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The Magome-Tsumago Trail is a trail connecting the post towns of Magome and Tsumago, as the name suggests. It is 8 kilometers long and runs along a section of the Nakasendo (中山道, "center mountain road"), a route that once connected Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo Period.


One of the most popular attractions in the Kiso Valley, the Magome-Tsumago trail provides visitors the experience of travelling along the best preserved part of one of the Edo period's most important route, the Nakasendo. The Nakasendo flourished during the Edo Period, as one only had to cross a few rivers, which was unlike The Tokaido Road. Many famous people travelled the route during the Edo Period, most notably Basho. Due to the trail being well maintained, it's a National Historic Site of Japan. The trail is marked in both English and Japanese and also has various rest points and restrooms. The Magome-Tsumago Trail embodies the saying "the journey is more important than the destination", as there are very few stops on the route. The route passes through forests, past rural houses and fields, and should provide travellers with a feeling of old Japan. One could do the route in reverse, but this is not common, as it becomes an uphill journey, and you have to compete with tourists heading the other way.


Very little preparation is necessary, and the trail can be easily completed in 2-3 hours, but one thing you may want is a luggage forwarding service so you don't have to bring your baggage on the hike. The main service for this can be found at the 1 Magome Tourist Information Center and costs ¥500 per item. The trail is gentle and hiking boots are not required except during the winter when the path may be icy. It is very unlikely that one will encounter bears on the route but fearful travellers can purchase bear bells at the tourist information centre. One can also take the bus between the two cities, it takes 20 minutes and costs around ¥700.

Get in[edit]

Due to the touristy nature of Magome it is accessible by both bus and train. If coming from Tokyo, there are main two ways to access Magome by train, the nearest train station is Nakatsugawa station where one can take a 25-minute bus to Magome (¥500). The more expensive way is to take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya and then take the Wide View Shinano to Nakatsugawa station. This costs around ¥13,000 and takes 150-185 minutes depending on the shinkansen's speed. The other main option is to take the Azusa limited express train from Shinjuku Station to Shojiri or Matsumoto and then take the Wide View Shinano to Nakatsugawa. This takes 210 minutes but could be longer due to transfer times however it is cheaper at ¥10,000. Direct highway bus is also operated by JR linking Tokyo and Magome. If coming from most other major cities the most efficient path is through Nagoya, the journey from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa is ¥2,500. The Nakasendo runs through the town and one should follow it out of the city.


Map of Magome-Tsumago Trail

Although the old Nakasendo runs through 1 Magome's center, the routes first stop is the 2 Magome Lookout Point and this is where the post town ends and the rural fields of the Kiso Valley begin. Around the 250 meter mark the route converges onto the main road however this is brief and the trail splits into a walking path 180 meters after. One of the few restaurants on the route 1 Juri can be found 500 meters after the road becomes a walking path. The trail then passes by the 3 Jippensha Ikku Monument, a monument to an Edo travel writer, 300 meters after the monument one can make a small detour to visit the 4 Kumanojinja Shrine, an old shrine where travellers would stop. After the shrine one enters the prefecture of Nagano where Tsumago is. The half way point of the trail is around here and one can stop at 5 Tateba Tea House, this traditional tea-house constructed in the Edo Period serves tea and sweets to travellers. The path soon merges with the main road and this lasts 120 meters before there is a right turn back onto a walking trail and it is well marked. There are no major stops for the next kilometer and the next stop is 6 Gozu-Kannon which features the only stone Buddha in the Kiso Valley. 1 Tsutamuraya, an old inn that serves food traditional to the Kiso Valley could prove a useful rest point to those completing the journey in two days. Just before Tsutamuraya the path converges with the road and they split right after 2 Kongoya, a soba shop. Then one will cross the Aragari River and pass by 7 Omata Oshagoji before entering the outer areas of Tsumago. It is then a short walk to the 8 Tsumago's City Center.

Stay safe[edit]

Due to the touristic nature of this route, the gentleness of the route and the general safety of Japan, this itinerary is incredibly safe, though there are a few concerns one should be aware of. The most notable concern one may have is the fact that some of the route requires one to walk on the side of the road, these portions are short and due to the route's popularity there are large spaces where pedestrians can walk. The path can be slippery during winter and one should wear hiking boots during the winter. Those worried about the trail's safety can take the bus instead.

Go next[edit]

If one wants to continue walking the Nakasendo the next post-town is Ochiai and one could continue to Tokyo though the rest of the route lacks the preservation found here and the walk will be mostly on the sides of roads. One can continue exploring Nagano prefecture by taking the train up to Matsumoto, which has a well-preserved castle. One can also head south Nagoya.

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