Springtime Journey Through the Heart of Japan: Walking the Kiso Road

  • Nagoya Castle

    Our trek through the Japanese Alps begins in Nagoya, a major metropolis that serves as the gateway to the ancient Kiso Road. Toward the end of March and beginning of April, the grounds surrounding the Nagoya Castle, built in 1610, burst into bloom. Travelers from around the world visit this historic site in spring to enjoy not only a glimpse into ancient Japanese history, but also the profusion of cherry blossoms that are a nature lover's delight.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Nagoya

    Nagoya is a multi-faceted city. Its center is high tech, with hip bars, nightclubs and restaurants to appeal to every taste. The city's cultural attractions feature the formidable early 17th century Nagoya castle as well as museums (including the Toyota commemorative museum), public gardens and ancient temples and shrines. 

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Mt. Ontake

    Spectacular mountain views greet us at every turn of the road. Mt. Ontake, the second-largest volcano in Japan, is located 62 miles northeast of Nagoya. The mountain has been revered by Japanese pilgrims as a sacred site throughout the centuries. It last erupted in September 2014.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Children Delight in the Advent of Japanese Spring

    Plum and cherry trees burst into bloom overnight when the conditions are right. Depending on the location and altitude, magnificent blooms can be admired from late-March through April along Japan's cities and towns.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Traditional Japanese Customs

    Along the trek, we are housed in traditional inns, which feature authentic furnishings and delicious "farm-to-table" Japanese cuisine from local sources.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Wedding

    As we turned the corner in a small town along the Kiso Road, we happened upon a young couple who had just married in a Shinto temple. The entire family welcomed us with smiles and gestures, inviting us to photograph this intimate moment. This is an example of the grace and friendliness of the Japanese people, which we encountered time and again throughout the trip.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Kiso Road

    Ancient religious Buddist and Shinto symbols mark the old Kiso Road, which was traveled as early as 710 AD. Stone landmarks throughout the route identify it as part of the Nakasendo, the ancient inland highway over the Japanese Alps connecting Kyoto and Tokyo.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Cherry Blossoms

    Scenes of cherry blossoms in various stages of bloom follow us along our trek through the Japanese Alps. Families converge underneath the trees to relax, have a bite to eat and soak in the springtime beauty of nature.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Matsumoto Castle

    Gateway to the Japanese Alps, the city of Matsumoto boasts the oldest castle in Japan. The Matsumato Castle, built in 1593, is among Japan's designated National Treasures. Inside the castle, visitors can enjoy displays of historical artifacts including Samurai armor and a collection of muskets dating from the 16th century. From the top of the tower, one can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and Matsumoto City.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Japanese Post Town

    In Japan's Edo Period, between 1603 and 1868, post towns were built along Japan's major walking roads to accommodate and cater to travelers. Today, these quaint towns are beautifully preserved and offer the visitor a first-hand look back in time to Old Japan. 

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Mountain-Fed Hot Springs

    After trekking for miles along the Kiso Road, we were ready to soothe our muscles in the natural hot spring bath houses that are readily available in all areas of the Japanese Alpine region. Bathing areas are divided into private sections for women and men, but expect to toss your bathing suit for a soothing spa experience "au naturel."

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Torii Pass

    Our final trek over the historic Torii Pass was challenging, but afforded us magnificent views all along the way. We descended into the lovely post town of Narai, where we enjoyed a lovely sunset as we sipped our tea and congratulated ourselves on a trek well done.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/walkjapan.com

  • Mt. Fuji

    If your flight and weather conditions allow it, there is nothing more magical than to say "Sayonara" to Japan with a sunset view on Mt. Fuji, the country's national symbol and historic site. At 12,389 feet, it is also the highest peak in Japan.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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