Nowadays, walking the old Nakasendo Road at Tsumago, Magome, and Narai is popular among foreign visitors, but they are crowded, especially in the early May ‘Golden Week’ holidays in Japan.
I visited the Uenodan area of the post town of Kiso-Fukushima (not Fukushima Prefecture) and Kozenji Temple near there to find some of the little-known great spots in the Kiso area. They are accessible by train (20 and 10 min walk from Kiso-Fukushima Station).
Uenodan is one of post towns in the Nakasendo Road. It is smaller than Tsumago and Narai, but very historical and cozy.
Some old buildings are used for restaurants and shops. I enjoyed soba noodles at Kurumaya, 300-year history soba restaurant.
Then, I went to Kozenji Temple to see a Japanese rock garden (zen garden).
It is called the widest zen garden in the east Asia and I was impressed by how it uses Kiso’s beautiful nature as ‘borrowed backdrop scenery’.
It is said that this garden represents mountains in a sea of clouds or in the cosmos, but I felt it represents the inner world of humanity.
Other Japanese gardens in the temple and approaches to the rock garden are also very beautiful.
I also visited Atera Gorge, which is famous for clear, emerald green water and its Kiso hinoki cypress forest. There is a groomed walking trail (access: one hour and twenty min walk from Nojiri train station), which I also recommend you visit.