Walking the Nakesendo Way.

Day 11, 13th November, 2108.

Another good night’s sleep in the restful environs of the Yamakanoyu Inn and a sneaky second soak in the onsen……..0B52044C-DD90-4FC3-BC06-5DE15E25A83B……sees the Intrepids (Brunyfire and fellow Tassie walking pals, Kay, Lucy and Di) at the breakfast table once more.9C9B1BEA-246A-453E-AF52-8AB99B72C99AWe pack our overnight gear and arrange the forwarding on of our luggage to our final post tour destination in Tokyo, say a final farewell to our hostess, Yukiko-San who presents each of us with a small hand printed artwork of her own making……DD8F5360-C7AF-4D87-8968-1E864B5A6E41We farewell the snow clad Mount Ontake in the distance and jump on the first of a range of transport towards the next destination.C2DF12E8-6283-4379-8E12-FAE6B8576DA3The bus takes us back to Kiso- Fukushima to catch the train to the start of today’s walk in Yabuhara post town, known for its clear spring water and not much else on the scale of importance to the Nakesendo travellers of old. However, it is to the Torii Pass that we are headed to view the local shrine to Mount Ontake before heading back down to Narai post town. 896E765B-E2A0-4929-868B-00684FB1EF40 A783F82B-DDC6-4D48-8C3F-59A4E86413A0

The Torii pass used to mark the border between the Shinano and Mino Domains and today constitutes the divide between Kisomura (or Yabuhara) and Shiojiri (or Narai). Coming from the Tokyo end of the Way, considered the most arduous, travellers often opted to overnight at the Narai post town. 

Once having navigated our way through the township, we enter a larch forest and with the town behind us keep up a steady climb till we reach the pass. F723EDA1-70E0-4EF4-AB8F-BD2BF5EC0DC9Staggering up the 100 steps to the Mount Ontake shrine to catch a breeze, we note the diversity of religious iconography that blends Buddhist and Shinto and a healthy respect for the mountain itself as an independent deity. This is reflected in the Shinto torii gate (that gives the pass its name) with surrounding statues of Buddhist origin,  all of which suggests a healthy mix of opposing religious beliefs.C5E6A994-4FA7-4747-A332-C879EA673578We continue downwards now over wooden bridges, switchback forest trails, cobblestone paths and asphalt to enter into Narai post town. 0215C5F6-391E-41C8-AE6F-76173B839683

Narai post town is the thirty-fourth of sixty-nine post towns along the Nakesendo Way and is considered the halfway point between Tokyo and Kyoto. It is also one of the highest elevated towns and thus due to its geographical position at the base of a difficult pass, became a hub for travellers, pilgrims, priests, monks merchants and craftsmen . 

In 1978, Narai attained special status as a Cultural Asset and like other towns along the Nakesendo, it receives government funds to retain its a Edo-era ambience. 2640DEB7-CC50-4EAA-B37D-70FCAE6C4A77Of particular interest is the architecture in this post town. Second story eaves extend out into the street providing protection from rain or snow sliding off the roof during winter. 7B705813-A7A0-45C2-B797-4E6A4DFA7B68F25582CA-B916-4FF4-B4CB-4F05FCAC5EF6Narrow entrance ways are abutted by uniquely wide lattice shutter doors that slide vertically, thus being easily removable to display the resident craftsman’s wares. Once inside these narrow buildings, the sense of depth is deceptive – hardly surprising  considering that during the time of their construction in Edo times, a residence was taxed based on its width not its length.80CB2598-DC7F-452D-B117-8A07F563D0E3 By this time, it’s getting decidedly cooler, we still have a ways to go but are in need of caffeine so step into a tiny café that is belching out paraffin fumes and seems to be overrun by a couple of large poodles. Nevertheless, we stick it out before heading back out and onto the next leg…..0DB03903-5E1B-4A26-894E-6BF507FFA963……which is a local train from Narai to Matsumoto, transfer to a limited express to Nagano and then another transfer to a bullet train that will take us to Karuizawa. However, during the last section of our travel, by which time it is dark and we are all tired and hungry, fate intervenes and the train grinds to a halt. We manage to ascertain through crippling Japanese efforts on our part, that there has been a crash involving a car on the line further up – we manage to ring our English speaking hosts at the Tsuruya Inn to inform them of our late arrival, and hope like hell we’re still in time for dinner…!

We are – just – and if it wasn’t enough that we avoided catastrophe on the train we note with trepidation that Fugu (or pufferfish – renown for its poison, tetrododoxin, which is found in the skin, skeleton, ovaries, intestines and particularly the liver) is on the menu. F6148AB3-8A99-4652-9538-D3494D9E1BE4We are assured that the chef is fully qualified to prepare this dish, and the group watch with morbid interest as Brunyfire is volunteered to try the first mouthful. Needless to say, Brunyfire survived its delicate chicken like taste, and happily went on to devour the remainder of the evenings meal with gusto.DBE01F4A-82E4-4CB8-B211-3CD5817A7BC2 3C0ED582-99CA-49EF-B3BC-389DDD36537F

Oyasumi nasai!

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