Kiso Valley: a trip back in time

05 Sep 2018 in Discover Japan

Travel back to the Edo Period by walking this ancient trade route.

kiso-valley
In the heart of Nagano Prefecture is an ancient path where it feels like time has stood still. The Kiso Valley is a collection of tiny towns joined together by almost 50 miles of mountain paths.

valley

Take a day trip from Hoshino Resorts KAI Matsumoto – or hike the whole route over a few days and discover a fascinating slice of Japanese history.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Matsumoto

kai-matsumoto

The Kisoji is an ancient trade route that runs through the Kiso Valley and became part of a much longer route between Edo and Kyoto in the 17th century. Known as Nakasendo (“path through the mountains”), this 300-mile route was a vital link between Japan’s two major cities, and so-called post towns were established along the way to allow travellers to eat and sleep.

village

The best-preserved of these post towns are in the Kiso Valley. Narai-juku in the north, for example, features over half a mile of Edo-period wooden buildings with overhanging upper floors.

Narai-juku

It’s like being on a film set or stepping back in time. Other highlights include Tsumago-juku and Magome-juku in the south.

Tsumago-juku

Magome-juku

For the full experience, hike through all 11 post towns in the valley – a physical undertaking that will take several days. Your reward? Stunning mountain scenery, idyllic waterfalls and the luxury of enjoying the towns after day-trippers have left!

Alternatively, a short train ride will give you a taste of what Japan was like in the Edo Period – and you can still enjoy an atmospheric walk in the forest.

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