Dispatches from the Nakasendo Trail


Watch for falling rocks

The walk from Magome to Tsumago along Japan‘s Nakasendo Trail is more than just transportation from one small tourist town to another; it is, in many ways, a trip back in time. This is a short chunk of a path which thousands crossed for decades, making their way from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo) and back. It was one of the five main “highways” of the era and travel along the path today is very similar to those times in that it is all walking. And also very different with full cell phone connectivity along the way and far more well developed infrastructure in the towns where one stops for the night. And, I suppose, the part where it is now mostly a recreational trip rather than a necessity to move between the two main cities in Japan. But I still really enjoyed the day.

I'm not entirely sure what she was making, but I definitely ate a few
I’m not entirely sure what she was making, but I definitely ate a few
Starting the Nakasendo Trail hike from Magome to Tsumago
Starting the Nakasendo Trail hike from Magome to Tsumago

We had missed the main Cherry Blossom season in Japan by a couple weeks but that didn’t mean our vacation was flower free. There were tons of azaleas in bloom and even a second round of cherry blossoms which presented spectacular colors (occasionally multiple colors in the same tree or even the same bloom!) and great shade along the trail.

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All sorts of beautiful flowers along the Nakasendo Trail
All sorts of beautiful flowers along the Nakasendo Trail
Relaxing under a canopy of flowers along the Nakasendo Trail
Relaxing under a canopy of flowers along the Nakasendo Trail

There was the Odaki–Medaki Falls along the way, a pair of waterfalls located adjacent to each other where one is seen to be male and the other as female. I have no idea why that is but there they are, in all their glory. It is a great place to relax along the trail and enjoy a snack or just to rest your feet.

There were temples small and large along the trail. Some required a bit of extra effort to visit and some were just along the side of the path, easily accessible and visible.

Small shrine/memorial along the Nakasendo Trail
Small shrine/memorial along the Nakasendo Trail
Entry to a shrine along the Nakasendo Trail
Entry to a shrine along the Nakasendo Trail

And, perhaps because of the season or our walking speed or the way the trail is crafted or any of a number of other factors, most of the time we were truly on our own. After the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and even the smaller crowds of Kamakura that level of solitude was most welcome.

Early morning in Tsumago, stating another day of life on the Nakasendo Trail
Early morning in Tsumago, stating another day of life on the Nakasendo Trail

It was a very different version of Japan than from my previous trips and one I was very, very happy to discover.

 

 

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

2 Comments

  1. Great post! I am going in March for the 5th time – hope to catch the cherry blossom season for my 1st time! The balls on a stick is called Dango…they’re mochi (rice balls). One of my favorite snacks. 🙂 will have to check this place out!!

  2. Hey Seth,

    Would it be possible for you to post a more detailed trip report on this Nakasendo trail. I am interested to do this hike and would appreciate infor on how to get there and to go about making arrangement for lodging and etc. How long is the hike between the two town and is the hike easy or tough? Appreciate your information. Beautiful pictures!

    Thanks,
    Kay

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