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The Nakasendo RoadPost TownsTraditionsNatureSightseeing Information
現在位置:Topの中のEnglish Topの中のNakasendoから2-Day from Nagano/Matsumoto through Kiso-Fukushima to Nakatsugawa/Nagoya
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Castle and Scenic Forest/Gorge and Post Towns:
2 days from Nagano / Matsumoto to Nakatsugawa/Nagoya through the Nakasendo Kiso Valley

This tour starts out at the must-see Matsumoto Castle. As the oldest castle in Japan, you do not want to miss out on the opportunity to this national treasure. Then travel a little further forward in time, but not quite into the modern day, with a visit to Narai Post Town, one of the rest stops along the ancient Nakasendo Trail that ran from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. Get a good night’s rest in Kiso-Fukushima to prepare for the next day of exploration.  Though not widely known, the Kiso Valley is a historic and culturally rich area with tons to do in a natural setting. There are two options available that will either take you to rivers with the purest water you have ever seen in Kakizore Gorge followed by a hike from Tsumago to Magome Post Towns, or a forests filled with negative ions to cleanse your body and soul, and gorgeous displays of wondrous, natural beauty at Akasawa Natural Recreation Forest.

Day 1 (Nagano) Matsumoto Castle to Narai Post Town, Spend the night in Kiso-Fukushima

9:00 Depart Nagano Station

Shinano

Take the Ltd. Exp. Shinano from Nagano Station to Matsumoto.

9:49 Arrive at  Matsumoto Station

Matsumoto Castle is a lovely, easy-to-navigate 30-minute walk from Matsumoto Station.

10:20 Arrive at Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

Touted as one of Japan’s three premier castles alongside Himeji and Kumamoto Castles, Matsumoto Castle is the oldest castle in Japan with its original structures. The keep (called tenshukaku in Japanese) retains its original wooden interior and exterior stonework from the 16th century and is a designated national treasure. Spend 90 minutes here exploring the castle, taking in its beauty, and getting a feel for its history before setting off for Nagano.

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle is sometimes called “Crow Castle” for its black exterior. From the outside it appears to have five tiers, but make sure to look for the hidden sixth tier when you visit! The castle features beautiful wooden floors, but as shoes are not allowed, please remember to wear warm socks as the floors can be quite cold in winter.

After seeing the sites of the castle, there are plenty of options for lunch in the area before heading back to Matsumoto Station on foot. (Or it is a 10-minute taxi ride back to the station, which will probably cost around ¥1000.)

12:20 Depart Matsumoto Castle
12:53 Depart Matsumoto Station

Narai Post Town

The next stop is Narai Post Town. Take the Ltd. Exp. Shinano one stop south to Shiojiri.

13:01 Arrive at Shiojiri Station and change the local train
13:08 Depart Shiojiri Station
13:31: Arrive at Narai Station


Narai
Narai

Narai was once a thriving post town marking the halfway point along the Nakasendo trail connecting Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. It looks much the same today as it did back in the Edo period. The town of a “thousand buildings” as it was once called, is lined with a variety of shops and restaurants. Interestingly, this is perhaps the only post town along the ancient Nakasendo Trail that is still actively inhabited. The residents are committed to maintaining its historic appearance and visitors get a real sense of what life was like here 100 hundred or more years ago.

Narai

Walking up through the town from the station, you’ll come upon the Narai-juku Tourist Information Center on your left where you can try your hand at making your own chopsticks! The process takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. The tools are simple to use, but require a little bit of muscle and may be a little too fiddly for anyone younger than 8 or 9. Reservations can be made in English and are not required but are recommended.

If you missed having lunch at Matsumoto Castle, there is plenty to choose from in Narai, though most places offer similar menus as the area is well known for soba, which are buckwheat noodles served hot or cold, and Gohei-mochi, a traditional rice dish grilled with miso paste.

NaraiNarai
Narai

After you get your fill of all that Narai Post Town has to offer, it is time to head even further south to Kiso-Fukushima, where you can take a load off your tired feet and get a good night’s rest.

