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Kiso Road

The 530 km Nakasendō linked Kyoto to Tokyo during Japan’s feudal period. Modern roads have obliterated much of the original trail but some sections remain. Our plan was to spend a couple of days hiking the best parts in the Kiso Valley.

It was not to be - half a meter of snow made the path through the mountains too slippery.  Instead we visited two of the faithfully restored "post towns" by train and bus.

Hotel Fukinomori is a special place high up in the forest near Tsumago - modern in construction with glass, cedar and stone but traditional in the tatami mats, futon bedding and family hospitality.  After bathing in the outdoor onsen in falling snow we were ready to try the exquisite 14 course Japanese Kaiseki dinner.  It was a "once in a lifetime" experience.

Hotel Fukinomori
Oh what a feeling!  Naked in an outdoor onsen with the snow falling
Ready for dinner
14 course traditional Kaiseki Menu
A few small dishes to start
Some raw fish from the stream
Hot pot of duck meat, mushrooms and soba noodles
Breakfast - another work of art

Tsumago was an important post town on the Nakasendo Road.  When railways and roads were constructed it declined but in the 1970s local residents began to restore their historical sites and buildings.

Tsumago, old post town, restored in the 1970s
Nakasendo Trail in Tsumago - an illusion of the past

Magome has also been restored, giving the appearance of an Edo era post town.  There's a good 8km section of the Nakasendo Trail through the mountains from here to Tsumago but the snow prevented us from walking it.

The Nakasendo winds up through Magome

Regulations were announced by posting on a notice board
The Magome water mill

Matsumoto is a central Japan city surrounded by snow covered mountains. Its National Heritage 16th-century Castle is nicknamed “Crow Castle” for its distinctive black walls.  It's a pleasant city with good food.

Matsumoto Castle
Soba noodles being made by hand
Traditional warehouse with the best gyoza and ramen in town