Matsumoto & The Nakasendo: Japan’s Historic Heartland
Japan is a land of legends and mystique. A place of ancient paths leading to imposing castles, dark temples, and forested mountain trails, there is no better place to get off the beaten path and follow the roads of old than in Nagano – into the heart of this fascinating country and culture.
Located to the south of Matsumoto City, the ‘Nakasendo Trail ‘ or ‘Nakasendo Way’ follows one of the primary trade routes that linked Kyoto to Tokyo – then called ‘Edo’ – during the Edo Period (1603-1868). Now a popular hiking route through the beautiful Kiso Valley, the Nakasendo Trail traces the old route past the well-known and picturesque postal towns, called ‘juku’, that once serviced and controlled traffic on the road.
One of five major trade routes linking Kyoto and Edo, the Nakasendo dissected the mountainous interior of the country, unlike other roads which skirted along the coast. Known for its rugged beauty, this road was busy with travelling merchants, dignitaries and their families and pilgrims.
In total, 67 postal towns controlled movement along the road and luckily several including Narai, Magome and Tsumago – survive in excellent states of preservation The towns retain much of their historic character and walking the road between them, through an undulating landscape of mixed farmland, rice fields, and forests is one of the highlights of any visit to Japan.
Running through the Kiso Valley and referred to as the ‘Kisoji’, this section of the Nakasendo is regarded as one of its most beautiful and introduces visitors to one of Japan’s best kept secrets. The Kiso Valley is a place of rare beauty, typified by lush forests – which have traditionally supported a thriving timber industry and craftsmanship – along with pristine rivers and a deep respect for nature.
The Kiso Valley is a place where tradition lives on. A quiet enclave where you can follow ancient roads into the past to discover the Japan of your imagination.
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