15:09 Depart Narai
15:42 Arrive at Kiso Fukushima


Recommended Accommodations in Kiso Fukushima

・Yama Mizuki Urara Tsutaya:

Directly in right front of Kiso Fukushima station

・Iwaya:

Located in central Kiso Fukushima. It is a renovated storehouse with guestrooms available

・Kiso Mikawaya:

Reasonably priced ryokan. Offers an all-you-can-drink soft drink bar at no extra cost! It is a bit far from the station…

See the accommodations list for more options.

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Other Itineraries

Want to do it all? Now you can this tour!

2 days from Nagano / Matsumoto to Nakatsugawa/Nagoya

Period Dec. 2019 to Mar. 2020
Duration 2 Days
Destination Matsumoto Castle / Narai Post Town / Akasawa Forest Train or Kakizore Gorge / Magome Post Town / Tsumago Post Town
Start / End Nagano City / Nakatsugawa Station
Regions Central Japan
Operator Snow Monkey Resorts
2pax JPY 275,000~/group

Day 2  Kiso Fukushima and its Untouched Natural Scenery

kakizoreakasawa

Day 2 starts out in Kiso Fukushima where you will first visit Nezame-no-toko and then you have the option of visiting the Akasawa Forest or Kakizore Gorge. From there travel to Tsumago Post Town and walk the Nakasendo Trail to Magome Post Town. From there take the train to Nakatsugawa or Nagoya.

7:27 Depart Kiso Fukushima

Take a local bus called the Kuramoto Line (倉本線) from Kiso-Fukushima Station.

7:49 get off the bus at the Nakasendo Nezame (中山道ねざめ) bus stop

From the Nakasendo Nezame bus stop, it is a 15-minute walk.

8:05 Arrive at Nezamenokoto

Nezame-no-toko is a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty. The name literally means “bed of awakening” and it is said its stunning beauty will awaken the senses of anyone who views it. It is also associated with the legend of Urashima Taro, as it is said he awoke from his adventures in this spot.

Nezame

The giant boulders here were shaped by the rushing water of the river, which sat at a higher level before the Kiso Dam was built further upstream. The water itself is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom from quite a distance away. If you care to venture down onto the boulders, there is a small shrine you can pay your respects at, and from afar you can enjoy searching for different animals and shapes in the boulders.

nezame

Once you take the long flight of stairs down to Nezame-no-toko, you will find there is also a beautiful art park along the river bank. There is also enough time to enjoy breakfast at the Nezame-tei cafe at the top of the stairs.

Nezame

9:42 Depart Nezamenotoko

Take the Kuwa-chan Bus (くわちゃんバス) from the Nezame-no-toko (寝覚の床) bus stop to Agematsu Station.

9:47 Arrive at Agematsu Station

Either of the following two options will take you through the magnificent natural scenery of the Kiso Valley and at the same time offer some insight into the history of the area.

Option 1: Akasawa Forest Train (available from the beginning of May to the beginning of Nov.)

akasawa forest

The Kiso area is famous throughout Japan for its forestry industry. The cypress found here was once used in the construction of castles and shrines. At one point, the forest was practically stripped bare until the government stepped in and forbid cutting down anymore trees, and the crime was punishable by death! Once the forest had regrown, the trees were once again used in the construction industry, but this time strictly regulated. The trees here are the designated  lumber for Ise Grand Shrine, and in the early 1900’s a forest railway was built to aid the forestry industry. It remained in use for this purpose until 1975.

akasawa forest
akasawa

In the early 80’s the concept of forest bathing began right here in this forest, and the railway came back into use, but this time to carry people deep into the healing forest and share the area’s history. The Akasawa Natural Recreation Forest is now a Japan Heritage Site and the many miles of maintained forest trails within offer visitors a place to relax and refresh. I recommend taking the train out into the forest and enjoying a leisurely stroll along one of the paths on the way back. The station has a lovely little museum with lots of photos and memorabilia from the railway’s heyday, as well as a display of the actual train cars that were once in use.

11:25 Depart Agematsu Station

There is a local bus to the Akasawa Natural Recreational Forest that runs from mid-April through early November (or you can travel more flexibly by taxi https://www.n-taxi.com/en/).

11:55 Arrive at Akawasa Natural Recreational Forest

akasawa forest
akasawa

This 728 hectare forest has plenty to see and do. Walk the trails and absorb the healing effects of the trails, take the forest railway (adults: ¥800), play on the 45-meter long slide through the forest, eat lunch in the magnificently serene surroundings, and before you leave shop for souvenirs made from forest’s wood.

