Introducing Tsumago & Magome
These are two of the most attractive Nakasendō towns. Both close their main streets to vehicular traffic and they’re connected by an agreeable hike.
Tsumago feels like an open-air museum, about 15 minutes’ walk from end to end. It was designated by the government as a protected area for the preservation of traditional buildings so no modern developments such as telephone poles are allowed to mar the scene. The darkwood glory of its lattice-fronted houses and gently sloping tile roofs is particularly beautiful in early morning mist. Many films and TV shows have been shot on its main street.
Tsumago’s tourist information office (
Down the street and across, Waki-honjin (
Across from the Shiryōkan, Tsumago Honjin (
On 23 November, the Fuzoku Emaki Parade is held along the Nakasendō in Tsumago, featuring townsfolk in Edo-period costume.
Magome, the next post town south, is more modern, with houses, restaurants, inns (and souvenir shops) lining a steep, cobblestone pedestrian road. Even if only some structures are Edo-style, Magome is undeniably pretty and has broad views. At the tourist information office (
Magome was the birthplace of the author Shimazaki Tōson (1872–1943). His masterpiece, Ie (The Family), records the decline of two provincial Kiso families. A museum (
Good gifts from both towns include toys, crafts and household implements made from Kiso hinoki.
The 7.8km hike connecting Tsumago and Magome peaks at the top of the steep pass, Magome-tōge (elevation 801m). From there, the trail to/from Tsumago passes waterfalls, forest and farmland, while the Magome approach is largely on paved road. It takes around 2½ hours to hike between these towns. It’s easier from Magome (elevation 600m) to Tsumago (elevation 420m) than the other way. There are English signs along the way and you’ll have the opportunity to stop off at several small waterfalls en route. The Magome–Tsumago bus (¥640, 30 minutes, at least three daily in each direction) also stops at the pass.
If you’re hiking between Magome and Tsumago, the towns offer a handy baggage-forwarding service (per bag ¥500;