Tag Archives: Old Nakasendo Highway Trek

Old Nakasendo Highway trek, Kiso Valley – 2

untitled-316 untitled-319 untitled-320It is hard to get lost on this trail as wooden markers are embedded into the ground intermittently along the trail. It indicated direction and distance. We walked through a picturesque village set in a valley with a few homes but seemed devoid of people. No sound of chatting or music. Only birds’ chirping and rustling of leaves. Perhaps they are out working in the nearby fields. Corn and other tubers on bamboo trays were left to dry in the sun. Wooden horse cart wheels lay leaned against rustic brick walls. Near a water trough, a few stem of an orange inflorescences was left to dry in the sun. I had seen these several times along this trek – sometimes hung on windows. This place seemed distant to the neon lit cites not too far away. A single female Japanese trekker walked past us with a lovely smile. We basically walked alone on this trek today. Signs of life, a fruit orchard emerged. The trek continued and sometimes along little streams. This made the walk pleasant although humid. It was great and a relief not lugging our luggage on our backs. Kudos to the luggage transfer service.

“Hi my name is Suzuki. I drive a Suzuki car”, said this small elderly but affirmable man dressed in a Jinbei and straw hat.

“He was very kind and friendly……..Then, he wished us luck and we once again plunged into the forest”  – Navindd

untitled-323 DSC_0973 untitled-321

Just below the pass, we were greeted by Mr Suzuki, whom was the care taker of an old inn. He invited us for some tea, fresh fruits and sweets. The wooden house was spacious and had an old fire place, “iorii” with a rusted pot hung above it. Typically it had a fish symbol on it. We bid farewell and descended further into a densely forested area. Thoughts of bears had vanished. Some of the trees seemed old with impressive buttress roots spreading out.

The flora became more diverse with broadleaf plants. A roar drowned the sounds of rustling leaves. The path led to two waterfalls, O-dake and Me-dake. The coolness of the forest here was like an elixir. Ferns covered parts of the ground. Shafts of light filtered through the forest canopy heightened the natural beauty of the forest. Eventually, after about four hours of trekking, the forest cleared and we entered Tsumago, another prosperous and preserved post town. It was a nostalgic walk, at places the original path, on a piece of Japan’s historic highways of a bygone era.

“Sitting at the base of a huge waterfall felt refreshing and very cooling……the cool water droplets dabbling our faces made us feel fresh……” – Navindd

untitled-329

Old Nakasendo Highway trek, Kiso Valley – 1

untitled-318 untitled-317

The first thing we did this morning was to haul our luggage up on the steep path to the Tourist Office. They, for a small fee, would transfer our luggage to Tsumago as we embarked on our 8km walk on the old Nakasendo Highway. That done, we headed to a small noodle shop for breakfast. The smells of miso and soba noodles were enough to get us excited. To complement the noodles, I tried the sweet potato porridge with red beans.

untitled-289

After that sugar fix, I was ready for the hike. During the Shogunate period, all were required to walk on the designated paths to control movements. Other that walking by foot, horses and palanquins or sedan carts were used. We climbed to the top of the town and began our 8km walk. Eventually we entered a densely forested area. We passed young trees on the mountain slope wrapped in silver tape. I wondered why? During the early days, felling of trees meant severe punishment. A dirt path wound round the mountain slope. The walk itself was not demanding. At certain stretches of the walk, the stone pathway gave way to asphalt roads only to be re – connected. Therefore, it was still very pleasant to walk.

DSC_0972untitled-322

Cedar and Japanese Cypress, like sentinels, stood tall and the dense canopy restricted light from penetrating to the ground. One of the unique signage here was about the bears. “Ring bell hard against bears”. Shiny brass bells had been installed intermittently along the way to scare bears that might be wandering nearby. A shopkeeper in Magome did mention an incident not too long ago. No bears were sighted. Nevertheless we rang the bell hard! In Magome, I had obtained a small bell from the Tourist Office, tied onto my daypack, for the same reason.

A shopkeeper mentioned that there was an incursion in town not too long ago. Finally, we reached the top of Magome- tōge [pass] at an elevation of 800m. From here, the trail was downhill.

“I wondered how on earth people could take this entire pathway from Kyoto all the way to Edo (Tokyo) just on a horse. It would take weeks!” – Navindd

“The forest was dense but the pathway carved through it easily”  – Navindd