11 Towns Lining the Ancient Kisoji Trade Route

Tsumago-juku | ©Patrick Vierthaler / Flickr
Tsumago-juku | ©Patrick Vierthaler / Flickr
Photo of Dave Afshar
3 March 2017

Established in the beginning of the Edo era (1603 – 1867), Kisoji was an ancient trade route stretching from Nagano to Gifu. Due to the strict regulations of the shogun, travelers were required to make the grueling journey on foot, and several “post towns” were established along the route to provide a place to rest. The days of the shogun have long since passed but a number of the old towns along the Kisoji route have been preserved.

Narai-juku

Known for its high elevation and long row of Edo-era houses, Narai-juku has since been recognized as a “National Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings” by the Japanese government. The town is maintained through a system of government grants and most of the original architecture still stands.

Narai, Shiojiri, Nagano Prefecture 399-6303, Japan

Miyanokoshi-juku

Miyanokoshi is the former home of Lord Kiso, an ancient general who lived from 1154 to 1184. A number of artifacts connected to him have been preserved in the town.

Miyanokosh, Japan

Midono-juku

Nearly 100 years after the previous town caught fire, most of Midono was destroyed in another large fire. Instead of rebuilding in the same location, the town was moved and rebuilt to incorporate the railway system that had already begun growing in Japan by that time.

Tsumago-juku

Possibly the most popular present-day tourist destination along the Kisoji, Tsumago has been fully restored to reflect the appearance of an authentic Edo era post town. Restoration began in the late 1960s, and while tourism is the primary business of the town, most of the homes are actually inhabited by Japanese families.

Tsumago-juku 妻籠宿 | ©Patrick Vierthaler / Flickr