Home > History, Travel & Tourism > The Nakasendo Road Part Three: Day 7 – 10

The Nakasendo Road Part Three: Day 7 – 10

Third and final part: Japanophile Trevor Skingle ‘walks Japan’ to raise funds for the humanitarian charity RedR UK!

Nakasedno Road Part Three Day 7 - 10Day Seven: O-tsumago to Kiso-Fukushima – Reports came in that 800mm of rain had fallen on Kyōto as a result of the typhoon Man Yi, that the level of the Kamogawa River at Sanjo Obashi Bridge where the group had walked a few nights before was phenomenally high and there had been disastrous flooding in the Arashiyama District where some tourist had to be evacuated by boat. Afterwards and for the next few days the sky would be clear and the temperature about 5 degrees cooler. The group left O-Tsumago crossing a slightly less torrential Kiso River and walked through Tsumago passing by Koi Iwa (Carp Rock) on the way towards the hill top location of the remains of Tsumago Castle on the way to Nagiso where there was a brief stop to view the Momosuke Suspension Bridge, built by Sadayakko’s second husband Momosuke Fukuzawa in 1912 which after falling into disrepair was refurbished in 1993. Leaving Nagiso the group hiked the very hard 2.5km very steep ascent to Ne-no-Ue Toge Pass and from there down into Nojiri where a short train journey brought the day to a close at the Iwaya Inn in Kiso-Fukushima where a sumptuous meal awaited the group after a soak in the inn’s own onsen. The inn has been in existence for many generations and on display inside is a suit of armour given to the family who own Iwaya by the Tokugawas. It was rebuilt in 1927 when it burnt down and renovated in 1998.

Tsumago from the site of Tsumago Castle ruins

Tsumago from the site of Tsumago Castle ruins

Suit of armour and various dinner courses at Iwaya Inn in Kiso-Fukushima

Suit of armour and various dinner courses at Iwaya Inn in Kiso-Fukushima

Day Eight: Kiso-Fukushima to Kaida Kogen Plateau – The day started with a visit to the very interesting Fukushima Barrier Station Museum (Fukushima Sekisho-ato) also mentioned in Tōson’s novel. A short bus journey then took the group to the spectacular waterfalls Karasawa no Taki from where the group would begin a very steep 1.5km ascent to the Jizo Pass along the Hida Highway to the Kaida Kogen Plateau and Mount Ontake.

Barrier Museum at Kiso-Fukushima

Barrier Museum at Kiso-Fukushima

Karasawa Waterfall at the foot of the Jizo Pass

Karasawa Waterfall at the foot of the Jizo Pass

On the descent to the plateau the group stopped at Café Poppo run by a charming couple Mitsuko and Hideji Ando. After we had eaten she played a full rendition of Danny Boy on her harmonica and then he gave us a shamisen recital. He had given up his job as a software engineer to set up Cafe Poppo. He also had a full model railway laid out in the cafe garden and put on his railway station master hat and gave a full demo of how it worked.

Mount Ontake from Café Poppo

Mount Ontake from Café Poppo

From Café Poppo the group took another short bus journey to the start of another very steep 1.5km ascent from where the route descended to the very smart Onsen Inn Yamaka no Yu for the evening where after a well-deserved and much needed hot soak the group gathered for dinner.

Dressed for dinner at Yamaka no Yu

Dressed for dinner at Yamaka no Yu

Dinner at Yamaka no Yu

Dinner at Yamaka no Yu

Dinner at Yamaka no Yu

Dinner at Yamaka no Yu

Dinner at Yamaka no Yu

Dinner at Yamaka no Yu

Day Nine: Kaida Kogen Plateau to Karuizawa: Bidding farewell to Yamaka no Yu the weather afforded a last glimpse of Mount Ontake before the group headed on towards the much gentler Torii Pass on the way to the resort town of Karuizawa.

Mount Ontake

Mount Ontake

At the top of the pass was a memorial stone to Kiso Yoshinaka whose life was inextricably linked with the area. This was where he had looked towards Mount Ontake and prayed for divine help, promising that if he were successful he would raise a shrine here. Ultimately he was successful, albeit if only for a short time and the Torii gate that was raised had been replaced after the earlier one had fallen down in an earthquake. The one that had been put up was also now in danger of falling down and had been cordoned off.

The comparison between the site of the Torii Pass during the Bakamatsu-Meiji periods and now is quite startling. The 1st (the older one) is approaching the pass and the second is after the pass.  (early photo: Japanese Old Photographs in Bakamutsu-Meiji Period, Nagasaki University)

The comparison between the site of the Torii Pass during the Bakamatsu-Meiji periods and now is quite startling. The 1st (the older one) is approaching the pass and the second is after the pass. (early photo: Japanese Old Photographs in Bakamutsu-Meiji Period, Nagasaki University)

The comparison between the site of the Torii Pass during the Bakamatsu-Meiji periods and now is quite startling. The 1st (the older one) is approaching the pass and the second is after the pass.  (early photo: Japanese Old Photographs in Bakamutsu-Meiji Period, Nagasaki University)

The easy descent took the group into Narai, another old historical and beautifully preserved post town where, after lunch, a series of trains brought the group to the next rest stop in the resort town of Karuizawa and, for the author, the end of the walk.

