The Nakasendō, also called the Kisokaidō, was one of the five routes of the Edo period, and one of the two that connected Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto in Japan. There were 69 postal stations between Edo and Kyoto, crossing through Musashi, Kōzuke, Shinano, Mino and Ōmi provinces.
In late March we decided to walk this trail and signed up with Walk Japan for a 5-day guided walk on the Kiso Road starting from Nagoya and finishing in Matsumoto.
Day 2 – Ena to O-Tsumago
After a sumptuous breakfast at the Ichikawa Inn in Ena we took the train further north to Nakatsugawa Station and then a short taxi ride to the southern gateway of the Kiso Valley to commence our walk on the Naksendo Trail.
The Kiso Road section of the Nakasendo Trail is an ancient road taking you through forests, paddy fields and quiet farming areas to the town of Magome. Many of the ancient stone slabs have been replaced in this section but there are still some original stones which are noticeable as they are rougher and more uneven. The moss-covered stone slabs were extremely slippery so we had to be careful.
The post town of Magome was interesting to walk through with steep cobbled streets, old wooden houses and some interesting shops to visit. I found a great little coffee shop, The HillBilly Coffee Company, and gave myself a much needed caffeine boost.
At the northern end of Magome was a viewpoint giving some great views of Mount Ena. We walked further north on the trail and then stopped for lunch at Juri Restaurant お食事処 樹梨 for a beautifully prepared meal and a much needed rest. From there we headed through the Magome Pass with old forests and mountain streams on the route towards O-Tsumago. On the route we saw numerous warning signs for bears and small bells that you could ring to scare them away.
As we descended again from the forests we stopped in the afternoon at a small tea house where we were served tea. There was no charge for the tea but there was a donation box carved out of bamboo for contributions. This lovely old tea house with traditional old wooden tables and chairs looked wonderful with the strong sun beams streaming in through the roof. Joanna Lumley had visited this tea house during the filming of her travel documentary “Joanna Lumley’s Japan” (Episode 2) – her photograph with the owner was hanging on the wall.
After the much needed tea stop we headed on through more forests, stopping at a wonderful Otaki – Metaki waterfalls (male and female apparently!) and eventually down to the small postal town of O-Tsumago.
In O-Tsumago we stayed at another traditional inn, the Muraya Inn, and once again were served up a wonderful multi-course dinner, of course after our routine hot onsen bath.
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