This guide details the Magome-Tsumago trail route. It is an easy trail and it is well-signposted. Magome-Tsumago signposting is available in English and Japanese. You can also use this article to walk from Tsumago – Magome. Japan is a great place to hike, fellow hikers are friendly, accommodating, and helpful – we hope you enjoy it! The Magome Tsumago Trail is the most famous of the Kiso Valley hikes and takes in both of the ancient post towns.
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The Nakasendo Trail Magome to Tsumago hike is mentioned in most of the guidebooks as one of THE things to do for travelers to Japan. It’s also referenced as the most popular part of the Nakasendo Hiking Trail. Because of this, there are two things that you’ll want to do as soon as possible.
- Get your JR Train Pass if you plan to take the train here (there are details about trains and buses to get to Magome and Tsumago later in this article. And you can buy a JR Pass here.
- Book your accommodation in Magome and/or Tsumago ASAP if you plan to stay there before or after your hike. There is very little accommodation in these two small towns and it goes quickly. There are more details on top places to stay in Magome later, but the top picks are
- Magome Chaya: Simple traditional rooms with futon bedding and a tatami-mat floor. Free WiFi – public onsen. Great reviews. Reserve a room now.
- Guesthouse Nedoko – an amazing place to stay – with comfortable rooms, a shared kitchen, a shared lounge and free WiFi. Check rates and availability here.
A Magome Tsumago day trip is easy from Nagoya especially if you have a JR Pass for the trains. (Buy your JR Pass BEFORE you get into the country and save a fortune!) The Magome to Tsumago trail is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) long and has only gentle elevation changes. We hike and travel in standard Merrell hiking shoes but you could do this in sports sandals if you wish.
We’ve covered the buses, trains and options that you need if you plan to do to this part of the Nakasendo Trail independently, however, nowadays there’s an easier option.
TAKE A DAY TOUR FROM MAGOME TO TSUMAGO
This trip includes the hike, an English speaking guide and all your transport (apart from the bit where you’re walking!!) It’s a great option if you’re finding the trains and buses a little overwhelming.
BOOK A DAY HIKE FROM MAGOME TO TSUMAGO HERE.
How to Get to the Magome – Tsumago Walk
The closest train stations to the Magome – Tsumago trail are Nakatsugawa, Nagiso and Nagano. As most walkers travelling to this hike will use a JR Pass (find out everything you need to know about them here), we’ll cover how to get from these stations to Magome and Tsumago. As you may wish to do this hike in either direction we’ll cover options to arrive in either Tsumago or Magome
Taking the train and bus to Magome
There are a variety of routes to Magome – from Tokyo, from Kyoto, from Nagoya. Here are the primary routes to get to the Kiso Valley.
How to get from Nagoya to Magome
You can either take the train from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa and then take the bus to Magome or you can take a bus. The bus from Nagoya to Magome leaves from the Meitetsu Bus Centre ever hour and stop at the Chuodo Magome stop, from there it’s a 1.5 kilometre walk to the centre of Magome.
Nagoya to Nakatsugawa Train
Take any Japan Rail train to Nakatsugawa. These trains are covered on the JR Pass, which saved us a fortune in travel fares during our month in Japan. You can buy a pass for 7, 14 or 21 days of unlimited travel, but you should buy it from outside the country for 10% discount.
Once in Nakatsugawa and make your way to Magome – here are the details of how to get to Magome from Nakatsugawa.
Nakatsugawa to Magome Bus Stop
The stop is right outside the Nakatsugawa train station, which is also where the friendly (and English speaking) tourist information office is.
The bus from Nakatsugawa to Magome costs 570 Yen (2023) and takes around 35 minutes. Once you’re in Magome, it’s a 300 metre hike uphill to the tourist information office. It’s obvious and signposted. It’s a cute little pedestrian only walk way, past stores and cafe’s and renovated houses. Almost a little twee. If you’re looking for peace and quiet before or after your hike, then Magome or Tsumago is your place.
How to Get the Nakatsugawa to Magome Bus
From the Nakatsugawa train station, you can actually start walking from Nakatsugawa station to Magome and then onto Tsumago, but we chose to take the local bus from Nakatsugawa to Magome.
Nakatsugawa to Magome Bus Times
The Nakatsugawa Magome bus takes about 35 minutes and runs at different times during the week and weekends. The Nakatsugawa to Magome bus timetable during the week you can get a bus at 07:42, 09:10, 09:40, 10:15, 11:15, 12:12, 13:12, 14:12, 15:12, 16:12, 17:12 and 18:30. At the weekend buses go from Nakatsugawa to Magome at 08:10, 09:10, 09:40, 10:15, 11:15, 12:12, 13:12, 14:12, 15:12, 16:12 and the last bus is at 17:45. It costs 560 yen per person.
How to get from Tokyo to Magome
There is no Tokyo to Magome train. There is no train station at Magome. To come to Magome from Tokyo it’s easiest and quickest to take a bus from Shinjuku Bus Terminal to Magome. You can take the three-times daily Chuo Liner Kani at 0720, 1040 and 1650. It takes 5 hours to get to Magome from Tokyo and stops at the Chuodo Magome stop, which is 1.5 kilometres into the town.
How to get from Kyoto to Magome
Take a train from Kyoto to Nakatsugawa and from there take the bus to Magome. The train to Nakatsugawa from Kyoto takes around 90 minutes on a regular train that’s covered on the JR Pass. Faster Shinkansen trains will get you from Kyoto to Nakatsugawa in 30-45 minutes, but are not covered on the JR Pass.