Karuizawa was bustling as the group walked from the station to the inn. The Nakasendō at Karuizawa now paved over and in use as a shopping mall for resort visitors. The inn, Tsuruya, has links with past figures from the world of Japanese theatre and writing.

From left to right, visiting the Tsuruya Inn, Kabuki actor Ichikawa Sadanji II, and on the right the authors Junichiro Tanazaki, and Kan Kikuchi

From left to right, visiting the Tsuruya Inn, Kabuki actor Ichikawa Sadanji II, and on the right the authors Junichiro Tanazaki, and Kan Kikuchi

Ichikawa Sadanji II, a prominent Kabuki actor built two villas behind Tsuruya called Usuiso and Kasyuan one for his staff and one for his personal use both of which he left to the Tsuruya and which are now in use as additional accommodation. Karuizawa itself had a chequered past. Once a busy post station on the Nakasendō with the advent of railways the town declined and was almost abandoned.

Karuizawa in decline during the Bakamutsu-Meiji Period (Photo: Japanese Old Photographs in Bakamutsu-Meiji Period, Nagasaki University)

Karuizawa in decline during the Bakamutsu-Meiji Period (Photo: Japanese Old Photographs in Bakamutsu-Meiji Period, Nagasaki University)

Its fortunes were revived when Canadian missionary Alexander Croft Shaw visited it in 1888. Impressed with its natural beauty he had a cottage built and was followed by many of Tōkyō’s foreign residents eager to escape the summer heat of the capital. Its fortune was secured with the completion of the railway link in 1893 when Japanese high society chose to spend their vacations in the town. The Tsuruya Inn’s charm is its aura of faded grandeur, it’s attractive and comfortable and has a relaxed old world appeal about it. The evening’s meal brought with it a new taste sensation. Fugu, or blowfish, a fish so poisonous that its preparation can only be carried out by licenced chefs. One of its most high profile victims in Japan was the Kabuki actor Bandō Mitsugurō VIII. Not particularly flavoursome and over rated the texture is rubbery and it probably lives more off its reputation than as a delicacy.

Day Ten: Tōkyō – For the group this was their final days walking as they headed off to Usui Toge pass and a long descent into Sakamoto and from there to Yokokowa from where a series of trains would take them into Tōkyō and to Nihonbashi Bridge where the Naksendō officially ended. For the author an evening at the Shimbashi Embujo Theatre and a Kabuki performance to celebrate the end of the walk awaited. The finally tally, including three weeks training before the walk, nearly 250km in five weeks. In summary it had been a great trip. The walk was great, almost like walking back through history, even though some of the ascents were particularly difficult. In particular one steep 2.5km ascent and a couple of 1.5km ascents that were very nearly vertical.  There was a marked contrast between the pace of life in Japanese cities and rural areas where it seemed to pass at a less frenetic pace. Once again the astonishing kindness and hospitality of the Japanese who go to extraordinary lengths to be more than helpful and the astounding meals dished up, one of which was a revelation, are the sort of things which always make visits to Japan so very memorable; even more so that the experience had been shared by a great bunch of people.

If you have enjoyed this article and would like to help Trevor’s efforts to raise funds for RedR UK his Just Giving page is still open

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=TrevorSkingle

Thank you

Other Links:

Walk Japan http://walkjapan.com/

Japan Times article

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/09/13/our-lives/briton-relies-on-samurai-spirit-as-he-sets-out-on-126-km-walk-for-charity/#.UkKpvIZwrLw

RedR UK

http://www.redr.org.uk/

Nagasaki University Meta Database of Photographs in Bakamutsu-Meiji Period

http://oldphoto.lb.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/unive/index.html

Shinano Mainichi Shimbun article

http://www.shinmai.co.jp/photo/201309/13092301.html

Photographic images published before December 31st 1956, or photographed before 1946 and not published for 10 years thereafter, under jurisdiction of the Government of Japan, are considered to be public domain according to article 23 of old copyright law of Japan and article 2 of supplemental provision of copyright law of Japan

Author Profile:

Trevor Skingle was born and lives in London where he works in the field of Humanitarian Disaster Relief. He is a Japanophile and his hobbies are Kabuki, painting and drawing and learning Japanese.

Related Posts:

The Nakasendō Road Part One: Day 1 – 3

The Nakasendo Road Part Two: Day 4 -6

Other articles by Trevor Skingle

 

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