Walk this historic trade route to glimpse japan of a bygone era

The Nakasendo Highway, connecting Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1867), is a remarkable piece of Japan’s history. This historic trade route offers a glimpse into a bygone era, allowing travelers to experience the charm and beauty of Japan as it once was. The best-preserved portion of the Nakasendo Highway is a picturesque trail through the mountains that runs through the Kiso Valley in southwestern Nagano Prefecture. This article will take you on a journey along this historic route, exploring its rich history and highlighting some of its must-visit attractions.

The Nakasendo Highway was a vital trade route during the Edo period, serving as a connection between Japan’s capital, Kyoto, and Tokyo. Along the way, travelers would stop at various post towns, which provided accommodation and entertainment for weary travelers. These post towns, spread out every 10 kilometers or so, were essential resting stops for merchants, samurai, wandering monks, and others traversing the highway.

One of the highlights of the Nakasendo Highway is the historic Joshoji Temple in Suhara. This temple, founded in the 14th century, offers a glimpse into Japan’s religious and cultural heritage. Visitors can explore the temple grounds and admire its beautiful architecture and serene atmosphere.

Another noteworthy stop along the Nakasendo Highway is the checkpoint station at Kiso Fukushima. This checkpoint station played a crucial role in monitoring and controlling the flow of goods and people along the highway. Today, visitors can learn about the history of the checkpoint station and explore its well-preserved buildings.

Hiking enthusiasts will particularly enjoy the Nakasendo Highway, as it offers breathtaking natural scenery and picturesque trails. One of the most popular hiking routes is the Torii-toge Pass to Narai. This pass takes hikers through the mountains and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Narai, once the wealthiest post town on the Nakasendo Highway, is a fascinating destination to explore, with its well-preserved traditional buildings and charming streets.

To reach the Nakasendo Highway, there are several transportation options available. Travelers can take a train or highway bus to reach the starting point of the trail. For those coming from Tokyo, taking limited express trains such as the JR Asuza via Shiojiri Station is a convenient option. The famous post town of Magome in Gifu Prefecture is a common starting point for accessing the Nakasendo Highway. From Magome, visitors can take a bus to Nakatsugawa Station and begin their journey on foot.

The Nakasendo Highway can be walked in its entirety, which takes about four to five days. However, some hikers choose to complete the trail in three days for a more adventurous experience. Starting in Magome and heading north is a popular choice, as it allows hikers to enjoy more downhill sections of the trail. Along the way, there are several train stations, providing options for those who prefer to take a break from walking.

One of the unique features of the Nakasendo Highway is the presence of Jizo statues and Dosojin along the path. Jizo statues, Buddhist Bodhisattvas and roadside guardians, can be found throughout the route, offering protection and guidance to travelers. Dosojin, Shinto icons in the shape of a human couple, are also believed to protect travelers along the highway.

A highlight of the Nakasendo Highway is the scenic hike between the post towns of Magome and Tsumago. These two towns are among the best-preserved stops along the entire route. The hike between them takes approximately three hours and offers a glimpse into the traditional architecture and atmosphere of rural Japan. Spending a night in Tsumago allows visitors to fully appreciate the town’s charm once the crowds have dispersed.

The Nakasendo Highway offers a diverse range of landscapes, from forests of Japanese cedar to towering bamboo groves. The leg of the trail between Tsumago and Suhara covers a variety of terrain and allows hikers to experience the beauty of the Japanese countryside. Along the way, hikers will pass through post towns like Midono and Nojiri before reaching Suhara, where the peaceful Joshoji Temple is located.

In conclusion, walking the Nakasendo Highway is a unique opportunity to experience Japan’s rich history and natural beauty. This historic trade route offers a glimpse into a bygone era and allows travelers to immerse themselves in the charm and traditions of old Japan. From the well-preserved post towns to the breathtaking scenery, the Nakasendo Highway is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Japan’s cultural heritage. So, lace up your walking shoes and embark on a journey through time along the Nakasendo Highway.

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