If you take an early train to Nakatsugawa, and then the bus to Magome, you can hike the Magome-Tsumago trail in a day from Kyoto. When you finish the hike in Tsumago, simply follow the directions later in this article to return from Tsumago to Nagiso JR Station and from there to Kyoto.
Taking the train and bus to Tsumago
To use the train to get to Tsumago, the closes station is Nagiso station. You will likely need to get a stopping service from Nagoya, however, many trains do not stop at Nagiso. A Tokyo to Nagiso train takes around 3 hours. If that’s the case then transfer to Nakatsugawa Station. From here you will need to take the bus from Nakatsugawa to Tsumago.
If you have got off the train at Nagiso you will need to take a taxi or bus to Tsumago.
Nagiso to Tsumago Bus Timetable
08:15, 08:35, 10:05, 10:40, 12:40, 14:15, 15:00, 16:35, 18:00
This bus also carries on from Nagiso to Tsumago to Magome (Nagiso to Magome takes 30 minutes) and costs the following:
- Nagiso to Tsumago bus = 300 yen
- Tsumago to Magome bus = 600 yen
- Nagiso to Magome bus = 800 yen
Tsumago to Magome Bus Timetable
1012 (arrives 1040), 1247 (arrives 1315), 1422 (arrives 1450), 1642 (arrives 1710)
Kiso Valley Tourist Offices
There are tourism offices in the towns on the route of the Nakasendo trail. They are easy to find, the staff are superbly helpful and will provide you with maps and assistance for hiking.
Magome- Tsumago Tourism Office at Nakatsugawa
The Nakatsugawa tourist information office is at the train station, (to the left as you come out), and they hand out hiking maps and information. It is handily close to the bus stop, which you just can’t miss right in front of both the station and the tourist info.
Magome Tourist Office
The Magome tourist information centre is where you drop your bags if you want them transported to Tsumago, which we did. You’ll find the Magome tourist information office a few hundred metres up the hill (it’s on the way to the walk signposted, so no backtracking required). They’re friendly and speak great English.
Tsumago Tourist Office
The tourist centre in Tsumago will provide you with onward bus times and it’s where you’ll be able to collect your bags from the luggage transfer service. This office is in the centre of Tsumago and is easy to find.
Walking from Magome to Tsumago
Walk uphill from the bus stop and drop your bags at the tourist information office. As you cross the road at the top of the hill, there’s a fabulous viewpoint.
There are signposts along the way.
Then you head off downhill again, skirting through a small wood to cross the road again. Crossing the road is a feature of this walk. At the entrance to the wood is a static bear bell. Give it a good yank and scare them off. We didn’t see any bears, but you’ll find bells by each wooded area.
For a lot of the route – it’s only 7.7 km long – you’ll skirt around and close to the road. It’s a very quiet road, so it won’t bother you.
The trail starts in Magome at an altitude of 600 metres, rises up to 801 metres and then descends to 420 metres in Tsumago. There are woods to go through but few views until you start the final descent towards Tsumago.
Once you leave Magome there is nowhere to buy water for the trail, so either buy water in Magome or take your own filter water bottle. There are streams along the way. Check out our guide to buying the best filter water bottles – these allow us to drink river, stream and untreated tap water.
Stop at the Teahouse on the Magome – Tsumago – Nakasendo Trail
Before that though be sure to stop at the Teahouse that you’ll find perhaps two-thirds of the way to Tsumago. The tea is free, and the kind gentleman here will also offer you fruits and candies.
He’ll ask you to sign his guest book and you can marvel at the range of nationalities that you’ll find in it. Be sure to leave pop a few yen into the box on the table by the entrance so that he can replenish his supplies.
We saw perhaps 10 people the day in mid-October that we walked this trail. It was a glorious autumn day, but the leaves hadn’t started to turn at all. It’s a pleasant walk, but won’t tax you much at all, but it’s a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
Best Time to Hike Magome-Tsumago
The best time to hike from Magome to Tsumago is between April and November. If you are planning to hike from Magome to Tsumago and then move on to your next destination, then the luggage forwarding service available from the Magome Tourist Information to Tsumago Tourist Information is only available from April to November. This would also be the best time to walk the Nakasendo trail in its entirety.
Which is the Best Direction to Hike Magome-Tsumago-Magome?
There’s debate about which way round to do this walk – it’s hard to call it a hike because it neither took very long nor was it particularly difficult. Having walked from Magome – Tsumago I’d say that’s the way to do it and here’s why.
You can hike this part of the Nakasendo way in either direction. We found that taking the Magome to Tsumago walk was a better route for a number of reasons
- If you have luggage that you wish to transfer then the transfer service operates in the direction of Magome to Tsumago only.
- Altitude gain (it’s not much, but every little helps make it more pleasant)
- For us, the transport to get to and from Magome-Tsumago and Nagano is better suited to hike it this way.
What is the Altitude – Magome – Tsumago Trail?
Magome’s altitude is 600 metres. The trail from Magome to Tsumago rises to a pass at 801 metres and then descends to 420 metres in Tsumago.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Magome-Tsumago Day Hike
Got questions about the Magome to Tsumago day hike? Or want to know more about how to get to Magome or Tsumago and we haven’t answered your questions? Check out our frequently asked questions about hiking from Magome to Tsumago below, or ask us yours in the comments.
What Distance is the Magome – Tsumago Trail?
The trail between Magome and Tsumago is 5 miles (8 kilometres).
What is the Magome Tsumago Weather like?
The Nakasendo trail weather will differ hugely depending on where on the trail you are. We have had readers who have hiked in glorious weather in December and had snow in March. The prime hiking season is from the end of March until the end of November.
