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Kiso Valley

Home to the ancient ‘Nakasendo Way’ walking route, Kiso Valley offers a genuinely traditional atmosphere reminiscent of the begone Edo era (1603 – 1868), as well as spectacular scenery amidst the Japan Alps.

If you are a keen walker, or simply want to hark back to historic Japanese country life, then we highly recommend visiting this picturesque idyll and hiking along the narrow 17th-century trail, which stretches 500km from Kyoto to Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Follow in the footsteps of samurai and walk a section or two past rural farmhouses and tea fields: our favourite part has to be the fairly gentle 8km trail from Magome to Tsumago. Arguably the most scenic and well sign-posted in English, this postal route takes approximately 2-3 hours when taken at a leisurely pace.

While a concerted effort has been made by locals to keep both these rural towns as close to their original states as possible, it is worth noting that Tsumago is the most beautifully preserved of the two. As you walk its pedestrianised cobbled streets between authentic wooden restaurants and inns, you cannot help but feel as though you have been whisked back in time, especially as a preservation order keeps the hamlet mercifully free of wires and neon. If you appreciate aesthetics like this, you are sure to be tempted by the delicate lacquerware and smooth wooden handicrafts sold in the nearby Kiso-Hirasawa village.

After a day exploring the remote Kiso Valley, there is nothing better than strolling between the glowing street lanterns to a traditional ‘ryokan’ inn or ‘minshuku’ B & B for a hearty Japanese meal and relaxing soak in an ‘onsen’ (hot spring). Without a doubt, our favourite guesthouse here is the delightful, family-run ‘Takimi No Ie’ (Takimi House), which provides an unparalleled experience and guarantees a memorable stay.

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