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New Website, New Blog, but the Old Blog Archive remains: September 28, 2023

After many years of wanting a real website, this month I finally have a website designed by the very knowledgeable Rey Rey Rodriguez ( TheMindOfReyRey ). My old blog,  Vacation-Travel-Adventure  continues with the same address but it is located in the "Archives" tab on my new website . The new blog which is a continuation but with much better resolution for 4K screens, it is now at .

Post Towns Along the Nakasendo Highway, Japan: May 16-17, 2016

View from our Tsumago guesthouse of unplanted rice paddy
Tsumago, in the Kiso Valley, is one of the eleven post towns on the ancient Nakasendo Highway. Nakasendo means "the road through the mountains." The Kiso Valley is between the Northern and Central Alps in Central Japan.

In the seventeenth century, the Nakasendo Highway was a bustling trade route with travelers of all kinds: samurai, feudal lords, traveling salesmen, townspeople, and pilgrims traveling between Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). The "highway" was established during Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868) a stable time for Japan under the shoguns of the Tokugawa Shogunate. At this time, the Emperor, merely a figurehead, was ensconced in Kyoto.

The Tokugawa clan was defeated and the Meiji Period (1868-1912) began with the Emperor, no longer a figurehead, moving his residence to Edo (Tokyo). The Nakasendo Highway continued to be an important trade route connecting present day Tokyo and Kyoto until the completion of a rail line in 1911.

With the rail line established, Tsumago gradually became a deserted village. In 1968 a movement to preserve Edo and Meiji Period buildings began and during the following three years many structures were repaired and restored. In 1976, Tsumago was designated as a "Protected Area for the Preservation of Traditional Buildings" by the Japanese government.

We stayed in a traditional guesthouse (ryokan) up the hill from Tsumago. The parking area in front of the Shimomura guesthouse was partially filled with flats of rice starts ready for planting. Our rooms were traditional in that we slept on mattress pads on the floor. Painted shoji doors enclosed the closets and the floors were covered with tatami mats. The only furniture was a small tea table. Toilets were shared as were the shower/bath facilities. Fortunately for us, our tatami room was next door to a toilet.

We woke to rain and unfortunately today's walk is part of our transportation to our next night's stop. The temperature was warm, too warm for a rain jacket, but it wasn't an unpleasant walk in the rain.

View of Tsumago
Some of the preserved row houses of Tsumago
Tanuki statues are found outside of most Japanese homes/businesses. It is both a welcoming and wealth bringing icon.
Figural statues are adorned with red to ensure safety for travelers and other passersby
After walking around Tsumago, we hit the trail toward Magome. Magome is about 7 km/4.3 mi away but coming from Tsumago, the trail is mostly uphill. The wooded scenery was beautiful and with the temperature and rain, it felt like a temperate rain forest climate.

Yesterday, our tour leader told us to bring our bear bells for this hike. Unfortunately, someone neglected to mention the need for bear bells before we left home. Not to worry though, as we walked along the trail, there were several bear bell sites with the instructions "Ring the Bell Hard Against Bears" and a few phone numbers.

The highway took us past waterfalls, primordial looking trees covered with vines, and blooming wild wisteria vines.

We were delighted to find a rest stop on the trail between Tsumago and Magome. Mr. Suzuki invited us in for a cup of hot tea and a chance to dry off. He even sang us a song. His sign says he has free WiFi, but the connection was tenuous. He did have free bathrooms that were spectacular. The toilet was the typical over-the-top Japanese affair complete with heated seat and a squirt of water for hygienic cleaning of the bum.

Back on the trail, we had another reminder of the presence of bears. It was definitely bear weather, but we had no sightings.

We finally reached Magome which is another post town. Magome is more touristy, more visited than Tsumago. Its shops and restaurants were open. It is easier to get to.

But we weren't done walking yet. After lunch we continued our walk to a distant bus stop to catch a bus to a train to the subway to Kyoto for tonight's lodging.

At the bus stop our walking distance was about 16 km/10 mi for the day--it felt longer.