Back in December in the Japan Shopping post I mentioned that I would soon write more about The Nakasendo Trail. The trail or Central Mountain Route was one of the 5 walking routes that during the Edo Period connected the ancient capital of Kyoto to Tokyo or Edo. There were 69 rest stations between Edo and Kyoto, and the route crossed through 5 provinces of Edo period Japan. Today the Nakasendō also runs through the modern-day prefectures of Saitama, Gunma, Nagano, Gifu and Shiga, with a total distance of approximately 534 km (332 mi). In October 2015 my closest friend Sam and I set off from Tokyo by train to get to the start of our 5 day trek along the trail at Magome. Our route would take us through the beautifully restored towns of Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai, while our last night would be spent in the more westernised “alpine” resort of Karuizawa.
At the end of each walking day we would stay at a traditional Japanese style inn, or Ryokan at one of the towns along the route as travellers from the Edo period would have done. There a sumptuous dinner of local specialities is served at 6pm to refuel hungry travellers and traditional cedar wood hot baths are available to soak tired muscles. An equally wonderful traditional breakfast the next day of rice, fish, toufu and egg provides fuel for the day’s walk. The natural rhythm of our days of walking in nature, bathing, eating and sleeping in the quiet and welcoming towns along the route became a most restful and restorative experience.
With the seasons changing, the colours of the leaves turning and the weather bright and cool, perfect for walking, our Nakasendo turned out to be a truly beautiful autumnal adventure.
The Nakasendo Trail is marked at regular intervals by rocks showing travellers their progress on the route and also by little shrines like this one at the foot of the Torii Pass.
Spectacular view en route to Yokokawa. Despite the stunning natural beauty of the Nakasendo landscapes man made structures are never that far away.
Nature's beauty framed by the elegant lines of man made engineering.
The delicate shape of maple leaves silhouetted against a pure blue sky.
Descending from the Torii Pass we enter Narai - or town of one thousand inns. The town was fully restored by its residents to emulate the old rest station of the Edo period.
Temple gates at the top of the Torii Pass. After an arduous climb through the trees we reached the temple and nearby shrine of rocks inscribed with poetry. It was the most peaceful and beautiful place.
The autumnal colours of the Maple Tree.
A craftsman in Yabuhara making combs from local woods such as Minebari and Isu.
Ryokan at Kiso-Fukushima famous for its public hot baths.
We couldn't get enough of the beautiful colours.
Leaving our ryokan at O-Tsumago.