Konnichiwa, Japan fans, and a very happy June to you!
This month, I would like to give you all the details of my trip that I took earlier this month to the Nakasendo, an ancient route running through the Kiso Valley that connected Kyoto and Tokyo.
What is the Nakasendo?
The Nakasendo was first established in the 8th century and reached the peak of its popularity in the Edo period (1600-1868), becoming a bustling highway for samurai, nobles, merchants, and commoners alike. I should mentioned that one reason for this involved the requirement during the Edo period for the wealthy landowners and nobles of the time (known as daimyo) to live in the capital city Edo every second year. On the opposite years, members of the daimyo family were also required to live in Edo, in order for the leader, known as the shogun, to limit the wealth of the daimyo and keep a close eye on them. I can only imagine how expensive it would be transport all of your entourage and family members to Edo (Tokyo) essentially once a year (and all of the places you would need to stay along the way).
This ancient road originally stretched for 533 km (330 miles) and would take an average of two and a half to three weeks to complete. However, with the introduction of the railway system in Japan at the end of the 19th century, the old road fell into disuse, no longer the preferred route for getting between two of Japan’s most important cities.
Although much of the original Nakasendo is now gone, some sections have survived and been preserved along with connecting post towns serving as rest stops and commercial centers along the way. The original road included 69 stations. A few of these old post stations have traditional row houses that now been lovingly restored and have since become popular tourist destinations.
Our Weekend Itinerary on the Nakasendo
One great thing about getting to the Nakasendo from Tokyo is that you can really do the highlights in two days if that’s all the time you have. We left the Busta Shinjuku bus station (which I’ve written about here in more detail) at around 4:30pm on a Friday and headed directly for the postal town of Magome. The bus ride took about 5 hours and included two stops for a quick rest. We then made it to the Magomechaya Guesthouse (about 6,000 yen each) just after 9pm and got ready for an early start to Day 2 and our first day of hiking.
Hiked from Magome to Tsumago(about 9 km) to Nagiso station (2 km) and then took the train from Nagiso to Kiso-Fukushima
Went to Kozenji (with Japan’s largest dry rock garden just before checking in at the Kiso-Mikawaya hotel (8,000 yen per night)
Took the train from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara station
Hiked from Yabuhara to Narai (about 6.5 km) and then hiked on to Kiso-Hirasawa (2.5 km)
We found no lunch or food of any kind in Kiso-Hirasawa and so went back to the train station in Kiso-Hirasawa
Took the train back to Shinjuku via Shiojiri station on the Chuo-Line -Limited Express Super Azusa – (around 3 hours)