My third day in Japan was spent wandering through the Kiso Valley, walking along part of the Nakasendo Way between Magome and Tsumago. The Nakasendo Way is part of the old trade route between Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and Kyoto. The most well preserve part of the route is between Magome-juku and Tsumago-juku, old post towns which still retain their original charm. They are among the most well preserved towns in Japan from the Edo period.
I started the walk early, in order to give me plenty of time to take in the beautiful Japanese countryside, and get back to Tokyo by a reasonable time in the evening. Walking from Magome to Tsumago is easier, as the majority of the walk is downhill. The walk is 8km long, so allow about 2-3 hours to complete it. The walk isn’t too strenuous, I person with a moderate fitness level should complete it easily, and there are signposts everywhere, so there isn’t a problem with getting lost. Make sure you ring the bells along the way to ward off bears. And don’t forget to bring plenty of snacks with you (there isn’t much, if anything, to buy along the way) and a water bottle (there are a number of places this can be filled).
The walk leads you through beautiful countryside (I was lucky enough to catch the cherry blossoms), small post towns, waterfalls, shrines, cedar forests, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a few Japanese monkeys.
The Nakasendo Way can be reached from either Magome or Tsumago. To get to Magome, take a train from Nagano to Nakatsugawa, and from there, take the Magome bus. To get to Tsumago, take the train from Nagano to Nakatsugawa, where you change for a train to Nagiso. From Nagiso, you can take the bus to Tsumago, or walk 4km (the way is paved and signposted) to Tsumago.
There is guesthouse accommodation in both Magome and Tsumago, but I found them a bit expensive for those on a backpacker budget. Instead, I stayed at Kisoji Furusato Youth Hostel in Nakatsugawa. To get there you have to get off the Magome bus at Ochiai station, and then give the owner a call. It’s almost impossible to find the place on your own. The owner will then drive you to Magome, about 2km away, to being the hike. The hostel was very clean and very cosy. The owners cook a great traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast on request (I suggest that you request dinner and breakfast, as there is nothing near the hostel except houses and farmland).