WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS TO SEE IN MAGOME? HOW TO GET TO MAGOME? HIKE FROM TSUMAGO TO MAGOME ALONG THE NAKASENDO WAY?
Magome is one of many villages along the Nakasendo way in Japan where you can still get a glimpse of traditional Edo period architecture, and where you can imagine what village life was like in the ancient Japan.
Magome is located in the middle of the beautiful Kiso Valley, in Gifu Prefecture, right between Kyoto and Tokyo and less than 100km east of Nagoya.
From Magome, it is possible to hike on the Nakasendo Way to the neighboring village of Tsumago. This 8km section allows you to see two of the most beautiful villages in the region, and it is undoubtedly the best preserved part of this mythical path. If you ask us, A MUST in Japan!
A bit more north you will find another beautiful and well preserved village: Narai Juku. Another must-see along Nakasendo.
In the Kiso valley, Magome Juku is one of the most authentic villages because it is almost entirely made up of traditional wooden houses dating originally from the 18th century.
Totally devastated by a fire in 1894, these houses were restored to their original appearance.
The path that crosses Magome is called the Kisoji and connects the 11 villages of Nakasendo grouped in the Kiso valley. These 11 villages all have “remains” of this past, from small historical monuments to traditional houses. The most beautiful villages on this path are Magome, Tsumago or Narai.
Have you heard of Nakasendo before? If you want to see the historical and authentic Japan, then this is one of the best places to discover! We first learned about Nakasendo while watching a documentary about Joanna Lumley in Japan. You can find it on Netflix.
Watching this documentary before your trip to Japan, would be a very good idea!
Here is a glimpse of what the charming Magome village looks like:
Are you ready to be transported in the real Japan? Here is all you need to know about a visit to Magome along the Nakasendo Way!
The Nakasendo Way, a legendary route
The Nakasendo is an old road linking Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto.
It had 69 stations (juku) over more than 500 km. Today, it is a popular hiking trail that is accessible to all. By the day or over several days, enjoy the most unspoiled portions of the Kiso Valley, bucolic landscapes and charming mountain villages with wooden houses.
Lords, samurai, porters, merchants, etc. used the Nakasendo for centuries.
What to expect in Magome?
Magome is now essentially a succession of shops, boutiques, restaurants and Ryokans (Japanese traditional accommodation).
It is a very touristy village. However, the visit is very pleasant and one of the best things to see along Nakasendo!
The village is completely uphill. Indeed Magome was built on the mountainside. So be prepared for an ascending walk to reach the top of the village!
Actually we recommend starting from the top of the village at the viewpoint (here). From there you can simply go down the main alley, which would require much less effort 🙂
WHAT TO SEE IN MAGOME?
1. Stroll through Magome’s main alley
Like in most post towns along Nakasendo, the main alley is the most important attraction! Take your time to stroll through Magome’s main alley. There you will find most shops, restaurants and ryokans.
Just imagine what it must have been like at the time of Samurais crossing the village hundreds years ago. Fascinating!
2. Visit Magome Waki-Honjin Museum
Opposite the tourist office is the Wakihonjin museum in which the history of the village is explained.
The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Entrance fee: 300 yen
3. Visit Honjin/Tozon memorial
Right next to the museum is the Honjin/Tozon memorial. it is also the former residence of the writer Shimazaki Toson, now a museum.
It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Entrance fee: 550 yen
4. Take a break at Cafe Kappe
Along the main road, stop at Cafe Kappe. From the terrace, the view is stunning!
5. Enjoy the view at Magome’s Lookout
For the best view of the village and the surrounding mountains head to the lookout at the top of the village. The viewpoint is on the direction of Tsumago, the next post town after Magome.
This place is named Magome Miharashidai. There are a few stone stelae, benches and one or two small shelters.
6. Take a photo of Magome’s scenic Watermill
One of the most emblematic images of Magome is the watermill at the entrance to the village. It is possible to visit the interior of the house attached to it for free.
7. Visit Eishoji temple
The Eishoji temple (永昌寺) which dates from 1558 houses a statue of Kannon sculpted by Enku (円空).
Also made famous by one of Tôson Shimazaki’s novels, this temple above all offers the possibility of sleeping in a temple and/or tasting Buddhist temple cuisine: Shojin Ryori (精進料理).
8. Magome Notice Board
At the exit from Magome in the direction of Tsumago you will find the traditional Kosatsuba (高札場). This large board where signs are displayed that were used by the government to announce important news.
As for example in 1711, when the hunt for Christians began with bounties. It is also this year’s panels that have been chosen to be displayed again.
Useful information about Magome
When is the best time to visit Magome?