You are best to travel with layers and rain gear. Check the Kiso Valley weather before you go. The Japanese Meteorological Agency has a good forecasting site here. You should look for the following locations
- Tsumago Magome Weather
- Kiso Valley weather
- Nakatsugawa weather
Searching for Nakasendo weather won’t be too helpful as the Nakasendo is 534 kilometres long and there is a lot of different terrain on the trail.
What is the altitude of Magome Tsumago?
Magome is at an altitude of 600 metres. The trail rises to 801 metres and then descends to 420 metres in Tsumago. This is not a high route. The trail itself is quite sheltered. Tracks are very well formed and maintained.
How long does it take to walk from Magome to Tsumago?
The route from Magome to Tsumago takes 2-3 hours. But you shouldn’t rush through this route. You’ll want to take the time to explore the teahouse en route and enjoy the country of the Kiso Valley. You will want to take some time to explore the villages of Magome and Tsumago.
What to do in Magome
Visit the Magome tourist office to find the latest things to do in Magome. The tourist office in Magome also has lists of places to stay in Magome (although we recommend pre-booking your room prior to arrival) and the latest bus timetables to leave Magome.
Magome is famous, not just for being part of the Nakasendo Trail, but also as it is the birthplace of Shimazaki Toson, a key figure in Japanese literature, one of his most famous novels is Yoakemae (Before the Dawn).
Visit the Honjin / Toson Memorial Museum in Magome
Housed in the old official inn of Magome, Toson’s father was the last overseer of the Magome honjin and Toson was born here. The honjin is now a memorial to the writer. The museum is open from 0900 – 1700 and admission is 550 yen.
Magome’s Wakihonjin Museum
Serving the lower class travellers, this is a reconstruction of the original building and the displays inside reflect Magome’s history as a post town. Admission is 300 yen and the museum is open from 0900 – 1700.
The Tsuchimaya Shiryokan in Magome
This museum also focuses on Toson and his life during the Meiji period. It costs 200 yen and is open from 0900 – 1700, although winter hours are irregular.
Where to Stay in Magome
There are some fabulously rated places to stay here, from dorm beds to the full ryokan experience. If you do decide to stay in a ryokan here, be sure to check out our guide to ryokans and etiquette. Once all the day trippers disappear you’ll have the place to yourself. You’ll need to book ahead though to ensure your Magome accommodation
We recommend the following places to stay in Magome.Stay over and experience cultural Japan before you head out on the Magome – Tsumago day hike!
Japanese traditional style accommodation at the Tajimaya. Enjoy a cultural experience at this gorgeous ryokan in Magome.> check prices and availability now. The Tajimaya is located in a 110-year-old building and is just 5 minute walk from the Magome bus stop. You’ll get a Japanese Yukata robe provided, there’s a shared onsen bath, and free Wi-Fi in public areas. There’s a Japanese-style breakfast and dinner included. Reserve a room here.
Simple traditional rooms with futon bedding and a tatami-mat floor can be found at the Magome Chaya Hotel. Rooms have shoji paper screens and low table > Check availability and prices here. There’s a public onsen, free Wi-Fi in the lobby a shared microwave/fridge and a washing machine available for a fee. Meals are available if reserved in advance at an extra cost. Check rates and book now.
The Guesthouse Nedoko is a glorious place to stay, with homemade furniture, and amazing views of both Magome and the mountains. There are a variety of rooms available here and the reviews are amazing. This is the perfect place to stay before your Magome-Tsumago hike. Reserve a room asap.
What to do in Tsumago
Visit the Tsumago tourist office to find the latest things to do in Tsumago. You’ll find cafes and small stores to purchase souvenirs here in Tsumago. The tourist office in Tsumago also has lists of places to stay in Tsumago and the bus timetables to leave Tsumago.
Visit the Honjin in Tsumago
Buy a combo ticket for 700 yen and also visit the Wakihonjin and the Rekishi Shiryokan too. Open 0900 – 1700 (closed Dec 29-Jan 1). In olden times the Honjin was the main inn in town and served government officials. The Tsumago Honjin was reconstructed in the 1990s, but it is faithful to how it was in the 1830s.
Tsumago’s Honjin was reconstructed in the 1990s, but great efforts have been taken so that it resembles its condition in the 1830s when it served as an inn.
Open from 0900 -1700 and costing 600 yen unless you buy the combo ticket for 700 yen, this building is genuine and dates to the 19th century. A Wakihonjin was an inn that was built to serve lower-class travellers. The Wakihonjin in Tsumago is now a museum. Tours are only in Japanese.
The Rekishi Shiryokan in Tsumago
A 600 yen admission fee will get you into this extensive museum on the Kiso Valley and Tsumago. There are many English translations here. Buy the combo ticket and save hundreds of yen. Opening hours are 0900 – 1700.
Tsumago’s Kotoku Temple
Admission is by donation, which is optional/ this Buddhist temple is thought to have been built in 1500.
Tsumago Castle Grounds
Although the castle here was demolished hundreds of years ago, it’s still worth the trip for the views of the town. It’s located a kilometre north of the main street. Get maps from the tourist information office.
What to Eat in Tsumago
Try the local buns filled with bean paste or vegetables (oyaki). Favourite local foods include chestnut-laced sweets and soba noodles.
Magome – Tsumago Maps
I’ll start this section by saying that you do not need Japanese hiking maps to hike from Magome –Tsumago. The route is well signposted. If you plan to hike the full Nakasendo Way, then I’d recommend buying a map of the Nakasendo Trail.
We have included a basic Nakasendo Way Map in this article.
The Magome to Tsumago Trail Map
Here’s the Tsumago to Magome trail map. This comes courtesy of Nagiso Tourism. It is an element of the larger Kiso Valley Map and the full Nakasendo Trail Map.
