During the Edo Period in Japan (1603 -1868) there were two routes from Kyoto to Tokyo. One of those routes is the Nakasendo, or the Central Mountain Route. The Nakasendo passed through 69 stations or post towns. These towns were a place for the weary travelers to refresh themselves and spend the night before pressing on with their journey. Fortunately the Central Mountain Route has been preserved and it is still possible to follow in the footsteps of travelers from a bygone era. While the Central Mountain Route stretches over 530km, one of the most famous sections of the route is the 8km long portion between the post towns of Tsumago and Magome. Hiking between these two post towns is a wonderful trip and a great way to get a taste of what life was like in Japan back in the day.
The two towns are separated by the Magome-toge mountain pass, which has an elevation of 810m. The pass is also the border between Gifu & Nagano Prefectures. The town of Magome is at an elevation of 655m and the town of Tsumago is at an elevation of 425m. The easiest direction to hike in is from Magome to Tsumago (from highest to lowest) - and then take the local bus back to Magome. It should take about three hours to hike one way.
In both towns there are many craftsmen making all sorts of art, toys, and even wooden pens! Between the two towns are the impressive Otaki and Metaki Waterfalls (translated Man and Woman). The spray from the waterfalls will help cool you off on a warm summer day and the roar of the water will drown out noise of the nearby road. On the north side of the pass is the ruins of an old Edo era castle called the Ichikokutochishirakiatame Bansho-ato Ruins. It has been turned into a trailside rest stop. The curator is quite friendly and speaks good English. Your teacup will never be empty and there is a plethora of sweets to snack on before pressing on with your hike.
Metaki WaterfallThe villages of Tsumago and Magome have been painstakingly restored to resemble original Japanese architecture from the Edo Era. While descending through the forest of Japanese Cedar, Japanese Mountain Maple, Hinoki Cypress, and Japanese Beech you can feel the history in the air. For thousands of years this path has bore witness to countless travelers and has helped shape the politics and economics of Japan.
Ichikokutochishirakiatame Bansho-ato Ruins
While there are numerous shops and restaurants to visit you should stop by the Tōson Memorial Museum. It is located in the Magome Post Town (refer to this tourist information sheet for more information). Tōson was a famous Japanese novelist who grew up in the area. His old home has been converted into a museum and is surrounded by peaceful gardens and ponds. Admission is a modest ¥500 per person.
Information : http://www.town.nagiso.nagano.jp/