Like the rest of Japan, Magome is most beautiful during the spring season (March to May) and in the fall (September to November) when the rich foliage is full of colors.
How to get to Magome?
Depending on where you come from there are different possibilities to get to Magome.
If you come from Tsumago, then we highly recommend to hike to Magome. This is one of the best hike throughout Japan! It takes 3 hours. More about it later in this post.
If you are staying in Nakatsugawa, you can take the bus from Nakatsugawa Train Station on the Magome Line (get off at the Magome stop). You can also take a taxi, it will take 20min.
From Tokyo you will need to reach Nakatsugawa by train first before heading to Magome.
Remember to buy your JR PASS when traveling by train to Japan, you will save lots of money! BUY IT HERE.
How to get around in Magome?
Good news, it’s all walking distance. You can visit Magome on foot.
Staying overnight in Magome?
Why not staying overnight in Magome? After 5pm you will have the entire place more or less to yourself as all tourists tend to leave before 5pm.
There are a few options in Magome.
Magome Chaya offer comfortable rooms in a traditional Ryokan. From the guest house you will have a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. The Ryokan serves breakfast and dinner. The owners are also very friendly! BOOK HERE
Other things to see near Magome?
Discover a well-preserved heritage former post town on the famous Nakasendo Way! Narai-Juku, located in the beautiful Kiso Valley, is perhaps less well known than Tsumago and Magome which are on the same historical path. However, it is one of the most beautiful places along the Nakasendo Way!
Our visit to Narai-Juku was magical! We felt transported in the past, during one of the most beautiful era of Japan! We absolutely love Narai-Juku and highly recommend that you stop by for a visit.
When you arrive in Tsumago another beautiful post town along Nakasendo, time seems to rewind and you rediscover all the charm of ancient Japan. The dark wooden buildings stand tall. Shrubs line the narrow streets. No telegraph pole or television antenna in sight.
The government has made it a point of honor to preserve a traditional decor, authentic as in the time of the lords who visited it hundreds of years ago.
For us Tsumago, along Narai Juku and Magome are the most charming post towns along Nakasendo! The 3 of them are a must-see if you visit this part of Japan!
HIKE BETWEEN TSUMAGO AND MAGOME
The 8 km that separate the two jukus run through the forest on partially paved paths. Count 3 hours to reach Magome from Tsumago or vice versa.
From Magome, just after the summit, an old tea house (一石栃立場茶屋) on the side of the path displays tools from the Edo period. At cherry blossom time, the old weeping cherry tree on the other side turns a vivid pink, while the park below serves as a picnic break.
Then the path begins to descend among the pines and cypresses of Kiso.
On the road you will also find a tomb dedicated to a 16th century samurai. The story goes that the latter sacrificed his life to protect a hamlet from a gang of bandits.
The Odaki-Medaki waterfalls (男滝女滝 (雄滝雌滝), in addition to being absolutely photogenic, also invite you to take a moment to contemplate them. Small landscaped paths make it easy to reach their foot and for the more adventurous to swim.
This is one of the most scenic trail in Japan! Don’t miss it!
The Kiso Valley lurks along the Japanese Alps and the Kiso River, between Nagano Prefecture and Gifu. Its secular atmosphere contrasts with the wild authenticity of its landscapes, an ode to time travel for visitors.
Between imposing cliffs, the Kiso Valley stretches 52 km from east to west and 63 km from north to south. Its landscape dominated by lush vegetation and majestic mountains is a real natural treasure.
The valley is crossed by the old trade route of Nakasendo. The Kisoji section, which stretches for a distance of 70 km.
The Kiso Valley is home to around 11 towns called “juku” or post towns whereby Magome, Tsumago and Narai are the best preserved.
Final thoughts – Is Magome worth a visit?
After reading this post, you probably know the answer already! Magome is absolutely worth a vist!
A post town resulting from the old road system, which preserves the atmosphere of the Edo period. A walk on the paved road
will make you feel like a traveler from the ancient world!
The Nakasendō is an old road that connected Tokyo to Kyoto, along which were placed many stopover towns, places where travelers could spend the night. Magome is one of them!
The steep terrain of Magome makes it a unique stopover town in the country. It is said that the name Magome (written with the characters “horse” and “basket”) comes from the fact that travelers had to leave their horses at the inn because of the difficulty of the path, which the horses could not ride.
On either side of the stone-paved streets, lined latticed houses, museums, tea rooms and souvenir shops: a landscape evoking the old Edo period staging town, centuries ago.
Spending the night at one of the post towns along Nakasendo is also a magical experience! When night falls, the lamps in front of each house are lit, creating a truly charming landscape.
We hope that you found this post useful to help you prepare for your trip to Japan. We wrote many other posts about Japan here.