Kiso Valley Hikes
There are other hikes that form part of the Kiso Valley trail, but the most popular part of the Kiso Valley walk is the 8 kilometre / 5 mile walk from Magome to Tsumago. Kiso Valley hiking is similar to that of the entire Nakasendo Trail and is easy hiking.
Magome – Tsumago Luggage Transfer Provided by the Tourist Office
For 500 yen, if you get your bags to them by 11:30 am, the Magome Tourist office will deliver them to the Tsumago tourist information office by 1 pm. And then you’re free to set off. The walk isn’t that strenuous, so if you’re carrying light packs, then strap them on and get going! They will also give you directions to the tourist office in Tsumago (although it’s very easy to find).
The Tourist office provides the bag transfer service SEVEN days a week from March 20th until November 30th.
If you wish to contact them to confirm this, here are their details.
Luggage reception time: 8: 30-11: 30 (tourist information office to start walking)
Package receipt time: 13: 00 ~ 17: 00 (Tourist information centre finishing walking)
TEL: 0264-57-3123 FAX: 0264-57-4036 E-Mail: [email protected] Opening hours / 8: 30 ~ 17: 00
You’re also able to rent bear bells at the tourist info office in Magome. We didn’t, figuring that the whistle on my daypack would suffice and we were fine.
Outside of these months, you can use a private luggage transfer service, which we have detailed below.
The Nakasendo Trail
The Kiso Valley hikes that the Magome- Tsumago trail is part of is a small part of the much longer Nakasendo Trail, one of Japan’s most famous hikes.
History of the Nakasendo Trail Japan
The Nakasendo Walking Trail is the historic route between Kyoto and Tokyo. Towns along the Nakasendo trail are ancient post towns, where those collecting taxes for the emperors used to stop en route in the Edo Period, (1603-1868). The entire route from Tokyo to Kyoto is 534 kilometres and is dotted with small towns enroute where you can stay in between easy days of hiking. There were 69 of these stations along the route. These post towns, or Juku, were where the travellers rested at traditional small family guesthouses or Minshuku.
The Nakasendo Trail is also sometimes known as the Kisokaido and the most popular part of the route winds its way through the Kiso Valley.
Walking the Nakasendo trail on your own is entirely possible, although this entire route will take 12 days and you may wish to organize through private guides. Hiking through the Kiso valley for 3-5 days is the most popular way to see this ancient route.
Nakasendo Trail Maps and Guides
- Hiking the Japan Alps: This book contains full descriptions of nine different hikes in the Japan Alps with maps too. Buy now from Amazon.
- A tale of hiking the Kiso Road – descriptive, informative and a good read. Buy now with Amazon.
- A whimsical story and intertwined stories of hiking Japan’s inland trails. Buy now from Amazon.
- the 69 Stations of the Nakasendo: an overview of all 69 stations of the original Edo route of the Nakasendo and her postal towns. Buy now from Amazon.
Hiking the Nakasendo Trail
The Nakasendo Way is primarily a flat, easy hiking trail. Most people will hike the Nakasendo as a self-guided trail, as signposting is simple, although primary signage is in Japanese, apart from the most popular part of the route, Magome – Tsumago.
Hiking the entire Nakasendo Trail and want support along the way? Check out prices and details here.
There were plenty of domestic tourists in Magome and Tsumago bussed into the pretty villages at either end of the trail, but not so many walking on the Magome to Tsumago trail. Not many people at all walk between the two. In fact, we met one group of domestic tourists and three small groups of foreigners. That’s all. We hiked between Magome and Tsumago in October.
Luggage Transfer Services on the Nakasendo Trail
The Magome luggage forwarding service to Tsumago is only provided between March and November (exact dates are above). If you wish to hike outside of these dates and have large luggage then there are 3 private Japanese luggage forwarding services that you can use in Japan.
These Japanese luggage forwarding services are also useful if you plan to hike further stretches of the Nakasendo Trail, beyond Magome to Tsumago there are 3 options that you have for luggage transfer, all of which we recommend that you organized in advance.
If you are planning to have your luggage shipped between hotels, then you will need to let the hotel know in advance that you are doing this.
- Through the hotel or ryokan, you are staying in. We recommend that you organize this in advance when you make your bookings. They will likely use the Yamato transport service, which you can also book yourself.
- Use the Yamato Transport Company service – you can find details here. This is an international transport company that provides hotel-to-hotel luggage transfers as well as airport-to-hotel transfers. You may find it more cost-effective to pack a small pack for your hiking and try and get your bigger bags shipped to a hotel a few days down the trail. You can also drop bags off at convenience stores with Yamato.
- Use JAL ABC luggage transport services – there are more details here. This is also known as “JAL” luggage. This company also provides hotel-to-hotel luggage transport services in Japan as well as a luggage storage service.
Onward Transport from the Magome – Tsumago Walk
Leaving the Kiso Valley after your hike is easy, whichever direction you choose to hike the Tsumago Magome trail.
Tsumago to Nagiso JR Station and onwards
Collect your bags from the tourist information office, pick up the bus and train timetable and get directions for your onward journey. There are buses (latest timetables at the Tourist Office in Tsumago) to Nagiso or Magome. You can also walk from Tsumago to Nagiso in around 45 minutes.
Tsumago to Magome Bus Timetable
You can take a bus from Tsumago to Magome. Buses leave from Nagiso station to Tsumago to Magome. the Nagiso to Tsumago bus schedule is 0840, 1005 1240, 1415 and 1635. The cost is 600 yen. The bus from Tsumago to Magome takes about 30 minutes.
