The Kiso Valley is a mountain valley between the Central and Northern Alps northeast of Nagoya. It is popular for exploring post towns along the historic Nakasendo Trail.
The Nakasendo was established in 1659 and was one of five important roads during the Edo Period. Nakasendo means Central Mountain Route and it was the easiest way to travel to and from Kyoto and modern-day Tokyo. The 330 miles had 69 post stations where travelers could eat and rest for the night.
Similar to Route 66 in America, the post towns became irrelevant when the Tokai highway and Chuo train line were completed.
4 Things to Do in the Kiso Valley, Japan
1. Visit Post Towns
There are a few post towns that have been preserved and restored to look like they did hundreds of years ago. It’s like stepping back in time. Restoration work began in 1968 and now the area is popular for tourists at home and abroad.
Magome has a broad stone walkway and the wooden buildings have been restored to their original appearance during the Edo Period.
Tsumago is one of the best-preserved post towns in Japan. Cars are prohibited on the main street and phone and power lines are hidden. The wooden buildings have a more rustic look.
Tsumago maintained its Honjin, the inn for government officials; and its Waki Honjin, the inn for travelers of lower status. The main building of the Waki Honjin dates back to the 19th century and has a museum.
2. Hike the Nakasendo Trail
You can walk the Nakasendo Trail between Magome and Tsumago. It is a well-maintained path with restrooms and a traditional rest house about halfway.
It’s a beautiful 5-mile hike with bamboo groves, rice terraces, and waterfalls.
At a leisurely pace and stops, it takes about 3 hours.
3. Buy Woodcrafts
Hinoki cypress woodcrafts are popular in the Kiso Valley. You can buy wooden sake cups, small wooden dolls called kokeshi, and water buckets. There are also straw handicrafts in the shape of Kiso horses.
4. Eat Kiso Valley Specialty Foods
There are several specialty foods in the area. Fresh, hand-made soba with mountain vegetables is a Magome specialty.
Gohei Mochi is another specialty in Magome. The sauce is made from miso, walnuts, and sesame seeds. It is slightly sweet with a peanut taste.
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Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!