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Samurai Trail's Little-known Spots

Biggest Zen Rock Garden & Old Post Town in Kiso Valley

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 Kozenji Temple and the Uenodan area of the post town of Kiso-Fukushima (not Fukushima Prefecture) to find some of the little-known great spots in the area. They are accessible by train (10 and 20 min walk from Kiso-Fukushima Station).

The Japanese rock garden in Kozenji is the biggest in 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.

Uenodan is smaller than Tsumago and Narai, but very historical and cozy.

I also visited Atera Gorge, which is famous for its clear, emerald green water and its Kiso hinoki cypress forest. There is also a groomed walking trail (access: one hour and twenty min walk from Nojiri train station) which I also recommend you visit.