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Tue, Nov. 8, 2016 Walking the Nakasendo: A Road to the Past
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Nakasendo is one of the five highways constructed in Japan during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868). Connecting Edo (old Tokyo) and Kyoto, it has 69 post towns along its way.
The post towns of Magome and Tsumago are situated about midway along the old road. Magome is known for its beautiful cobbled slopes. Tsumago showcases a stunning, traditional townscape-thanks to the conservation efforts started in the early 1970s-with many buildings from the Edo Period. Electric poles have been buried and advertising signboards banished.
Ananda Jacobs walks along the Nakasendo Way from Magome to Tsumago. She enjoys the traditional landscape and discovers how closely local people live with nature.

Association of Tsumago Lovers
Association of Tsumago Lovers
This citizen's group is dedicated to preserving Tsumago's townscape and traditions. The group arranges guides for around the town and trekking along the ancient highway.
It also runs a rest station called "Ichikoku Tochi Tateba Chaya" in a mountainous area along the Nakasendo. Full-time volunteers serve tea to visitors free of charge.
Address: 2159-2 Azuma, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Tel: +81(0)264-57-3513
Maruta Ya (Tsumago)
Maruta Ya (Tsumago)
This workshop makes and sells a folk craft using local types of cypress. Bento boxes, rice tubs, and chopsticks are made in the "magemono" or bent wood style.
Visitors can observe craftspeople at work in the shop.
Address: 2207 Azuma, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Tel: +81(0)264-57-3434 (Japanese only)
Nagiso-Machi Museum (Tsumago)
Nagiso-Machi Museum (Tsumago)
At this museum, visitors can deepen their understanding of Tsumago. It has three structures-Waki Honjin "Okuya," Honjin, and the Historical Material Museum. Waki Honjin "Okuya" was built in 1877 using hinoki (Japanese cypress) after a strict logging ban was lifted. Honjin was reconstructed based on an old floor plan from the latter half of the Edo Period. The Historical Material Museum displays old documents and other materials concerning the town's history and way of life.
Address: 2190 Azuma, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Tel: +81(0)264-57-3322
Maruya (Oo-Tsumago)
Maruya (Oo-Tsumago)
This traditional inn, founded in 1660, is where Ananda stayed while in Tsumago. It has a large room where guests can relax in front of a rectangular irori hearth.
Address: 1477 Azuma Oo-Tsumago, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Tel: +81(0)264-57-3117
Hanauma Festival of Tadachi
Hanauma Festival of Tadachi
The annual festival is held to express gratitude for abundant crops. A procession of local people and three horses-with colorfully festooned saddles-make their way to the Itsumiya Shrine. At the climax, people dash to the horses to grab some of the decorations after hearing a drumbeat. They place them in their fields and at front doors to drive away harmful insects and evil sprits.
The festival is registered as an intangible cultural asset of Nagano Prefecture.
Place: Itsumiya Shrine
Address: 1817-1 Tadachi, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Tel: +81(0)573-75-4982 (Japanese only)
Cafe Kappe (Magome)
Cafe Kappe (Magome)
This casual restaurant serves a local delicacy called "Kuri Okowa," The sticky rice and chestnut dish is available only in early autumn. Visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of sacred Mt. Ena while enjoying a cup of tea.
Open: 08:00 ~ 18:00 / Closed irregularly
Address: 4316-1 Magome, Nakatsugawa City, Gifu Prefecture
Tel: +81(0)573-69-2064
From Tokyo, it takes about an hour and 40 minutes to reach Nagoya by Shinkansen bullet train. From there to Magome it's an additional 2-hours by train and bus.
Travel Log

Traveler: Ananda Jacobs > More Info


Occupation:Musician, actor

Length of residence in Japan:10 years

Reason:First came for work, stayed on as an artist, composer, and actor.

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I only recently heard about the Nakasendo, the old road that was once used as the main route between Tokyo (Edo) and Kyoto. It's understandable to overlook it in an age where fast trains and modern highways connect just about everything. But as I would later learn, one town along the Nakasendo that still remains much as it was in the olden days was pioneering in its preservation efforts, and some of the once forgotten towns are now destinations in themselves-and as a lover of nostalgic towns and the magic of ancient nature, I am grateful for this.

Because of the way that Tsumago, Magome, and other post-towns along the road have been painstakingly preserved and maintained, travelers are able to walk along the stone streets and winding forest paths much as they have always been. Quite often as I strode through the forest path that connects these two towns, I pondered what it must have been like for travelers hundreds of years ago, walking or riding on horseback these very steps. Of course, life and times were very different then-daimyo, merchants, and others who trekked through had very different goals (not to mention footwear!) from a modern meanderer such as I-but I imagine we shared a similar sense of appreciation for the respite offered by the towns along the journey.

One teahouse between Magome and Tsumago still offers a warm welcome for travelers, and volunteers are on stand-by to offer trekkers warm tea and seasonal edibles with a smile. I could have happily spent hours on the tatami mats that encircled the warm hearth, taking in just how it must have been so many years ago.

Once in Tsumago, the flawlessly replicated honjin (main inn reserved for high ranking officials) carried me once again right back to the olden days. The sturdy feel of its smooth wooden posts, the smell and sound of a steady fire cracking, the gentle give of the tatami floors on my tired feet...

Experiencing a slice of both the journey and the respite just as they were in the Edo period was truly a treat, and reminded me that it's not always about whizzing from one place to the next. With a long and intricate journey comes a heightened appreciation for the essential comforts.

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