The first stop along the Kisoji route, the original kanji (Chinese characters) for this route was 熱川, which means “warm river”, because of the natural hot springs in the area.
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.
This is the last stop before the Torii Pass, which was considered to be the most challenging section of the route to traverse. Today, Yabuhara is known for small souvenirs made from the birch trees that grow in the area.
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.
2014 saw Ryan and myself head over to the Yoshinaka Takata Museum in Miyanokoshi to learn about the life and death of the famous Shogun and war hero Kiso Yoshinaka. Note the striking statue featuring the popular local Shogun with the legendary Tomoe Gozen standing guard in front of the small museum. #japan #samurai #shogun #miyanokoshi #kiso
This is the mid-point of the Kisoji trade route. Here, travelers were subject to inspection and forced to pay a tax before moving on.
Formerly a successful logging town, houses leftover from the Edo era can still be found in the Kan-machi section of this small post town.
Suhara was technically the first post town to best established along the Kisoji trade route; however, the entire town was destroyed by a massive flood in 1717 and then rebuilt in a different location.
Known for its winding roads, Nojiri is the second-longest post town after Narai-juku. Unfortunately, most of the town was destroyed in a fire in 1791.
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.
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.
The final stop along the Kisoji, Magome is the only post town on the trade route that isn’t located in Nagano. In its early days, the small town enjoyed a great deal of prosperity – until the railroads were built and Magome was not included as one of the stops. Much of the town has been restored and is now a popular tourist destination.