Walking the Nakesendo Way.

Day nine, 11th November, 2018. 

A glorious early morning at the Hotel Fukinomori……..257D7CA3-BD50-47F6-B833-0D16924B8F3D…….with its traditional rooms, tatami floors, futons & balconies in a posh stone lodge with onsen thermal hot springs and fine dining – luxury set in the heart of the Tsumago Forest. Once again, breakfast is a feast for the eyes and the stomach……2231B0E1-688F-4A2B-8506-4BA5B5060C74……..consisting of a kaiseki style meal with grilled, fried, steamed, pickled and raw ingredients – loved having to cook our own tofu and trout on the hibachi grillers.

Today is a big hike, and Brunyfire and Kay decide to do the long haul – a 24km walk from Tsumago to Kiso-Fukushima. However, the Intrepids stick together for the first section – from Tsumago to Nagiso and from Nagiso, Di and Lucy will then catch the train to Kiso-Fukushima. Our bags are forwarded on and we grab the shuttle bus back to Tsumago’s car park.

Once again, perfect weather for hiking – clear blue skies, a warm autumn sun and the occasional fresh breeze to help the Intrepids set a cracking pace passing through small, often deserted (we’ve hardly seen any people) hamlet’s and villages. The rare exception being when we stumbled across an artist’s home and workshop – the artist (a wood craftsman) himself was having lunch but graciously invited us to look around his garden and workshop. 9A4C5ADA-7AAE-41DD-9DE2-13413F4AAB95The route takes us past more deserted but well maintained gardens, past shrines and stone deities till we get to the genteel bustle of Nagiso Town. We stop for coffee and then leave Lucy and Di to catch the train to Kiso-Fukushima. Kay and Brunyfire check out the Momosuke bridge, so named after the entrepreneur Fukuzawa Momosuke, who, during the Meiji era (1868-1912) started constructing a number of hydroelectric plants that harnessed the resources of the Kiso river. The bridge was originally built in 1912 and renovated in the 1990s – yet another example of civic pride in the country’s rich history.720BF2FD-7B90-4DFE-96DA-5083583A465EContinuing on through Nagiso, we’re in admiration of the immaculately laid out stones in the waterway under the bridge, the complexity of its industrial pattern createing its own organic aesthetic. DE0BD23B-6C86-4CF9-A08C-3BC2F2673842Following the main road, we enter Midono post-town……DEF58D00-8E0D-4286-9761-B0D0B565254F

Today’s Midono post town differs from the original as modernity was prioritised over tradition after the town’s characteristic feudal era wooden buildings were destroyed by fire in 1881. But it’s claim to fame was that the Princess Kazunomiyaand her 25,000 strong entourage stayed here in 1862. 

We are now headed on the Yogawa section of the old Nakesendo Way, an alternative route into back mountain country as there were, in the past, often frequent flash floods and landslides between Nagiso and Nojiri, and the road along the Kiso Valley was often blocked. Heading into the forest, we are once again warned of bears, and we’re getting a little blasé……..2742C00B-D8E7-4D6D-A1F1-92A73B4AE9DB196BB025-5E65-477F-993D-3896BBD5114EWe stop for lunch, check our instructions……1D3DFDA4-F36E-4636-9392-4CA7547CFC1B…….before heading off once again to the top of the Nenoue-Toge Pass.E686BE38-7501-4FFD-B116-65F5AA52FBE9

The Yogawa Road and Nenoue Pass. Two imperial princesses took this route in the 1700s on their way to marry commoners in Edo. 

It’s a relief to get to the top of the Nenoue Pass, knowing that it’s downhill from now on to Nojiri and a welcome train ride to Kiso-Fukushima.7B17FDE0-7A62-4CFC-82CC-1CF11AEE81DBWe continue downwards past shrines, more bear signs……..45364531-62D2-4AAB-B050-7991356204D8 ………and the ever present sounds of water. The town of Nojiri that we are headed towards has a history of ‘januke’ flashfloods that have virtually destroyed the town in times past, especially during the Edo Period (1603 and 1868 during which Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country’s 300 regional daimyō). Januke means ‘snake running through’ and harkens to the destructive element of water that would resemble a snake as it wound its way down the mountain, taking all before it.

The road becomes tedious – seemingly endless tarmac bar a couple of short cuts through the forest – till thankfully we arrive at Nojiri post town, once the second longest post town along the Nakesendo. The town was prone to flash flooding and landslides and to add insult to injury, was devastated by fire in 1791 leaving little of historical heritage. We kill the last hour at the Donguri cafe and over a cup of coffee, watch sumo wrestling on the tv, marvelling at the obese nudity of the wrestlers and wondering what the fascination is with this sport. After which, Brunyfire and Kay head to the station and catch the train bound for Matsumoto – alighting at Kiso-Fukushima in the early evening. It’s dark, but we are picked up by Chigono-San one of the current family members whose lineage goes back 18 generations to Kiso Yoshinaka, a general in Takeda Shinmen (a famous warlord)’s army in the 16th century.

We catch up with Di and Lucy, and once again the Intrepids are a force to be reckoned with! We settle in at our latest ryokan, the Iwaya Inn – time for a quick online check in the lobby before a welcome soak in the onsen…….95B0C14B-ED23-4BD9-BA75-37925694046F………a sumptuous dinner……07FF21A4-B19F-4516-B022-8CE7FD87BCBE……..and finally – to bed…….

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