Narai (Nakasendo)

Step back into a trade route town from days gone by

Narai-juku, located between Kiso Fukushima and Matsumoto, is a charming post town that offers visitors a glimpse into japan‘s rich history. As one of the best-preserved towns along the Nakasendo Trail, Narai-juku transports visitors back in time to the days when this trade route was bustling with activity.

Don’t Miss

When visiting Narai-juku, there are several must-see attractions that should not be missed. One of the highlights is strolling through the town’s charming streetscape, which exudes a samurai-era atmosphere. The well-preserved buildings, many of which are two-story wooden structures, house a variety of establishments, including soba noodle restaurants, sake shops, souvenir vendors, and lacquer-ware artisans. Walking along the main street, visitors can immerse themselves in the history and ambiance of Narai-juku.

Another unique feature of Narai-juku is the presence of roadside wells called mizuba, where travelers can find pure spring water. These wells served as a source of refreshment for weary travelers in the past and continue to provide clean water to this day. Taking a moment to drink from these wells is not only a chance to quench your thirst but also an opportunity to connect with the town’s history and traditions.

For those interested in exploring the town’s religious heritage, Chosenji Temple is a must-visit site. The temple is known for its elaborately painted dragon ceiling, which is a testament to the craftsmanship and artistry of the past. Stepping inside the temple, visitors can marvel at the intricate details of the ceiling and gain insights into the spiritual practices of the people who once inhabited Narai-juku.

How to Get There

Narai-juku can be easily reached by taking the local train on the JR Chuo Line. If you are coming from Matsumoto, the journey takes approximately 50 minutes. From Tokyo, you can take the Azusa train, which will take you to Narai-juku in about three hours, with a transfer at Shiojiri. If you are traveling from Nagoya, the Shinano Express will take you to Kiso Fukushima, where you can transfer to the local line for a two-and-a-half-hour journey to Narai-juku. Alternatively, for a more adventurous arrival, you can choose to walk the Nakasendo Trail from the post town of Yabuhara, which is located five kilometers to the south of Narai-juku. This scenic trail offers a unique perspective and allows you to experience the beauty of the surrounding nature.

Wander into the past

Narai-juku was once the wealthiest of the eleven post towns along the Nakasendo Trail. Its main street, which stretches over a kilometer, was lined with impressive buildings, earning the town the nickname “Narai of a Thousand Houses.” Today, many of these historic buildings have been preserved, providing visitors with a glimpse into the town’s prosperous past.

As you wander down the main path of Narai-juku, you will encounter a variety of shops and establishments. Soba noodle restaurants offer a taste of the local cuisine, while sake shops provide an opportunity to sample regional beverages. Souvenir vendors offer a wide range of products, from traditional crafts to locally made goods. One establishment worth mentioning is the Nakamura Residence, a beautifully preserved house from the early 1800s. Inside, visitors can explore the elegant garden and learn about the lifestyle of Narai merchants during that era.

In addition to the town’s commercial district, Narai-juku is also home to several historic temples and shrines. These spiritual sites add another layer of cultural significance to the town. Exploring these temples and shrines allows visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the religious practices and beliefs of the people who once lived here.

The Nakasendo Trail

For those looking to venture beyond the boundaries of Narai-juku, the Nakasendo Trail offers a captivating journey through the region’s natural beauty. Continuing past the Shizume Shrine, located at the southern end of Narai-juku, the trail leads to the Torii-toge Pass. This scenic route takes you through sections of original cobbled paths, providing a glimpse into the past. As you ascend the pass, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Kiso’s sacred Mt. Ontake. Along the way, keep an eye out for the horse tying posts, which were used by travelers to secure their horses while taking a break at the rest station located at the top of the pass.

Recommended for You

If you are interested in exploring more of the Nakasendo Trail, two other post towns worth visiting are Narai and Tsumago. Narai, like Narai-juku, offers a well-preserved glimpse into Japan’s history and culture. Tsumago, on the other hand, boasts a beautifully restored townscape and offers visitors the opportunity to experience traditional ryokan accommodations.

In conclusion, Narai-juku is a town that takes visitors on a journey through time. Its well-preserved buildings, historic temples, and charming streetscape offer a glimpse into Japan’s past. Whether you choose to explore the town itself or venture further along the Nakasendo Trail, a visit to Narai-juku is sure to be a memorable experience. So, step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of this trade route town.

Address And Maps Location:

Shiojiri, Nagano-ken

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