Nakasendo Walking Guide

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The Nakasendo was a highway that ran from Kyoto over an inland route through what is now Shiga, Gifu, and Nagano Prefectures before descending on Tokyo’s predecessor, Edo.

tsumagojuku
Tsumago Post Town © Mr. Colin Sinclair / JNTO

Established in the 8th century it reached its zenith in the Edo period – a bustling highway for nobles, samurai, merchants, and commoners alike. In the past it would take travellers 18 to 20 days to walk the full length of the 533 km (330 mile) road, and there were 67 stages along the way. The introduction of the railway revolutionized Japan at the end of the 19th century and the old-style highways fell into disrepair.

Much of the original Nakasendo Highway is now gone, but there are still some sections of the old road that, along with connecting stage posts, have been preserved.

The former post towns of Tsumago妻籠and Magome馬籠, situated on the border of Nagano and Gifu Prefectures, are connected with each other by an attractive walking trail that follows the old Nakasendo. The trail, part forested – part cobbled – part paved, is about 9 kilometers long and can be covered in two to three hours. The trail starts at Nagiso Station 南木曽 (JR Chuo Line) and passes several small villages, waterfalls, and historical structures.

Access

You can get up-to-date train information in English from your mobile phone with the Jorudan Train Route Finder http://mb.jorudan.co.jp/jen/cgi/venr.cgi

  • There
    • From JR Nagoya Station to Nagiso Station
      Take the JR Chuo Line from Nagoya Station. There are 3 services that go directly to Nagiso; other services require a transfer at JR Nakatsugawa.
      Direct rapid express (only on weekends & holidays until 8/31) departs at 08:17 (arr. 10:04); fare: 1620 Yen.
      Direct express trains depart at 07:00 (arr. 08:00) and10:00 (arr. 11:00); fare: 3480 Yen.
  • Return:
    • From Magome 馬籠to JR Nakatsugawa Station中津川
      Buses depart at 12:30, 13:15, 14:05, 14:45, 16:00, 16:40, 17:30, & 18:30 (last; 18:40 on weekends); costs 540 Yen, takes 28 minutes.
    • From JR Nakatsugawa Station to JR Nagoya Station
      Nakatsugawa is a main line station on the Chuo Line. There are regular local (takes 78 minutes) and express trains (takes 52 minutes) back to Nagoya.

Nagoya Walking Guides

Before you embark on your trek, don’t go without the NIC’s Nakasendo Walking Guides. The guides have been prepared by Nagoya International Center Volunteers for foreign residents of Nagoya and visitors to the City who are interested in viewing local tourist attractions. Contained in each guide is a model walking route that will take you past a variety of cultural and historical attractions situated around the walking course.

  • Walking the Nakasendo – Part 1
    Tsumago-shuku and Magome-shuku are situated on the border of Gifu and Nagano Prefectures. Both were shukuba villages in the mountains on the Nakasendo Highway – a road constructed from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto during the Edo Period. Both stages are good examples of well preserved townscapes of the Edo period.

  • Walking the Nakasendo – Part 2
    This guide will take you on a hike of Ochiai-shuku, Nakatsugawa-shuku, and Oi-shuku on the Minoji Highway section of the Nakasendo Highway.The Minoji Highway section of the Nakasendo ran through what is now Gifu Prefecture until it mostly fell into disrepair at the end of the 19th Century.

  • Walking the Nakasendo – Part 3
    This guide will take you on a hike of from Oi-shuku to Takenami on the Minoji Highway section of the Nakasendo Highway.The Minoji Highway section of the Nakasendo ran through what is now Gifu Prefecture until it mostly fell into disrepair at the end of the 19th Century.

  • Walking the Nakasendo – Part 4
    This guide will take you on a hike of from Takenami to Hosokute Shuku on the Minoji Highway section of the Nakasendo Highway.The Minoji Highway section of the Nakasendo ran through what is now Gifu Prefecture until it mostly fell into disrepair at the end of the 19th Century.

  • Walking the Nakasendo Part 6
    There were 69 shukuba villages (stages) along the Nakasendo Highway between Edo and Kyoto during the Edo Period.This guide will take you on a walk from Ota-shuku to Unuma-shuku.

  • Walking the Nakasendo – From Kyoto to Sekigahara (7 legs)  - added June 2012
    There were 69 shukuba villages (stages) along the Nakasendo Highway between Edo and Kyoto during the Edo Period.This guide will take you on a walk from Sanjo-Ohashi Bridge in Kyoto to the Sekigarahara Battle Field in Gifu Prefecture. The walk is split into 7 easy legs.

■Further information

The route is also served by two Tourist Information Offices (Kanko-annai-jo 観光案内所) if you require further maps, information, and a friendly point in the right direction.

  • Tsumago (open 08:30 – 17:00) Tel: 0264-57-3123, e-mail info@tumago.jp
  • Magome (open 09:00 – 17:00) Tel: 0264-59-2336, e-mail: info@kiso-magome.com)

■Further Reading

 



This article originally appeared in the Nagoya Calendar August 2008 edition. All prices and times may change.

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