From the forest you can continue your travels further south.

akasawaakasawa

14:30 Depart Akawasa Natural Recreational Forest
15:15 Arrive at Agematsu Station
15:56 Depart Agematsu Station
16:31 Arrive at Nagiso Station and change trains to the Ltd. Exp. Shinano.
16:51 Arrive at Nakatsugawa or 18:05 Arrive at  Nagoya

After a day spent soaking up negative ions you will be feeling refreshed and relaxed to take on the next leg of your journey!

Option 2: Kakizore Gorge and Post Town Trail (Spring to Autumn)

kakizore
kakizore

Kakizore Gorge is a site of spectacular natural beauty on the opposite side of the gorge from Atera Gorge, which runs parallel. Walk down a set of stairs along the mountain face and you will come to a suspension bridge. If you are absolutely terrified of heights, this is probably not the best option, but as someone who doesn’t do well with heights, I was still able to make it across. The bridge runs across the beautiful, clear blue gorge waters. A trail will take you 300m further into the gorge until you come upon the stunning Ushigataki Falls. The site of the water rushing over the granite into a pool of deep, clear, emerald green water is awe-inspiring.

10:00 Depart Agematsu Station

Take a sightseeing taxi (Approx. ¥17,900 and a 2.5 hour drive. The inquiry form is in Japanese only and reservations must be made one week in advance. https://www.n-taxi.com/en/)

10:45 Arrive at the parking lot near the gorge.

kakizore
kakizore

Enjoy the roughly 15-minute riverside hike to Ushigataki Falls. There is a lot of climbing up and down stairs involved, so I recommend going slow and really drinking in all of the fantastic scenery.

kakizorekakizore

11:45 Depart Kakizore Gorge

kakizore

12:30 Arrive at Nagiso Station
12:40 Depart Nagiso Station and take a local bus to Tsumago Post Town
12:47 Arrive at Tsumago Post Town


Tsumago

Tsumago and Magome are two post towns along the ancient Nakasendo Trail from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. The trail between them can be walked in 3 to 3.5 hours, giving you a real sense of how our Japanese ancestors lived, as recent as 100 years ago while you take in the natural beauty of the trails themselves. Upon arriving in Tsumago you will notice that every effort has been made to restore the town to its original appearance, and even the electric and phone lines have been concealed so as not to interfere with the scenery. Take some time to explore the town before departing along the trail for Magome.

13:30 Depart Tsumago and head to Magome

tsumagotsumago

The trail that stretches between Tsumago and Magome has been relatively well-maintained making for a gentle journey that even non-hikers can enjoy. It is well-marked in both English and Japanese. Be aware that the Tsumago to Magome direction is a slightly more uphill hike than the other direction.

trailtrail

16:00 - 16:30 Arrive at Magome Post Town

magome

When you arrive in Magome, the last of the eleven post towns on the Kiso Road, you’ll have time to explore the shops and inns along the cobblestone streets.

magomemagome

16:50 Depart Magome - Take a local bus to Nakatsugawa Station
17:15 Arrive at Nakatsugawa Station


Board the train that will bring you back from your time slip into the days of old Japan and its untouched natural scenery.

17:35 Depart Nakatsugawa Station - Take the JR Chuo line or Ltd. Exp. Shinano to Nagoya
18:57 Arrive at Nagoya Station


After an awe-inspiring day filled with amazing natural scenery and beautiful remnants of days gone by, you’ll be ready for a filling dinner of Nagoya’s famous miso cutlets or tebasaki chicken wings followed by a good night’s sleep.

Other Itineraries

Winter attraction in Nakasendo Kiso Valle3 days perfect route of Nakasend Kisoji for Instagramer

Want to do it all? Now you can this tour!

2 days from Nagano / Matsumoto to Nakatsugawa/Nagoya

Period Dec. 2019 to Mar. 2020
Duration 2 Days
Destination Matsumoto Castle / Narai Post Town / Akasawa Forest Train or Kakizore Gorge / Magome Post Town / Tsumago Post Town
Start / End Nagano City / Nakatsugawa Station
Regions Central Japan
Operator Snow Monkey Resorts
2pax JPY 275,000~/group