These photos were taken in and around the Kiso Valley, specifically in Tsumago and Magome. They are from the travel blogger Local Milk and inspired us to visit this untouched and ancient part of Japan. Stay at the Fujioto Ryokan, a beautiful inn with exceptional food – highly recommended, though we didn’t get a chance to try it ourselves. Next time.

We also recommend walking the trail between the two towns, a great way to soak up the incredible atmosphere. Getting there takes a little bit of travel, but it’s made easy by Japan’s amazing transport system.

By shinkansen via Nagoya

Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya (100-110 minutes) and transfer to the JR Shinano limited express train for access into the Kiso Valley. The Japan Rail Pass covers the entire train journey, except Nozomi trains along the Tokaido Shinkansen. Pass holders should use Hikari trains, instead.

To access Magome, take the Shinano limited express from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa Station (50 minutes). The entire one way trip from Tokyo to Nakatsugawa takes about three hours and costs around 12,500 yen. From Nakatsugawa, Magome can be reached in a 30 minute bus ride.

To access Tsumago, get off at Nagiso Station. Some JR Shinano limited express trains from Nagoya stop at Nagiso Station, however, most do not, in which case you should transfer to a local train at Nakatsugawa Station. The entire one way trip from Tokyo to Nagiso takes about three hours and costs around 12,500 yen. From Nagiso, Tsumago can be reached in a short taxi or bus ride. Easy.