Living History: Kiso Valley & the Nakasendo Road

Step back in time.

Deep in Japan’s central Alps lies the lovely Kiso River Valley straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures. Its dense woods are home to what remains of the old Nakasendo Road, linking Tokyo and Kyoto via dozens of small post towns. These days, visitors can step back in time as they stroll preserved sections of the route, including the picturesque villages of Tsumago, Magome, and Narai.

Each of the towns offers something unique, and all three take visitors to a rarely seen period in Japan’s history. The houses and shops have all been preserved, as have local shrines, temples, and stables. Visitors can browse craft galleries filled with locally-produced work, dine on handmade noodles, and overnight at one of many small inns and ryokan.

The walk between the towns takes just a few hours and passes through many scenic spots, including waterfalls, thriving forests, and steep cliffs. Easily accessible from Nagoya, it’s possible to spend several days on the road, experiencing a variety of historic and natural sights and meeting locals and other travelers along the way.

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