This post was last updated on February 12th, 2020 at 02:40 pm
Magome is an ancient postal town in the Kiso Valley. During the Edo period, it was an important route that connected Tokyo with Kyoto. The city has been beautifully restored with a wide street, old wooden houses, and picturesque water wheels on both sides. The nearby Tsumago is also a very authentic town. The two cities are connected by the Magome-Tsumago Trail, one of the most famous hiking trails in Japan.
Magome, the Most Beautiful Town in Japan
Magome and Tsumago, with their authentic style, are known for their wooden and plaster buildings from a completely different era. In the 1970s, both cities closed their main streets and dozens of old houses were restored and as many electricity lines as possible were concealed so that it really looks like you are entering the Edo period.
TIP – Magome has a more touristy feel than Tsumago with more souvenir shops and restaurants. It can be quite busy on weekends and during national holidays.
Our Experience in Magome
We believe this is one of the nicest places in Japan. Okay, most of the old wooden buildings on Magome’s main street are from the 20th century because the originals fell into disrepair or were destroyed during fires.
That does not mean that the atmosphere here isn’t very nice. It is a small town that you can walk through in about 10 minutes, but you get a good impression of how things must have been here centuries ago. We strongly recommend walking the Magome-Tsumago Trail if you visit Magome!
The Nature Around Magome
Although the town, and certainly Tsumago, is certainly impressive, the nature around the town is perhaps even more beautiful. The Kiso Valley is one of the most beautiful pieces of nature in Japan. The mountains around Magome are beautifully green with waterfalls, forests, and green valleys.
It is no coincidence that many Japanese people come here to walk.
A single day could be enough for you to see Magome and the surrounding area. However, if you want to see more of the area, we recommend staying the night here. In Magome, as well as Nakatsugawa, the closest city with a JR Station, there are a number of hotels.
TIP – Bring enough water! Especially in the summer months, it can get very hot here and during our trip, we only came across one point where we could buy water.
Tsumago is approximately 8 kilometers north of Magome. This is the more authentic of the two postal cities (juku) because it has been less affected by fires and has also been protected by the Japanese government since the 1970s, after receiving civilian repairs in the 1960s.
The atmospheric main street of Tsumago, where no traffic is allowed, is full of wooden Edo-style houses, temples, and shrines.
And if that is not beautiful enough, the city is surrounded by forested mountains. There are a number of shops and noodle restaurants in Tsumago, but there is not much to do there. The most important temple of Tsumago is Kotoku-ji, which dates from the 1500s.
The Magome-Tsumago Trail
It is possible to walk the old Nakasendo. It is a 7.8-kilometer walk from Magome to Tsumago. You can then continue on to Nagiso, which is another 3.2 kilometers. You can also walk the trail in reverse.
We walked this trail and it was one of the best experiences we had in Japan. It is a nice, easy walk that takes you through the impressive landscape of the valley.
TIP – The walk takes approximately two to three hours. Depending on how often you stop to eat/drink or take photos.
The route is well maintained and there are signposts in English and Japanese. Along the way, you will come across a bell here and there that you have to ring to scare the black bears (really!). Fortunately, we have not seen one.
Along the way, you will pass a few waterfalls. The Otaki and Metaki Falls (Male and Female). You also come across a number of water wheels and shrines, which completes the entire “Edo-period atmosphere”.
Baggage Forwarding Service
If you want to walk from Magoma to Tsumago with all your bags or luggage, it can be a tough journey. That is why there is also a Baggage Forwarding Service. You can find this at the Tourist Office in Magome or Tsumago.
For 500 yen, your bags are delivered to one of the Tourist Offices. If you hand in your bag between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., it will be in Magome or Tsumago at 1 p.m.
TIP – The service is only available from March 21 to November 30 and is closed during the winter season.
Daytrip to the Kiso Valley
The great thing about the Magome-Tsumago trail in the Kiso valley is that many people visit it as a day trip. You can easily do it as a stopover on the way from Nagano to Nagoya. In the winter months, the trail is more difficult to walk because of the snowfall and it is often closed.
The Kiso valley is extremely suitable for walks of several days. The beautiful hilly area is beautiful in spring (especially with the cherry blossoms), summer (for the best weather) and autumn (you have never seen so many different colors). In addition, you can see the 3063-meter high (active) Ontake-san volcano in good weather.
Dream away in the beautiful dense larch and cedar forests that are crossed by different mountain streams. You can also spend the night here in traditional ryokans!
Best Time to Visit Magome
The summer months are the best time to visit Magome. Generally, you have the best weather between March and October. In addition, much is closed between November and March. Walking the trail is also more fun and easier with sunny weather.
It can get quite hot in the summer months, but at least it’s dry. In addition, there’s a chance of snowfall in the winter, making large parts of the path inaccessible.
Average temperature and rainfall in Magome
TIP – Take a cap or hat with you when you come in the summer. The sunshine is very bright here!
How to Get to Magome
Magome is located about 300 kilometers from Tokyo and is easiest to reach by bus from JR Nakatsugawa, the nearest train station. From there you take the bus to Magome. The bus journey takes 30 minutes and costs 360 yen p.p.
Buses depart approximately once per hour.
The easiest way to reach Nakatsugawa is from Matsumoto. The train journey takes 50 minutes and is free with a JR Rail Pass.
The nearby city Tsumago can be reached from Magome by following non-frequent buses or by following the Magome-Tsumago Trail.
TIP – There are also buses between Magome and Tsumago (30 minutes, 600 yen p.p.)