Japan is seeped in traditions. One can find them in cities like Tokyo and Kyoto but if you want the full experience, there is no better adventure to take than to go to the Kiso valley and hike along the Nakasendo Road.
The Nakasendo Road was used by mailmen in the 19th century as they travelled between Tokyo and Kyoto. Some of the towns like Magome and Tsumago have been preserved affording one the opportunity to experience the life of a mailmen (and for that matter any Japanese person) two centuries ago during the Edo period.
You can begin the journey from either town and it is advisable to stay overnight in one of them.
We began our journey by taking a train to the Nakatsugawa station.
From there we took a bus to our first destination, Magome.
The town itself is beautiful. It is nestled in the Japanese Alps and there are several things to see ranging from traditional styled homes to cobble stoned paths and an ancient water system. As you progress through the town, you will eventually find a sign that directs you towards the next town on this journey, Tsumago.
The path is several kilometers long and twists and turns around the mountain. With determination, one can finish it but it is taxing on the body so be warned.
You will come across post boards that still have notes a few hundred years old.
You will come across water wheels.
And small villages.
You will walk from Gifu to Nagano prefecture.
Through valleys, forests, and tunnelish tree routes.
About half way is a traditional home with a very hospitable Japanese man who will offer green tea and homemade plum wine.
There are hidden gems like waterfalls.
More villages where each breath you take could sully the tranquil atmosphere.
And rice fields.
You’ll come across a fishing village.
And peoples backyards.
Finally, you will make it to the tranquil Tsumago.
Meander through the town and discover something new like a temple on top of a hill.
Spend the night and enjoy a pleasant meal. We stayed at Shimosagaya, a Minshoku. Minshokus are similar to a bed and breakfast.
You will be surprised what’s on the menu. Yes that is marinated grasshopper.
The weather can change quickly so come prepared.
The misty mountains are a sight to see and feel like something taken out of The Lord of the Rings.
Make sure to visit this old tree because there is a family that has been taking care of it for generations.
Tsumago is beautiful but the journey is still not finished. The final leg requires one to venture to Nagiso where the train station is located.
The journey does not disappoint.
You will cross Japanese farms.
And make your way up to a mountain peak where you will find the remains of a castle. Don’t be disappointed that only a few stones remain. Instead, bask in the feelings left behind by those who once lived there. Use your imagination and enjoy the view knowing that in times past people did the same.
Walk through a village and enjoy the tranquil gardens and water troughs.
Finally, take in the tree-top view of Midono (another post town) and Nagiso before making your descent.
Make a pit stop at the temple.
And get lost in the town until your train arrives.
The experience will leave a deep impression, a feeling of Japans past, that I am sure of.
Have you ever been on the Nakasendo Trail? What other trails have you gone on in Japan?