Bus Tsumago to Nagiso Train Station
The buses from Tsumago to Nagiso station (the nearest train station) don’t go very often and cost 300 yen each. Or you can take a taxi for about 1000 yen. The bus takes about 10-15 minutes to get from Tsumago to Nagiso station. The latest times are posted in the Tsumago tourist information centre. From Nagiso JR Station you can reach other areas in Japan.
Nagiso to Nagoya
You can take a local train back to Nakatsugawa and then get an express back to Nagoya if you’re doing this as a day trip. Again this is all covered on the JR Pass – so make sure you get one!
Travel Tips for Exploring Japan
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- Download and install a VPN BEFORE you travel to Japan > discount coupon here
- Buy your Japan Rail Pass before you arrive in Japan
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- Or buy JR Passes from JRailPass here.
- Book the best tours and guides in Japan on Civitatis, GetYourGuideand Klook
- Learn to cook Japanese food in Chef’s kitchens in Japan
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- Book an incredible ryokan experience in Japan
Final Words on the Magome-Tsumago Day Hike
That’s it! That’s all you need to know about planning a trip to Magome and Tsumago. We left Tsumago, and took the bus to Nagiso, where our train took us to Matsumoto, where we were bedding down for the night at the next to the train station ACE Inn. This is a lovely day hike, where you’ll get out into the lower Alps of Japan and see some glorious scenery and hike a part of history too.
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48 thoughts on “Magome to Tsumago: Nakasendo Trail Day Hike ”
Great trip report & many nice pictures!
Thanks for sharing with us. Quite a lot of useful info, indeed.
In November I plan to walk Nakasendo Trail with my girlfriend and our only concern is whether it’ll be possible to drop our luggages in Magome’s Tourist Office upon arrival MIDWEEK.
Japan Guide.com states that the service is available daily until the end of November, however I found a contradictive information on LP’s website. They say daily service is only available in the summer (Jul-Aug) and for the rest of the time luggage drop is supposedy possible only on weekends and National Holidays.
Do you know if that’s the case by any chance? If so is there any alternative to transport our bags between two villages? Would taxi drivers accept to take the luggage on it’s own and deliver to the chosen Ryokan in Tsumago?
I’m simply asking as we know for sure we won’t arrive during weekend and so far no one was able to confirm the details.
Hope you can help with your experience on the matter – that would surely help us a lot to plan the trip accordingly.
Thank you 🙂
Hi Damian – I’m pretty sure you can drop daily until Nov 30. The Japanese Tourist Board says daily until Nov 30. (http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-408.pdf) or call (0573-69-2336) and while there are reports that only Japanese is spoken, we had no problems with our lack of Japanese. I’ve had success also asking via social media – so try https://www.facebook.com/visitjapaninternational. To be absolutely sure, drop an email to the Japanese tourist office – we found the Japanese to be the most helpful in all 16 countries we’ve visited. Another all else fails, contact your ryokan and ask them to arrange luggage collection, then you’re only dealing with a “single supplier”. Have a great time – this hike was glorious. Sarah
Thank you for your kind reply.
You’ve been most helpful!
No worries Damian, I just had this back from the JNTO team in London on Twitter “@experiencejapan: @ASocialNomad please let Damian the luggage service is available daily until the end of November, so he will be fine.” 🙂
WOW. That’s quite impressive 🙂
Once again, thank you for your help, Sarah.
Just got a confirmation from the JNTO in London on Twitter “@experiencejapan: @ASocialNomad please let Damian the luggage service is available daily until the end of November, so he will be fine.”
Thanks for all the great information.
My family and I plan to visit Magome – Tsumago for a day trip in November. We have children and old people that cannot walk much so we plan to take a bus from Nakatsugawa to Magome, take bus again from Magome to Tsumago then to Nagiso. Is it possible to do so? Without doing the walking, do we miss alot?
Going back to Nagoya, can we take JR Shinano Ltd Exp train from Nagiso back to Nagoya?.
Hi Connie – First of yes, you can do what you suggest. There are buses from Nakatsugawa to Magome. Have a short walk (its uphill, but pretty) around Magome and then take a bus from there to Tsumago. The buses run at The walking route follows the road for a decent amount of the way, so you will see some of the scenery, which is very pretty. The buses from Magome to Tsumago run year round at 0920, 1050, 1325, 1500 and 1715 – be sure to confirm the times when you get off the bus at Magome. Then Tsumago, which I think is easier to walk around than Magome (and there are tea rooms where you can enjoy local hospitality, but there might be more tourists here) has a bus service to Nagiso at 0955, 1125, 1400, 1535 and 1750 (again check the times when you get to Tsumago. The buses run from a parking lot slightly below the village, but there is not as much uphil here as Magome. And then of course the train out of Nagiso is also very easy to go backto Nagoya – you will probably have to change trains, depending on the time of day that you travel, but the JR Rail staff are always very helpful and happy to help (and also in English too). I do hope you enjoy the trip, its a lovely area of the country and hope you’ll stop back here and let us know how your trip went! Sarah
Thank you so much for this useful article. We are family of three and traveling around Japan and we have short stay in Nagoya, so we decided to ecsape from city crowds and go for a day trip from Magome to Tsumago and this article is just perfect for us, l hope that our five year old son will like it, thank you, Sarka
Oh you’ll love it. Be sure to take your son into the teahouse along the route – for tea and the old gentleman there has candies too. He’s very nice and it will give him a great appreciation of Japanese culture n a fun way. I really hope you enjoy it, its a beautiful place! When you’re walking up the hill into and from Magome that’s the longest hill. And don’t forget to ring the bear bells! 🙂
just found your website! So informative! Thank you for sharing all your tips.
