Kiso Valley is a popular day-trip for visiting the old post towns and beautiful nature. Many people undertake the hike from Tsumago to Magome or vice versa. I recommend leaving early if you are staying in Nagoya. Or spend the night in Magome and have the town for yourself when tourists go back home.
Magome is a cozy little town that gives you the feeling you have gone back in time. They renovated the town completely and managed to maintain it’s charm. Along the main street, you’ll find little shops, street food, and a tourist office. It is also possible to spend the night in town in a traditional room at Magome Chaya or if you prefer to have dinner and breakfast included a stay at Tajimaya. Staying in town will give you the chance to see Magome without tourists in the evening or early morning.
Depending on what time you plan to hike Nakasendo trail in Kiso Valley you can have lunch in Magome or Tsumago. You could also start your hike out of Magome and have lunch at restaurant Yuri that is along the way to Tsumago. I loved the food there.
walking along the Nakasendo trail in Kiso Valley
Walking along this route is a great way to spend a few hours. The area is beautiful. Enjoy the local houses and nature along the way. Start at Magome if you prefer hiking 2/3 of the way downhill instead of uphill. The hike itself isn’t hard, about 8 kilometers. With a normal pace, you should be able to do it within 2 hours.
Don’t forget to ring the bear bells along the way really loud! The idea is that bears are warned that someone is coming and have time to move along before you arrive. You can also rent bear bells at the tourist office. I didn’t since there were bear bells along the way.
The town of Tsumago surrounded by mountains is the most authentic one. Less affected by fires and is under protection by the government since the seventies, after locals did renovation work in the sixties. In the main street cars are forbidden, contributing to the authentic feeling of the Edo-style buildings. Kotoku-ji Temple dating back to 1500 is the most important temple in town.
Here you will find a map of the trail. Nakasendo trail
Luggage forwarding service
If you are spending the night in either Magome or Tsumago, you can use a luggage forwarding service if you want to walk the trail. For each bag, you pay 500 Yen. Drop your bag at the tourist office in either town between 08:30 am and 11:30 am. Your bag will arrive in the other town at the Tourist Office around 1 pm. Don’t forget to ask until what time you can pick up your bag. Better safe than sorry. They close at 5 pm.
The service runs from around March 21 to November 30 and is suspended during the winter season.
Access to Kiso Valley
From Nagoya to Magome
The easiest way to get to Kiso Valley is by train from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa the fastest train is 48 minutes. From there take the bus to Magome which will take about 25 minutes. The bus stop is to the left just outside the station.
From Tsumago to Magome
Take the bus from Tsumago to Nagiso Station (15 minutes). From there take the train back to Nagoya. You might need to switch trains at Nakatsugawa Station.
Check Hyperdia for your train times.