When I read the Top 25 things to see and do in Lonely Planet’s Japan guidebook, walking the Nakasendo trail between Magome and Tsumago caught my attention:
“The Nakasendō (中仙道) was one of the five highways of the Edo period, and one of the two connecting Edo (now Tokyo) with Kyoto. Much of the route is now followed by national roads; however, in the thickly forested Kiso Valley there exist several sections of twisty, craggy post road that have been carefully restored. Most impressive is the 7.8km stretch of trail between Magome and Tsumago, two of the most attractive Nakasendō towns. Walking this route is one of Japan’s most rewarding visitor experiences.”
Could the girls walk almost 8km in one go? We parents all thought so…
It took us about three hours to drive from Matsumoto to Sakashita, a town about 10 minutes away from Magome, which is the start of the trail.
We stayed at a big, traditional farmhouse, which was more than 150 years old, in the town of Sakashita I found it on AirBnB.
We went out for dinner at an izakaya in Sakashita. (An izakaya is an informal pub that serves food.) The owners and some very friendly patrons were intrigued that we were staying in such a small town. We managed to convey to them our intention of walking the Nakasendo from Magome to Tsumago.
Ordering food though was a bigger hurdle. I got the Google Translate app out and that helped, but we realised that, just like English, there can be numerous words to describe one thing. We ended up with lots of food, beer and sake. Some of what arrived was a surprise, as was the bill. It cost us quite a bit! But we were all very hungry and were thankful to find food late in the evening in a small town.
Magome to Tsumago
The next morning, we parked the minivan at Magome where we would start our walk. Thankfully, it was a beautifully sunny and clear Spring day. We carried water and snacks and cameras and headed off. Come along our journey on the 8km historical trail.
Clear, clean water was always flowing on either side of the cobbled streets in Magome. Some of it was channelled through troughs or fountains with ladles, most likely for the travellers walking the trail though I never saw anyone drink the water.
This is an old travellers inn on the trail that is now used as a tea room. UK actress Joanna Lumley came here when she did a BBC show about Japan a few years back.
This is Jun Obara, an eccentric menswear designer, who is something of a Tsumago institution, modelling one of his creations. Read this interesting article about him.
We all really enjoyed doing the walk and would highly recommend it. If a seven-year-old can do it, so can you!