Most amazing place for visit to make holiday memorable.Thanks for your blog.
We are trying to do Magame-Tsumago hike and Shirakawago trip together, in whichever direction. What would be the best itinerary using public transportation?
Thanks! Lots of good information on your website!
Thanks! I think the best way would be to get a bus from Magome to Nagoya (and you can do the walk in either direction and get a bus from Tsumago back to Magome if you do it that way) then from Magome to Meitetsu Nagoya and then from there to Shirakawago. It’s about 7 hours in total.
Of all the reviews I read, this is the most detailed. Thank you very much! I’m surprised that it took me so long to get to this site. It serves to be way up there on the search results.
My wife & I are arriving Nagoya on Nov 5 @ 2100HR. Is there a way for us to go straight to Nakatsugawa for the night?
Thank you for your kind comments!
You can take a train from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa – the train time is about 63-77 minutes – so you would arrive quite late. It would be best if you want to do that to check with your hotel or ryokan that they will have someone available at that time. The best place for jour ey times and availability in Japan is hyperdia.com
Could we have the pdf of this fantastic article. We’re planning do do this walk on 10 April and maybe there will be some cherry blossom along the trail. Thanks so much.
On its way to you now Jan
Thanks for the wonderful article. I’m hoping to do this walk in April 2020 but the only thing bothering me is the sightings of bears in the area. Have there been attacks on people in recent years or do the bears move away when they sense people are nearby? Do the noise that the bells make actually work in warning the bears off?
Hi There, thanks for your kind comments. I too was concerned about the bears, but there’s no evidence of them on the trail. The Japanese are very conservative and if there were ANY issues at all they would do something about it. I suspect the bear bells and the possibilty to rent them are more for tourism and revenues than anything else. I check and update this article every 3 months or so and haven’t seen any evidence , apart from one sighting in September 2016. If you have any concerns when arriving, I would ask at the tourism office in Magome, they speak English and will be able to help. The trail is relatively wide and when you hike through the woods they are also open and you can see quite a distance.
Wow Sarah, this is a fabulous article. I have a 12 year old child, what do you think would be the best for us to do? I am not sure if he would be up to the hike although we have done some around Oahu, the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail he totally loved, although this is only around 2.5kms. Pokemon had a big helping hand in his hike to the top. What are the best child friendly places to stay as well?
Hi Amanda, thanks so much for your kind comments. I think he’d love the tea house that you get to see part way along – the old man there is so kind – and it would be a great cultural experience – plus I imagine, renting bear bells and ringing the big bear bells along the route would be fun too. (heck it was for me!!). The walking isn’t too difficult, and you could always walk to the tea house and turn around and head back to Magome. There are maps you can get from the tourist office which point other items of interest along the route. I think a ryokan ( there are several in Magome, mentioned in the article) would be an uber cool place to stay for an experience – I mean sleeping on mats on the floor is kinda cool right? Wearing traditional clothes is also fun too!
Love the website- great info.
Looking to do a shortened 2 night self-guided Nakasendo walk from the southern end, with 8pax, next January (then up to Matsumoto and Nagano skiing)
Main problem I’ve run into is the lack of baggage transfer services over Winter -any suggestions?
Hallo there and thanks for the comment. I’d suggest contacting both the ryokan / hotel you’re staying in at both ends of the walk and asking for their help, they will likely have a service that they can offer. At the same time I’d suggest asking the tourism office in Matsumoto and also Magome tourist office , that you’ll find on the same link as they list out the tourism offices and contact details. They also will likely offer a service, or be able to recommend a solution.
Hi Sarah, Great blog that encouraged us to do the walk April 2019. We are in our early 60’s and enjoyed the walk from Magome to Tsumago. All your information was correct, and we used the luggage forwarding from the tourist office. It is a shame the buses from Tsumago to Nagiso are at odd times that don’t match the luggage drop off time of 1pm. I guess tourists take what they are offered. We decided to take a taxi to Nagiso which was shown to be 1500 yen at the tourist office. As a warning for others, Don’t make our mistake of not showing the driver the station name written down. We were taken to Nakatsugawa Station at far greater expense. By the time we realised what was happening it wasn’t worth backtracking. Whether this was a genuine error or we were suckers we are not sure. This was the only time in our 2 week holiday we felt ripped off. Japan was such a friendly and safe place to visit.
We followed your advice and went to Matsumoto and stayed at the Ace Inn which was great.
Hi Jane, I’m so glad you enjoyed the walk, it is such a lovely location. I’m so sorry for your taxi experience, we’ve had that happen in other countries, and always now write down everything (even sometimes in English!) in a foreign language and I tend to follow our route on maps.me – just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re out to get me eh? I’ll update the post to include the taxi details, so everyone to see too!.
we were planning on doing the hike and staying one night in each town (4 of us – my wife and I plus our two teenagers). Is there enough to see in both towns on the day that we do the hike (some things in Magome, hike, then see Tsumago in the afternoon) ? Since the hike is rather short, is it possible to keep going on the trail to see more of the countryside?
Hi Dan, You can continue at either end on the trail, yes that’s no problem. In terms of other things to do – these are quite quiet towns, primarily set up now for tourists. I think there is more to do in Tsumago than Magome, but it depends on what your interests are. If you’re staying in a ryokan in either place, then its worth taking the time to chill out and enjoy the ryokan. I would say if you’re staying at both ends of the trail, you will have a peaceful time.
My partner and I (age 23 and 24 respectively from Australia) are doing a Japan trip in January 2020, and are wanting to do a day trip of the Magome to Tsumago Hike, starting from Nagoya.
