Kiso Valley - Japan Travel Guide - Japanspecialist

Kiso Valley

Travel back in time and into the mountains.

About the Kiso Valley
The Kiso Valley is located at the foot of the Kiso Mountains, a part of the Japanese Alps. In the age of the samurai, this scenic and unspoilt valley was a part of the Nakasendo trail, the route that connected Kyoto and Tokyo for travellers on foot. Two of the best-preserved villages on the entire route, Magome and Tsumago, are located here, and both towns have done much to keep the atmosphere from the old days.

Walk in the footsteps of the samurai
Magome and Tsumago are both small villages surrounded by beautiful scenery, and we recommend that you stay at a Japanese inn (‘minshuku’ or ‘ryokan’), which underscores the feel of ancient Japan. The area invites you to take wonderful walks in the small quaint town streets or out in open landscapes. The most exciting experience is walking the path between Tsumago and Magome, a very well-preserved stretch of the Nakasendo road. The stretch is 8 km long and goes past fields, forests and houses. It takes 2-3 hours to walk at relaxed pace. If you don’t want to walk all the way back you can catch a bus. However, it is important to check the departure times beforehand as there are only a few buses a day!

Other attractions in the Kiso Valley
In Tsumago you can visit Honjin and Wakihonjin, two well-preserved old travellers’ inns. Honjin was the place where high-ranking samurai stayed, whereas Wakihonjin was for travellers of lower status. Another worthwhile visit is Rekishi Shiryokan, a museum showing the history of Tsumago and the Kiso Valley, with a lot of information in English. If you have any extra time, pay a visit to Narai just north of Tsumago and Magome. This town was also part of the Nakasendo trail and marked the halfway spot between Kyoto and Tokyo.

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