Travel has been a theme of life in Kiso-Fukushima for centuries thanks to its strategic position at the halfway point of the historical Nakasendo Way. Because it was home to one of only four checkpoints, or sekisho, along the whole route, everyone was forced to pause here to show their permit and have their goods inspected. The legacy of that lucrative period is an excellent reason for modern-day travellers to linger here in the Kiso valley for a while, too, if only for long enough to wander around the sleepy streets of the Ueno-dan conservation area, pore over the eclectic exhibits in the well-preserved checkpoint and the former home of the family who oversaw it and admire the elegant simplicity of the Zen garden at Kozen-ji temple.
But there are also reasons to stray a little further, on foot on ancient trails through cypress-scented forests, or further still towards the mountains on either side of this captivating riverside town. To the west is Mount Ontake, the second-highest volcano in the whole country, where an exertion-saving ropeway whisks visitors up to 7,000 feet above sea level, from where the panoramic views of the Alps – not to mention the cold air – will take your breath away. At the foot of the mountain, the Kaida Kogen highlands provides a different landscape to admire: a sea of buckwheat fields and pastures where endangered Kiso horses, Honshu’s only native breed, graze.
Take a journey into one of Japan’s most atmospheric places with the assistance of our Japan experts and their hand-picked team of local guides.