A Travellerspoint blog

Walking the Nakesendo Way

sunny 26 °C

The weather has been fantastic since we arrived in Japan and today was no exception. It was dry, sunny and pleasantly warm as we prepared to scale the Torii Pass from Narai to the Kiso Valley. The pass is only 3,500 feet high at the juncture of the Central and Northern Alps, but it’s a steep three kilometre trek up one side and another three down the other and is described in the guide books as the most difficult part of the Nakesendo Way. Today the traffic and trains zip through the mountain’s tunnel in minutes but we took the trail less travelled along the ancient trail. So we packed bottles of water and life sustaining goodies and mentally prepared our survival strategy in case we should become injured or lost on the forested mountainsides. But we needn’t have worried. The path is incredibly well maintained and signposted…
Walking sticks are provided…
And there are refreshing mountain springs at every turn… some even equipped with ceramic cups…
The sound of running water followed us up the mountain and we bridged stream after stream until we reached the Torii gate and shrine at the summit…
And then we followed the waterfalls and crystal clear streams down to the small town of Yabuhara where the mountain water springs from dozens of fonts in the town’s streets…
Yabuhara in the beautiful Kiso valley may be on the tourist maps but it is obvious from the shuttered shops that few visitors make it this far. There was little life apart from a woman hanging bunches of rice straw to dry in the wind…
And then came a memorable experience as we squeezed into the one and only café, sat on chairs made for kindergarten kids and ordered coffee. The excellent coffee came along with delicious little cookies…
But it didn’t end there. The cheerful woman cook and smiling waitresses all came out to welcome us and share a smattering of English before insisting that we should try their specialities…
Plate after plate of carefully arranged dishes arrived. “You must try this… and this… and this”. Meat rissoles, vegetables and potato salad, followed by deserts, apples and cornbread…by midday our morning coffee had spawned a filling lunch. And when the bill came it was less than $4 each.

The unforgettable hospitality continues: people guide us to the front door of our lodgings; lead us to restaurants; patiently translate for us and freely offer suggestions. Everyone has a friendly smile and a word of greeting – some in English - and despite the enormous differences between our languages and cultures we’ve had no difficulties whatsoever. We are already at home.

Posted by Hawkson 04:53 Archived in Japan

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what a beautiful walk you had and a lovely greeting from the people there. that straw drying was interesting..the weather here was very hot for the climate rally in Nanaimo. I sang with a group from town and Guy Doncey (sp) joined us to sing (well actually took us over)..yikkes!now we will have 4 days of much needed rain. love jean

by Jean McLaren

Now that's a civilized hike. Jennifer and Andrew now at the bottom of the Grand Canyon would be envious--one mile down and one mile back up without a tea house in sight.

by R and B

Simply delightful.. love your detailed account, the only problem with it is that it wakes a huge desire to be there, with all of you:-)


by gottfried

Loved the mountain springs every where you went and the hospitality you have been shown. Such a rich experience.

by Sue Fitzwilson

"The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest."
- William Blake
Thank you for your inspiring words and images.

by Meguido

We are sitting here in the hot season in Mexico and very jealous of your cool mountain springs. The walk is looking very peaceful and enjoyable.

by keith and helen

Ceramic mugs at the freshwater springs - what a lovely gesture.

by The Vickerage

Pat and I really enjoy your travel blogs and photographs. Thanks so much and take care with your happy travels.

by Jenna

Dear Trudy and the happy wanderers - I am living vicariously with you on your travels. A deep bow for sharing your adventures.
arigato, Karen

by Karen

The Torii gates are always elegant, but in those settings have a special aura about them. Love the coffee and sweets photo. Such sophistication and attention to presentation even in out of the way places.

by Tom

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