Have tea with locals. Spend time in nature. Walk between villages. These are the highlights of the Nakasendo trail, a historic walking path through the Kiso Valley that links the villages of Tsumago and Magome. In feudal times, the Nakasendo Trail linked Kyoto to Tokyo. Samurais and feudal lords frequented the trail. Along the path were 69 villages, where the travelers could stop and rest. Today, walking the Nakasendo Trail between Tsumago and Magome provides visitors an opportunity to experience a small part of that history.
The five-mile (8-km) Nakasendo Trail meanders through a wooded forest. The trail crosses over two main waterfalls, the Odaki en Medaki waterfalls – male and female. Along the path there are several old-fashioned wooden buildings, many converted into shops where local handicrafts are sold. Many people stop in at a teahouse along the way, where a guestbook tracks those who have come through.
The Nakasendo Trail is an easy to moderate hike. The trail takes about two to three hours to complete in each direction. To start the hike, make your way to either of the villages: Tsumago or Magome. To access either town from Kyoto, take the Tokaido Shinkansen from Kyoto to Nagoya and transfer to the JR Shinano limited express train to the Kiso Valley. From there, take the JR Shinano limited express to Nakatsugawa Station to reach Magoma, or exit at Nagiso Station for Tsumago. From the stations, take a short taxi or bus ride to reach the towns. The journey from Kyoto takes about 90 minutes.