Japan // Central Honshu //

Kiso-Fukushima

Four train stations south of Narai is KISO-FUKUSHIMA (木曽福島), a much more developed town than the other juku – hence it being a stop for the express train between Matsumoto and Nagoya. At the tourist office (t 0264/22-4000, w http://www.kankou-kiso.com) opposite the train station, pick up a map to point you towards the hilltop Ue-no-dan (上の段) conservation area and the temple Kōzen-ji (興禅寺) with its serene raked gravel and rock garden.

If you’re looking for somewhere inexpensive to stay, the Kiso-Ryojōan Youth Hostel (木曽旅情庵ユースホステル; t 0264/23-7716; ¥3000 per person), is a 25-minute bus ride from Kiso-Fukushima, in a large traditional building in the peaceful mountain village of Ōhara. You could use the hostel as a base from which to explore the valley’s post towns. Alternatively, the Tsutaya (つたや; t 0264/22-2145, w http://www.kisoji-tutaya.com; ¥20,001−30,000) is a pleasant ryokan opposite the station where the rates include two meals.