KISO VALLEY -Beautiful memories of Japan keep on running in the valley-






Some 400 years ago, the samurai government of Edo (the present Tokyo) developed five highways linking Edo with key destinations. The 540-km highway between Kyoto, the home of the imperial court, was called Nakasendo passing through deep mountains that were beautiful but with steep paths, passes and cliffs. The lowland Kiso Valley was the darkest zone but it was an oasis for travelers.

reason01Culture unique to Kiso


Along the 540-km Nakasendo, the government in Edo set up a total of 69 official relay stations that grew into post towns with inns, eateries, stores, etc. In this Kiso Valley, a unique culture blossomed with 11 post towns together with one passport control.
Even before, the Kiso Valley had served as an important stage of Japan’s historic dramas such as Kiso Yoshinaka’s rising up in arms against the then government of the 12th century and the Battle of Sekigahara of 1600 that led to the 260-year rule of the Tokugawa shogunate.
With the development of the official highway system, not only imperial family members and daimyos or feudal lords, but ordinary travelers came and went along the Nakasendo highway, staying in the post towns to allay their fatigue of the long journey to and from Edo. Amid the political turmoil just before the start of the modern Meiji period, Chikako, Princess Kazu, passed along the highway in her marriage ceremony to the Tokugawa shogun.
The Kiso Valley was luckily spared from the ravages of World War II. The streetscapes of Tsumago-juku, Magome-juku and other post towns have retained the scent and tastes of the Edo period.


木曽でしか見られない文化Nature unique to Kiso


To the west of Kiso Valley stands the beautiful Mt. Ontake with five ponds on five summits. To the east soars Mt. Kiso Komagatake, the highest peak in the Central Alps range. At its foot, limpid streams run and a vast plateau extends. There are a variety of fantastic falls. The idea of forest bathing in Japan was born in Akasawa Shizen Kyuyourin Park in 1982. Visitors can view huge forests that are composed of massive trees several hundred years old.
Mysterious grand nature surrounds the Kiso Valley as well as the people living and visiting there.


木曽でしか見られない文化Experience unique to Kiso


At the foot of Mt. Ontake are five ski resorts that offer skiers the best powder snow. In summer, visitors enjoy from canoeing and rafting to forest bathing, trekking and various outdoor activities. The Kaida Highland is famous for the indigenous horse breed Kisouma, a favorite of samurais. Visitors can take a riding lesson with these horses, the only native breed from Honshu, the main island of Japan. The plateau is also well known for soba or buckwheat noodles. Visitors can experience soba making and eat soba of their own making. These are only a few of the many experiences offered in the Kiso Valley.


木曽でしか見られない文化Cuisine and drink unique to Kiso


The crystal clear streams of the Kiso Valley offer you sweet fish, mountain trout, land-locked trout and other blessings of the rivers. Once you taste tender and juicy Kiso beef, you will always want to come back to the Kiso Valley. Including many other locally produced ingredients that are charmingly simple, all these foods go very well with local sake, beer and wine from a number of local breweries. Goheimoci or rice cake is another local specialty with its taste of Japan’s mountain villages of yore.
Gourmets can enjoy the many tastes of the Kiso Valley, not only ingredients but nature and historic streetscapes.



The terrain of the Kiso Valley is unique. The Kiso River runs through the sharply V-shaped lowland that extends for some 60 km between Mt. Ontake in the west and the Central Alps in the east.
Back in the Edo period, the improvement of the time-honored Nakasendo highway must have been a difficult task in this area with steep mountain paths, passes and cliffs. For this reason, however, it regarded the Kiso Valley as strategically vital and established a passport control to conduct a rigorous check on people’s comings and goings to and from Edo.
It was a rule for imperial family members of Kyoto to use this highway. It must have been quite rare an opportunity for ordinary people to see them so close. It wa s a privilege of travelers. A unique culture was developed in the Kiso Valley.
There were 11 post towns with inns, eateries, stores, etc., the names of which have been retained as the respective area’s name. Visitors can enjoy vestiges of the good old days in the Kiso Valley.
Besides historic cultural facilities, beautiful streams of the Kiso River and abundant features of mountains and highlands characterize the Kiso Valley. Its charm is doubled by an agreeable climate and the dynamic changes of the four seasons.

Mt. Ontake





movie of kiso

Lila and Suzanna are on their first trip to the Kiso Valley at the height of the beautiful fall foliage. (A recommended route is presented.) They are amazed at the rapidly changing scenery viewed from the window of Shinano, a JR limited express from Nagoya. The concrete jungle of the megalopolis gives way to mountain forests with beautiful changing colors as Shinano gets closer to the mountain ranges of the Kiso Valley.
The old post towns of Magome and Kisofukushima are amid a fantastic setting of natural beauty. Lila and Suzanna enjoy a variety of historic cultural facilities that exist only in the Kiso Valley and a diverse range of activities that are held only in the Kiso Valley. They have no time to get bored.
At the end of their tour, Lila and Suzanna head for Mt. Ontake by ropeway. The breathtaking scenery from above the clouds will leave them with an indelible memory of the Kiso Valley. Now it’s your turn to enjoy an unforgettable mysterious tour of nature and history!

In this video, which follows the fall video, we showcase the Kiso Valley in the summertime.Our travelers, named Sapphira and Serena, set off on their journey by expressway bus from Shinjuku, where buses depart for destinations throughout Japan.We follow the two visitors as they head for Narai, an old post town that is still vibrant today. In Kisofukushima, on the banks of beautiful River, Sapphira and Serena enjoy some of Japan’s lively seasonal attractions, such as summer festivals and fireworks displays. The travelers take in the natural beauty of the Kiso Valley, numerous waterfalls, and the nearby highlands. After dining at their inn, they head for a special place where they can greet the beautiful daybreak. A world of unexpected delights awaits you in the Kiso Valley in the summertime. Come and enjoy the journey.



July 22 - July 23


Mikoshimakuri is a gallant summer festival of Kisofukushima’s Suimu Shrine. After rolling and pitching, the mikoshi or portable shrine is thrashed to the ground by bearers until it gets broken to pieces.


February 2 - February 3

Snowlight Promenade

Wavy flames of ice candles warmly light up a 2-km promenade of the old port town of Kisofukushima. Visitors can feel the welcome message of local citizens.



©2015 KisoTown Tourism Association