NOTE about ō and ū
If you wonder about the ō and ū characters here, they are the official way to indicate long sounds for the u and o. The long sound ō is like in "glow" while o is more like in "god". Another way way of writing long o or u sounds is by adding an extra u (as we do in the Japanese hiragana script), I used that method, but sometimes it just looks ugly and very different from what is commonly used (e.g. I live in Toukyou looks weird). I try to be consitent in writing long sounds where needed, but I may miss out one here and there... sorry.

Chūbu tour by car - Part 1:

(Chūbu is the central part of Japan's main island [wiki])

Kiso Valley

9-10 May 2009

After the tour through Tohoku (see Photo Post 37) my parents stayed with me in Tōkyō for about a week to get some rest, do some shopping, and see a few things they missed on their previous visit.
Then we went on another tour, this time with a rented car and without Hasegawa-san, but with Mae Rose (at least for the first 2 days). This time the trip was mainly to the west, another countryside area with some interesting spots.

The first day of the trip was quite easy for me, because I did the same with Maarten and Pascal last year (Photo Post 30). We rented the car in the same place and then it is mostly highway. Of course for my father (who was driving) it was a bit more tricky with the winkers and wipers interchanged and so. However, he had practiced a bit in Hasegawa-san's car during the Tohoku tour and the rental car had automatic gear (which is very common here), so there were no big issues anymore.

[HDR] When going with Maarten and Pascal, we missed the Hatsukari parking area (初狩PA) along the Chūō Highway. If you are getting out of Tōkyō, this PA is offering a nice view of Mt. Fuji when the weather is good.

Like last year, we stopped at Suwa and had lunch in the park with the Takashima castle. and then went on to Narai-juku.

[HDR] Narai is one of the old post towns on an old merchant's route connecting Tōkyō (then called Edo) and Kyōto. Narai, Tsumago & Magome are the three main spots in the Kiso Valley and along the Nakasendō route that have been preserved/restored and look like time stood still. The characteristic feature of the post towns along such trade routes is that they really developped along the route, meaning that there is only one or two rows of houses on each side of the road, while the village stretches out over quite a long distance.

[HDR] The area is famous for its lacquerware and many shops in Narai sell this stuff. The village Kiso-Hirasawa just north of Narai seems to be the actual heart of the lacquerware.

We stayed in Koma-no-Yu, an onsen ryokan in a side valley close to Kiso-Fukushima. They had good food and a pretty nice bath and outdoor bath, and we had a great talk with one of the staff (the owner?) about the surroundings and where to go sightseeing and she showed many photo albums to show the beautiful scenery throughout the seasons.

The second day of the trip we would take our time to enjoy the Kiso valley, as our next ryokan would be in Tsumago; only 45min by car. First we checked out the Kōzenji temple in Kiso-Fukushima. One of the side buildings features a small museum (paintings and old pottery-art) with this interesting ceiling painting of flowers.

[HDR] This rock garden is also at the Kōzenji


and this small landscape garden is ALSO at the Kōzenji!

Next stop was Agematsu. This is supposed to be the center of wood-works. From this area they take Japan's fines cypress trees and work them to (all links [JP]) bathtubs, buckets for washing yourself in the bath house/onsen (more), floors, walls, ceilings, household utilities, counters for sushi bars, (more of all the previous), doors, and.... TEMPLES!

The village itself looked very boring and no lively shopping street with all kinds of wood products or so (but maybe we just didnt see it because it was sunday). We drove to the end of the village and saw the "Nezame-no-toko" canyon. We then made a short stop at the Ononotaki waterfall, about 1.5km further along the road and went on to...

the "Adera Keikoku" valley (阿寺渓谷). This is a narrow valley with many waterfalls and a river with very clear water. There are several such "valleys of scenic beauty" around here, another option would have been the "Kakizore Keikoku" (柿其渓谷) a little further south.

I guess they will use the wood of this tree to make the drain in your cypress-wooden bath tub...

Before getting to the most famous part of the Kiso valley, we made one more stop. This is the wooden suspension bridge at Nagiso.

The bridge is important industrial heritage as it was built as a bridge for trains transporting tree trunks from the forest to the city. It were these (high quality Japanese cypress) tree trunks that made this area rich. You can still see 2 lines indicating where the train rails were.

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