Weekend Trip: Walking The Nakasendo Trail

Source: Gaijin Pot

“I can’t believe we’re doing this!”

While living in Japan has many benefits, one of the things I find most frustrating is the lack of spontaneity. But, a chance conversation with a friend about the Kiso Valley, a serendipitous half-day off and some last-second bookings led my friend and I on a weekend reprieve.

Friday: Off from Shinjuku

On late Friday afternoon, we hop on a bus from Shinjuku and head off into the sunset to Magome, for a weekend of walking one of Japan’s ancient postal roads, which stretches from Gifu to Nagano Prefecture.

Although during the Edo period the Nakasendo Way stretched all the way from Tokyo to Kyoto, most of its 534 kilometers are now mired by highways and train lines. Thanks to the mountainous, remote nature of the Kiso Valley, there are still a few sections that have been left intact. With only a weekend to spare, we decided to focus on two of the prettiest sections — the Magome to Tsumago trail and the Yabuhara to Narai trek. We looked forward to finding the ancient stone paths, expertly preserved postal towns and picturesque nature trails.

Saturday: Ready to hit the road

After a good night’s sleep at Magomechaya Minshuku, a simple hotel fitted with futons and tatami mats, followed by a cup of brew at the newly opened Hillbilly Coffee, we started our first day on the trail. The Magome to Tsumago section is perhaps the most famous and considered the most beautiful, thanks to the two villages it connects and the old stone roads which grace several sections. Wandering up through the town, we see traditional inns and bright wildflowers and water wheels, which seem to be something of a theme along the Nakasendo, all framed by the Central Alps mountain chain.

As we move away …continue reading