hotel Hanasarasa located at Nakatsugawa, just 20 minutes drive to Magome town. This hotel offers several onsen baths and Japanese Kaiseki cuisine (Japanese multi-course cuisine) to its guests.
  • Takami Onsen Inn is just a short drive away from Tsumago.  This inn offers rooms with a beautiful garden view and a lovely outdoor onsen overlooking a waterfall. 
  • Hotel Fuki No Mori is a hotel located in Nagiso and features six types of hot springs baths that you can choose to ease your body after completing your hiking trip. 
  • Tokonamiso is a ryokan located in the forest of Nagiso. Best for people who want a nature retreat.

These are only some of the recommended lodgings near Magome and Tsumago. There are other accommodations that you can find around Nakatsugawa and Nagiso.

The Best Time To Hike From Magome To Tsumago

Are you looking for the best time to hike the Nakasendo trail? 

Though the trail is possible to hike throughout the year,  March to November is considered the best time due to the mild temperatures. 

Furthermore, you can also catch the view of the beautiful cherry blossoms and autumn foliage during that time.

Between October and April, you will be able to admire the heavenly scenery that conjures the feudal-era winter. With the snow clinging on the roof of each building and lines through the street. The towns display a beautiful winter realm that will remain in your memory for a lifetime.

Magome Tsumago weather during summer can be rather hot and humid. Thus, it is advisable to start your hiking journey early in the morning and bring plenty of water to avoid getting heat stroke due to the hot weather.

What To Do In Tsumago?

There are plenty of things you can do in Tsumago. 

While walking from end to end of Tsumago Street will take you less than 30 minutes, it is advisable to take your time exploring the town to have a pleasant journey of slipping through time.

Here are some of the things that you can do in Tsumago:

  • Visit the Honjin and Wakihonjin, to see accommodation during the Edo period that served high ranking government officials and the lower-class traveller, now both have been restored as a museum.

By visiting both places, you will get to capture a sight of life during those times from the interior, the material used, and even how their toilets work! 

  • Kotokuji Temple is a Buddhist temple dated 1500. There you will also find an ancient cherry tree that still stands at the temples.
  • Take a short stop at the ruins of Tsumago Castle. Even though it is not a particularly remarkable place, the place still has its merit due to the view of the town it has offered.
  • Take a night stroll along Tsumago street to see the beauty of the town as the night falls. You will find that the night version exhibits a calm and melancholy side that touches your heart.

Tsumago has also been hosting several festivals that you can check out throughout the year. 

The festivals include:

  • Bunka-Bunsei Customs Parade takes place every November 23, where participants will dress in an Edo period costume, carrying palanquins to celebrate the anniversary of the Tsumago Preservation Project.

Food You Must Try In  Magome And Tsumago

Magome to Tsumago
  • Home-cooked Japanese  Kaiseki cuisine (traditional Japanese multi-course cuisine).
  • Gohei Mochi is a toasted rice ball made from non-glutinous rice with sesame, soy sauce and walnut.
  • Hoba-Maki is a rice cake with red sweet beans wrapped with magnolia leaves.
  • Sake that made from a pure alpine water

Magome-Tsumago Top Hiking Tips

  • Walking from Magome to Tsumago does not require special hiking boots or equipment. As long as you wear comfortable attire and flat shoes, you are good to go.
  • If you plan to hike in winter, wear proper layered attire and winter boots because the weather will be cold and slippery.
  • Hike on weekdays instead as the trail and towns can be pretty crowded on weekends or National holidays.
  • Do check the weather before you start hiking to ensure you have a smooth hiking journey along the way.
  • Travel light when you hike the Nakasendo trail. If you have brought heavy luggage with you, you can use the luggage forwarding service available at either Magome or Tsumago Information Office. This service will help you to transport your luggage while you hike the trail.
  • Bring plenty of water or a filter bottle, especially during summertime. There is nowhere to buy water on the trail. If you bring a filter bottle, there is a stream where you can get water.
  • Consider buying some snacks before you start hiking because you never know you might get hungry along the way.
  • Along the route of the Magome to Tsumago, you will find a free wifi rest area where you can get connected for a maximum of 20 times, 15 minutes each. The wifi is pretty fast, hence great for quick research on the route and the town, checking on the weather forecast, etc.

Conclusion

Hiking from Magome to Tsumago is well worth your time to experience authentic Japanese culture and history. 

With beautifully preserved towns and roads surrounded by natural wonders, this hike is not only about experiencing history but also a great escape from the hectic city life to serene countryside life.

Have you ever hiked from Magome to Tsumago? Do share your experience. We would like to hear about your experience, so other people can also get more tips about it!  

Magome To Tsumago – An Epic Day Hike

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