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The Kiso Valley: Historical Crossroads Blessed with Scenic Beauty

The Kiso Valley is a long, narrow stretch of glen in southwestern Nagano Prefecture that lies between the Japan Alps and the Kiso mountain range. Formed by the Kiso River, it is famous for a highly prized variety of Japanese cypress that is native to the area. It is also noted for the beautiful ravines, forests, and mountains that can only be found in Kiso.

The Kiso Valley was once a major crossroads and is rich in historical assets. Up until modern times, barriers were erected along major roads and at borders between domains for security reasons. In the 1600s, the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded a feudal dynasty that lasted for nearly three centuries, set up 50 such barriers along major roads linking east and west to protect his headquarters in Tokyo (known back then as Edo). One of the four most important of such barriers was put up in Fukushima in the Kiso Valley. The barrier is preserved today as a historic relic.

Besides barriers, the old roads also featured clusters of lodges for travellers. There were 11 such inn-stations in the Kiso Valley, one of the which--Magome, about 125 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Nagoya--still retains the look and feel of the Edo period (1600-1868). A visit to Magome is like taking a 200-year trip back in time.

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