Japan (October 2016): Kiso Valley


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The Kiso valley is located southwest of Matsumoto between the Central Alps on the east and the North Alps on the west. The old Nakasendo road built during the Edo Period to connect Kyoto to present-day Tokyo traversed this valley. Narai, Magome, and Tsumago are the best preserved post towns of the valley along this road. Some vestiges of the old road remain, especially between Magome and Tsumago.




Old-styled houses lined along the main street.









Drawing artists inspired by the main street.


Three of the five wells dating from the Edo Period along the main street. They provide fresh spring water from the surrounding mountains.




Chousen-ji temple.


Left: Roku Jizo (Six Jizo) lined up in front of the Chousen-ji temple. In Japanese Buddhism Jizo is a Bodhisattva (someone who is able to reach nirvana, but delays doing so out of compassion to help other beings) who specifically protects children and travelers. Right: Buddhist deity in the cemetery behind the temple.


Notice board (kosatsuba) where decrees and local rules were posted on wood tablets. Similar boards were erected at the entrance of all post towns along the Nakasendo road.


Old lacquered combs on display in the former residence of Nakamuratei, a lacquered comb wholesale dealer. (For centuries lacquerware has been a particular specialty of the Kiso valley.)




Houses along the inclined curved main street.


- On a rainy afternoon.





- On a sunny morning.





Sake house, marked by a sugi-dama (杉玉), a ball made of cedar leaves.


Water wheel of an old mill used to make rice flower.


Left: notice board (kosatsuba). Right: old firefighting station.


Front yards with unusual chairs and plants.


Stelae and deities in the lower part of the village.


View of Mount Ena (2190m) seen from Magome on a sunny morning, with a small tea plantation in the foreground.













Along the trail between Magome and Tsumago:


This trail has been restored to follow the old Nakasendo road. It offers a pleasant 8km hike (16km round-trip), even on a rainy day, across dense forests and a few tiny villages.



Old tea house along the trail.





Harvested rice fields.






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