We decided to do a day-trip as we understand some of the luggage forward services are closed during winter.
Your guide along with details obtained from other websites provides plenty of information on how to do it, and so I thank you for that.
Our only concern is if it is possible to do the walk in mid-January, right in the midst of winter? Is it safe (for two active 20 year olds)? Will the trails be closed? Have you or anyone else experienced this trail during this time, and if so, what are your/their thoughts?
Look forward to hearing your thoughts on this particular section of our trip!
Thanks in advance.
Hi there Eli! Yes, you’ll find the luggage forwarding service closed at that time of year. The trails will be open, (as in not barred and closed), whether its walkable depends on the weather conditions. If there are bears in the area (and I’ve heard ZERO reports about bears in nearly 5 years, and I do monitor it!), then they will be hibernating. I’ve had a report from one reader earlier this year that she hiked it (alone) at the end of February and hiked through a snowstorm, but really enjoyed it – she wore good layered clothes, decent boots and had hiking poles. The trail is not difficult, and it is a well made, easy to follow trail – you won’t veer off course, but the snow made it a little slippery. I think you have to play it by ear and see what the weather is doing, but I’d love it if you can report back for future hikers! Sarah
Thank you for such a helpful and detailed article!
We have limited time on our Japan holiday but want to take in more rural areas and this seems perfect. We will be traveling from Tokyo to Fukuoka and want to make this as a stop. What would be the most efficient way to do this between the two cities? Is it possible to do in only two nights? Trying to figure out the most enjoyable but also fastest visit.
Hi there – yes that’s possible. The quickest way is to go from Tokyo – Nagoya – Nakutsagawa by train, then take the Nakutsagawa bus to Magome. From there you can either drop your bags for transfer to Tsumago, or check in and leave your bags in Magome at a ryokan/hotel. Then you’d have time to walk to Tsumago that day. (check the timings in the article about when you have to get your bags there thought) Alternatively, you can stay the night in Magome, and walk the following day, use the baggage transfer service from the tourist information and then meet your bags in Tsumago. From Tsumago to Fukuoka its about an 8 hour trip. Tsumago to Gero by bus, and then JR trains to Nagoya and then onto Fukuoka. An alternative for some countryside would be taking the train from Tokyo to Matsumoto )about 3.5 hours. Stay in Matsumoto and take a day trip to Kamikochi National Park, gorgeous hikes there, – you take a train/bus combo from Matsumoto station, come back to Matusomoto for a second night and then take the train to Matsumoto to Nagoya and then train to Fukuoka. Enjoy!
Thanks so much for this comprehensive article. It is very very useful. We will be in Japan soon and would like to do a multi-night walk either starting or ending in Magome. There are couple of questions I am wondering if you can answer.
Can you suggest a route that extends the walk beyond Magome-Tsumago?
Do you think we need to book accommodation before arriving in a town?
Do you know if there are off-shoots of the Nakasendo Way as alternatives to the main walk?
We are experienced travelers and hikers and have been hiking in the Yatsugatake mountains in Japan previously. This is a much less popular area so accommodation is easy to find mid-week. We will be there in the first week of October – so not long.
Hi Tamzin – depending on the speed you want to walk, it should be a relatively easy day hike to get from Magome to Tsumago to Nagiso and then onto Nojiri by mid-late afternoon and stay there for the night – that’s about 20km, but its all relatively easy walking, undulating, but well-formed paths. There is a tourist office at the station there, which can help with room booking, but I would, in Japan, advise booking ahead, I just culturally much more acceptable. And TBH, booking somewhere that’s got a lovely onsen to relax in and soak out any aches of the day is making me long for it as I type this!!
From Norjiri you can head on further into the Kiso Valley through Agematsu and aim for Kiso-Fukushima – slightly longer day in terms of distance (about 28km), but there’s only one climb. Again the tourist office can help with finding a room or directing you to a prebooked one.
If you want to tack on another day, then aim on the third day for Narai, about 21km from Kiso-Fukushima, another climb involved on this day, but lovely views on the descent. Narai is another renovated post town like Magome and Tsumago.
There are paths off the Nakasendo trail itself, there are a couple at least between Magome and Tsumago, but they’re more ‘there and back” trails to see particular things.
The other place I’d really recommend for multi-day hiking is Kamikochi National Park, (easy to reach from Matsumoto by train/bus combo), or the area around Noboritsu (much further north) is also glorious this time of year.
Hope this helps! Do let us know how it works out!
Thank you for this informative article.
Is it possible to do this trail in mid December with kids?
I will be driving from Matsumoto to Tsumago. Does it make sense to leave my car at Tsumago and take a bus to Magome to start the trail from there as it is an easier route as it’s mostly downhill.
Where can I get the latest bus schedule and are the bus stops close to the tourist centres at both locations?
Thank you in advance!
Hi Tara, no worries. The temperature *should* be ok mid December, but layer up. I would watch the weather in case of rain turning to snow. Although there should not be too much accumulation, and the path is well made. Historic forecasts for 12th-20th December show rain/sleet/snow – https://www.accuweather.com/en/jp/magome/2359536/december-weather/2359536?year=2019 I would do as you suggest, its definitely an easier walk in the direction Magome to Tsumago – and there is easy parking. The bus stops are v close to the tourist info centres yes. In terms of the buses, I’ve updated the post to include the times of the buses from Tsmago to Magome but they are Tsumago to Magome Bus Timetable 1012 (arrives 1040), 1247 (arrives 1315), 1422 (arrives 1450), 1642 (arrives 1710)
Thank you so much for creating such a very detailed content for a traveller. I plan a solo trip to Japan this December and have no clue about this part of Japan. But i’d love to strat trekking by myself in the middle of the forest by myself, immerse into nature and hope to come back with more positive energy. Since there’ll be no lugguage delivery service between Magome and Tsumago in December, do you have any suggestion for my plan? I think i will leave from nagoya in early morning, leave my luggage at Magome station if there’s a deposit box for rent, continue onto Magome-Tsumago route and take a train back to Magome in the afternoon then check in to a nearby hotel (may be with Onsen to relieve all the stiff muscle). Do you have any suggestion of what to do after a stop at this small town, some similar experience in Nagano area perhaps.
