THE KISO VALLEY
From the moment we decided to visit Japan, there had been one place we had to visit and experience, the Kiso Valley. Only a short 40 minute train ride from Matsumoto, lies an ancient post town beautifully preserved from the Edo period called Narai.
The Kiso Valley marks a 70km route that runs through the mountains of the Central Japanese Alps. Narai was one of the richest post towns along the Kiso route. A route which made up a portion of the 500 km long Nakasendo trail (road through the mountains) The road of transportation between Tokyo and Kyoto throughout the Edo period.
As we approached the main street, our faces immediately lit up. We could not believe it was exactly as we had imagined.. just even more beautiful to witness with our own eyes. A narrow road, lined on either side with the ancient and traditional timber shops and houses. Our day consisted of strolling up and down the area, looking at all of the traditional Japanese artifacts and handicrafts for sale in the quaint shops, capturing the incredible nature of the town and trying to immerse ourselves in a bygone era.
The area has the ambiance of peace and tranquility, the way the Japanese have preserved it for so long. An elderly Japanese man sat on a bench observing life around him, jovial Shiba Inus' (Japanese dogs) pranced down the road with their owners in tow. Elderly Japanese women carrying on with their days within their homes and shops.
The surreal feeling of being in a town so old and ancient, well preserved and traditional is beyond words. To me personally, this was Japan. Raw and untouched.
WORDS: TRACEY HARRIS
PHOTOGRAPHY: KRISTEL CHAPLIN
GETTING TO NARAI
If you are travelling by train with a JR Pass, you can get to Narai station from Tokyo, Nagoya and Nagano.
From Tokyo, go to Shinjuku station and catch the JR Chuo Line to Shiojiri Station. From Shiojiri Station, Narai is the 5th station on the JR Chuohonsen Line. Approx 2 hours and 45 minutes.
From Nagoya Station you can take the JR Chuo Line to Kisofukushima Station which takes about 1 hour 25 minutes. Change at Kisofukushima Station to get to Narai Station, a local train. Approx 30 minutes.
From Nagano Station you need to change trains at either Matsumoto Station or Shiojiri Station.