Old Nakasendo Highway trek, Kiso Valley – 1

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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.

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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.

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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

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