Hi there, thank you – If you want to continue on, especially in December it will be very peaceful. I’d suggest either using one of the private luggage services that I mention in the post, or leaving your bags (apart from a day pack with 1/2 days clothes in at Nagoya station – go to Magome, walk on day 1 from Magome to Tsumago and then Nagiso and onto Nojiri by mid-late afternoon and stay there for the night – that’s about 20km, but its all relatively easy walking, undulating, but well-formed paths. There is a tourist office at the station there, which can help with room booking, but I would, in Japan, advise booking ahead, it is just culturally much more acceptable. For another day fromm Norjiri walk to Agematsu and aim for Kiso-Fukushima – slightly longer day in terms of distance (about 28km), but there’s only one climb. Again the tourist office can help with finding a room or directing you to a prebooked one. If you want to tack on another day, then aim on the third day for Narai, about 21km from Kiso-Fukushima, another climb involved on this day, but lovely views on the descent. Narai is another renovated post town like Magome and Tsumago. And from either Kiso-Fukushima or Narai you can return to Nagoya. It should be lovely and quiet! (but please check the weather!!) And let us know how you go!
Thanks for sharing this information. It’s very helpful. I’m travelling to Japan in late Feb/first two weeks in March. I plan on hiking this trail in the first week in March. I have booked accommodation in Magome so I won’t need to worry about storing luggage. Hopefully the weather will be ok then but I plan on taking clothing suitable for all weather! I would be very grateful if I could obtain a pdf document with all the info, maps, etc.
Hi there – i’ve just sent this to you on email now. Enjoy! Sarah
I have read with interest on your travel on the Naksendo trail. Both of us, my husband and I intend to do this sometime in mid April 2020. From the information I’ve read, looks like the trail is easy. We intend to take it easy like 3 days to cover the whole trail. We are both in our mid 60s. We will be coming from Tokyo. It seems that we would have to take the train and then the bus. You have provided lots of detailed information but it is taking some time for me to try to absorb all the info.
Would you be able to give me some ideas as to what to do during these three days? I would assume it would be 3 different roykans/hotel/guest house. The only confusing part is the luggage transfer.
As I understand, there are bears, it is also our concern. As we are city bumpkins, (Singapore), we are slightly afraid.
We want to try this kind of experience as we have never done this in our life and it would be a very memorable experience if we succeed in doing it.
Would appreciate your kind reply and looking forward to hearing from you.
Hi Susan – The Magome to Tsumago is just a small part of the Nakasendo trail, which stretches a long way (Tokyo to Kyoto). The Magome- Tsumago part will only take at most a day to hike. To expand your stay and especially coming from Tokyo, I would get to Magome on the first day and then take a ryokan there and spend the rest of the day exploring Magome. Then the next morning you can drop your bags at the luggage transfer in the tourist office, they will then transport your bags for you to Tsumago in the same day. You can spend the day hiking to Tsumago – its a very easy hike, with a few side trails, and the gorgeous tea house en route. It’s all very well signposted and easy to follow. When you arrive in Tsumago you can take a ryokan and explore Tsumago too (after picking up your bags from the tourist office). For your final day, its easy to walk on the trail a little further, perhaps to Nakatsugawa and then return to Tsumago to collect your bags and move on to your next destination. We would very much recommend prebooking ryokans though, as its culturally much more acceptable to prebook, so that your host is expecting you. As for bears. I haven’t read a report about bears at all. We simply rang the bear bells, didn’t see any evidence at all of bears and the tourist office also sell bear / pepper spray,but also if there are ANY reports at all of bears, the tourist office will advise – but as I say, I haven’t seen (and I do look) any reports about bears on the trail. The alternative, if you are looking for multiple days of pleasant, easy hiking and stating in the same location is Kamikochi National Park – https://asocialnomad.com/japan/kamikochi/ – its a gorgeous national park inthe Japanese Alps, easy to get to from Matsumoto and there are some faulbous ryokan hotels to stay in, and the trails are easy to follow for mulitple day hikes. Good luck and we hope you ejoy!
Many thanks for your prompt reply. You have simplified it for me to understand better and I appreciate it. I am looking forward to this new adventure in this trail. If anytime you are in Singapore, do drop me a e-mail and I would gladly be your host to bring you around as I am a free lance tour guide. If I am busy during that time, I will definitely recommend some of the places to visit which the tourist hardly go. I will definitely make time for you when you are here.
Once again, many thanks for the email.
GExcellent to hear and thank you for your kind offer! Sarah
When we complete our trail in Tsumago, what train should we take to Tokyo.
Hi Billy, it would depend on what time you finish the trail – the hyperdia app (and website) is fabulous for working out the best route – here’s a link http://www.hyperdia.com/ Sarah
thank you so much for all your research and information.
Do you know, if the bus from Shinjuku Bus Terminal to Magome still runs at 1040? Could’t find anything on the web.
Looking forward to getting your response and greetings from Germany.
Hallo there! Here’s the latest that I can see on buses from Shinjuku – https://highway-buses.jp/course/overnight.php – no 1040, but a 0650 and later ones.