Kiso valley

1-3 November 2009

On my way to a conference in Gifu, I met up with Paul & Coriet for 3 more days in the Kiso valley. This area is famous for its beautiful nature, as well as for the old Nakasendō trade route from Edo (=Tōkyō) to Kyōto. Many of the old post towns in the Kiso valley still exist today, and parts of the old road can still be walked. Although I visited twice before (see Photo Post 30 and Photo Post 38), I never walked from one post town to another, so I thought this was a good opportunity to show Paul & Coriet some nice place, while it also offers something new for myself. See Paul's Picasa web albums here.

Trip overview:

Nagoya 名古屋
Kisofukushima 木曽福島
     <Short hike>
          Gongennotaki 権現滝 (waterfall)
          Kouyougaoka 紅葉ヶ丘 ("autumn colors slope")
     Drink & snack at Hidatei 肥田亭 [JP] resthouse:
          cake & azuki (sweet red beans) soup with mochi (sticky rice cake) balls
Narai-juku 奈良井宿 (stay)
<Hike Nakasendō>
     Toriitoge (pass) 鳥居峠
     Nezame-no-toko 寝覚の床)
Nagiso 南木曾
Tsumago-juku妻籠宿 (stay)
<Hike Nakasendō>
     Ootsumago 大妻籠
     O-taki & Me-taki (male & female waterfall) 男滝 ・ 女滝
     Magometoge (Magome pass)馬籠峠
Magome-juku 馬籠宿
Nagoya 名古屋

Shinkansen to Nagoya, where I would meet my friends, who came back from the area around Kyōto.

When we got out of the train at Kisofukushima, it was cloudy, but weather was still ok. We got some maps at the local tourist office and set out for a hike. With the first steps out of town, the first drops of rain started to fall. We decided to go on anyway, as it was not a very big hike, and we liked to see some nature (and autumn colors). We got refreshed and went on to Narai, where we would spend the night in the Naraisō lodge. The lodge has a hot spring bath and is on the way to the Toriitoge pass, so I thought it was a nice place. However, when we arrived at Naraii station, we had to walk a long way to the other side of the village and some up the hill ... in the pouring rain! When we finally arrived, we saw they had several shuttle busses... we should have called... One of the fish was not good (out of season?), but for the rest it was ok, and it was really nice to have a hot spring bath after all the rain that day (and again the next morning ;-) ).

The next day it was nice weather, and we walked through Naraii.

Sake barrels and a sugidama at the local sake store. A sugidama is a ball of cedar branches. It traditionally indicted how fresh/ripened the sake was and is nowadays a sign that (local) sake is being sold. Some more info on the sugidama here.

Then we set out for the next post town towards Kyōto: Yabuhara-juku. Following the old Nakasendō over, rather than through the hill that is...

The weather in Yabuhara-juku was clearly worse... We took a train further southward to Agematsu

Just south of Agematsu, there is the Nezame-no-toko gorge. It is spectacular to climb over the rocks to the little shrine all the way up in the back there. We had to do things slowly though, because the slight rain made is slippery.

That night we stayed in Tsumago-juku in the Fujioto 藤乙 ryokan. A little bit fancy place, with small 2 cedar baths and a very nice dinner (breakfast was basic, but good).

The following day the weather would be good all day, and we decided to hike over the old Nakasendō to Magome-juku. This is probably the most famous and most touristic part of the route. In Tsumago-juku it was still nice because we were early, and the hike was nice and quiet, but in Magome-juku there were bus-loads of tourists (Both Japanese and foreign)...

When you finish the hike from Tsumago to Magome you can get a memorial slice of cedar wood stating you did it. You have to get a coupon at your starting point and you have to pay a small amount of money to get it at the tourist information desk.

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