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“Magome to Nakatsugawa, trail signs in Japanese”

Nakasendo Walking Trail
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3-Day or 4-Day Self-Guided Hike on Nakasendo Trail with Lodging and Transport
Ranked #2 of 57 things to do in Nakatsugawa
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: This historic footpath through the Kiso Valley connects the villages of Tsumago and Magome. The partially paved trail is approximately 8 kilometers in length and passes by several historic and natural wonders.
Reviewed 22 January 2014

Last November, my friends and I planned a 'do-it-yourself' hike in Nakasonde. It was fairly easy from Nagiso to Tsumago and then to Magome where we stayed. There were well marked trail signs in English every kilometer or so. Note that the locals do not speak English and the signs helped us a lot to get around.
However, from Magome to Nakatsugawa it was totally different. The trail signs were all in Japanese. We were lucky that one of our hiking buddies could read Hanzi (Chinese) which is basically Kanji (Japanese) and could make out the characters to Nakatsugawa.
Despite though this lost in translation situation where we ended up knocking on someone's home for help (the Japanese are truly helpful and kind), the hike was absolutely beautiful and worth doing. The trail offered several attractions - waterfalls, gorges, temples, farmlands but the best was the beautiful scenery with the changing of leaves. We were surrounded by red, orange, gold, pink leaves - an explosion of colors.
Note that I agree with Bakatori to check the train schedule of your next stop. There's not much to do in Nakatsugawa. I'm glad that we made it on time to catch our train to Kyoto where there's more to see and do. Also, to book your accommodations at least 3-4 months in advance.
If I am going to hike Nakasendo again, I'd stay for 4-5 days and hike all the way to Kyoto.
Sharing my Nakasendo experience: http://www.rosancruz.com/2013/11/nakasendo-hike-from-tsumago-to-magome.html

1  Thank rosie888Manila
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 26 November 2013

This has always been the one trip On my mind but never on my itinery. It was always either due to insufficient information or time constrain that I had to give this up.
This autumn, I could finally pin this trip on my list. 

This trip kicked off at Nakatsugawa Station. I have read it somewhere that the hike is easier from Magome to Tsumago. I don't really like to punish myself unneccessarily so I opted for Magome to Tsumago, less incline, less pain. If you intend to savor the walk between Magome to Tsumago, plan well. I had a hiccup because firstly I jumped into the wrong train and secondly I was mis-informed on the arrival time of the bus. 
When travelling by trains in Japan, a few things to remember.
Know the arrival time of your train.
Always look at the display board for the time of the next arriving train.
They must match. Exactly.
Know the kanji of your intended station and write it down, for when in doubt, show the train staff your destination and they will direct your to the right platform. 
The bus at Nakatsugawa will take you right to the doorstep of Magome. 
The street of Magome is not very long, lined by shops selling all sorts of locally made handicrafts and food.
As I had missed my intended bus, thus in a slight rush for time. So if I intend to hike the trail to Tsumago which is 7.9km and with my best ability (1.45m in height, 50kg in weight carrying a backpack weighing almost 10 kg) would most probably take me 4 hours. I have learnt that I cannot take Japanese sense of timing literally.  When the itinery says half an hour, it always mean one hour for me.
The streets are lined with traditional shop houses. Like a scene out of an old Japanese black and white film, but with modern travelers in colorful modern outfit. 
Not much time to stroll around, but food is a must for sustaneance. I love the bun, chewy flour bun with stewed mountain vegetables for filling. Hot, delicious and satisfying. At the tourist guide centre, I asked for a map for the trail and the schedule of the bus from Tsumago to Nagiso. Remember to bring water, no vending machine along the trail, although there is a tea house along the trail. (Which I gave a miss)
With that, I start out. At Magome, there were many tourists. But as I move further away into the trail the crowd thins out. Until I was all by myself. I met with a few foreign hikers, on their way from Tsumago to Magome. "Was the trail hard? ""Tough and long!" The ladies told me. I was deflated instantly. I almost gave up and turned back. I was really tempted to take the easier option - take the bus out to Tsumago. My initial plan was reach Magome on time to use the baggage forward service for my backpack to be sent to Tsumago. However I missed the train thus the bus which made me miss the service. 
I was in a dilemma, should I take a chance and trust myself. Should I just take the bus which will take me to Tsumago on time and miss the trail?
I stayed on the path. No way am I going to miss this, not after I had planned so long and so hard for this. No way I am gonna give up just because there was a tiny glitch in my initial plan. I am gonna see this through even if it rains. Good for me on that day, no rain. The weather was perfect for hiking. 
There are bell stands along the initial route. Ring the bell to scare off the bears. 
Reminded me of a story where they found a bell in the stomach of a bear. To ring or not to ring.
The signs were very clear thus not much chance to stray from the right path. It is the incline, the uphill hike that was tough. I do jog a bit at home, but still it was tough for me with my backpack weighing me down. 
My nightmare ended when I hit the highest point, then it was downhill, down down all the way. Along the downhill, there was a tea house, very traditional, with the shop owner wearing tradition strawhat. Next time I am definitely gonna stop for a cup.
Along the way, 2.2km away from Tsumago, when I though nothing could go wrong from this point, I missed the sign and strayed from the path into the main road. I really had a hard time trying to get back onto the right Nakasendo path.
I reached Tsumago, 3 hours 15 minutes. 
Tsumago is bigger than Magome. A lot more shops, a lot more to see and buy. 
This trip was rushed due to the earlier hiccup, I did not have the luxury of time to savor the towns fully, to my heart's content. I did not stayed overnight at either Magome or Tsumago too. I stayed over at Narai, another Nakasendo juku the night before. 
However, with this experience under my belt, I am confident my next trip will be better prepared. It will be rude of me to consider my trip done because these old towns demand I spend more time to fully enjoy their charms. And before that, I am not done with them yet. So I will be back.

8  Thank bakatori
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 October 2013

My wife and I, both 64, in decent though not great shape, walked the Nakasendo trail for approximately 65 miles over 7 days in September
2013. We were led by Fusao Ariga of Japan Travelogue, who displayed a great combo of being reserved and informative, as well as flexible to our needs and readily made adjustments to situations that came up during the week's travel. For the most part, we stayed in traditional inns, where the food was generally very good. All the innkeepers knew Fusao well (as best we could tell, since we speak no Japanese) and were very welcoming. During our week, we saw less than 20 other hikers (just two Japanese) along the route. Fusao is trilingual (Japanese, English and Finnish, though we can't vouch for the latter), and is very knowledgeable. He also set up our 3 day stay in Tokyo, got us in to see sumo wrestling (one of his passions) and into several restaurants we could not have found on our own. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED especially if you want to get off the beaten path and enjoy unique experiences in a foreign culture.

4  Thank ralphbriskin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 June 2013

This is the ancient Samurai road. One part - and the most famous part - is from Magome to Tsuamgo. An Absolute must for the hiker or even in family

1  Thank Laurent D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 May 2013

Three of us hiked this trail for around 100 km at the end of April. The cherry blossoms were still out, and added to the beauty of this amazing ancient trail. We stayed in traditional inns, where the food was generally very good. All innkeepers were friendly and welcoming. This is a unique experience, one that few europeans, and indeed few Japanese undertake.
Our guide was Fusao Ariga. He's fluently trilingual (Japanese, English and Finnish (!), and is very knowledgable about the history of the trail and Japan in general. His choice of inns was excellent, and he looked after us extremely well. I doubt if you could find someone better if you want to hike in Japan.

7  Thank gourmettrekker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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