Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Running the Nakasendo - From Kyoto to Tokyo

The Nakasendo, Japan's central mountain road, is one of Japan's five (relatively) ancient super-highways that stretched some 500+ kilometres from Kyoto to Edo, modern day Tokyo. The problem had arisen in the early days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the military government that came to power in the early seventeenth century. For the first time Japan had a potentially stable leadership and to secure that stability it needed rapid communications. Edo and Kyoto being the two effective seats of power, it became necessary they were linked.

Prior to the creation of these roads, travelling the length of the country was little more than navigating village lanes. Not an ideal approach to deploying the occasional army or carrying a message in the fashion of the Pony Express. And so the lanes were connected and the roads became highways and the Nakasendo came to cut through the centre of the country. With sixty-nine overnight stations, approximately a days walk one from another, the super-highway was created. And although it didn't require fords, it did have its breaks where a little scrambling is required.

The village of Oiwake, with its statue of Sherlock Holmes (a story for another day), is one of those stops, it's central route through the town having been recently repaved in a more traditional style akin to the days of the Shogun. And if you visit during Obon, make sure you follow the drums and wander into the forests. You'll be surprised the sprites you find there. But if you want to see the entire length of the Nakasendo, do what the British School in Tokyo achieved last year. Repeat the run, on foot, all 332 miles of it. In five days. Nicely done to students, teachers and parents who took part, what an incredible achievement.

The Nakasendo through the old postal town of Oiwake, Nagano-ken

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