Kiso Road is the name of the 19th national road that runs from Shiojiri City in Nagano Prefecture through Kiso Valley to Nakatsugawa City in Gifu Prefecture. 11 inns and streets from the Edo period have been preserved, and it is a place where visitors can remember the past of Japan and experience the history and culture of ancient Japan. It is a part of Nakasendo and has developed together with Nakasendo. Nakasendo was one of the five streets of the Edo period in Japan, and was a road from Edo (today’s Tokyo) to Kyoto via inland, starting at Nihonbashi Bridge in Tokyo and ending at Sanjo Ohashi Bridge in Kyoto, with 69 stations along the way.
There are eleven post stations on the Kiso Road, and many of them still have the appearance of the old days, including Nara Ijuku and Tsumagojuku, which are particularly colorful ryokan towns and have been designated as areas for the preservation of traditional architectural complexes. Nara Ijuku is the largest ryokan on the Kiso Road, and is lined with private houses with architectural styles such as inns, dori-beams, and vertical latticework, as well as stores such as Kiso Bianbai lacquerware stores and fine brewing sake, where visitors can buy local specialty products. Tsumago-juku has a long streetscape that retains the Edo-era architectural styles such as short pillars on beams and vertical latticework in their original form, and there are also many old inns, tea houses, restored post offices, and bulletin board stands, etc., actively working to preserve the old streets.
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One of the five highways of the Edo period, the Nakasendo was an important highway connecting Kyoto and Edo. The 540-km route included a series of stops called the Nakasendo 69th Stops, eleven of which were located on the Kiso Road.
Along the Kiso River, the Kiso Road is a series of deep valleys and steep mountain passes, with deep mountains and little flat land. There was no room for industries other than forestry. This has allowed a unique culture and climate to be preserved, which has led to the present day.
Tsumago was the first place in Japan to preserve the old townscape that has been preserved since the Edo period. The udatsu-lined streets in the dehiranzukuri style are reminiscent of the streets of Edo itself. Magomejuku, located at the southernmost tip of Kisoji, also has a similar nostalgic road.
Kisoji was recognized as a Japan Heritage site in 2016. Why not visit the inns, traditional crafts, and food culture that have been quietly preserved in the quiet valley, and experience the original landscape of old Japan?