Step back into a trade route town from days gone by
Narai-juku, located between Kiso Fukushima and Matsumoto, is one of the best-preserved post towns on Kiso’s Nakasendo Trail. This charming town offers a glimpse into the japan of old, with its samurai-era atmosphere and well-preserved streetscape. Visitors can stroll along the main path and explore the various wooden buildings that house soba noodle restaurants, sake shops, souvenir vendors, and lacquer-ware artisans. The town’s main street stretches over a kilometer and was once known as “Narai of a Thousand Houses”.
The Nakasendo Trail, which runs through Narai-juku, is a historic route that connected Kyoto and Edo (present-day Tokyo) during the Edo period. This trail was used by feudal lords, samurai, and merchants who traveled between the two cities. Today, the Nakasendo Trail provides visitors with the opportunity to experience the beauty of the Japanese countryside and immerse themselves in the history of the region.
To reach Narai-juku, visitors can take the local train on the JR Chuo Line. It is approximately 50 minutes south of Matsumoto. From Shinjuku in Tokyo, it takes about three hours on the Azusa train, with a transfer in Shiojiri. From Nagoya, it is a two-and-a-half-hour journey, with a transfer at Kiso Fukushima. For a more memorable arrival, visitors can walk the Nakasendo Trail over the Torii-toge Pass from the post town of Yabuhara, which is five kilometers to the south of Narai-juku.
Once in Narai-juku, visitors can wander through the town and explore its rich history. The Nakamura Residence, built in the early 1800s, offers a glimpse into the lives of Narai merchants during that time period. The residence features an elegant garden and showcases the traditional architecture and design of the era. In addition to the Nakamura Residence, there are also several historic temples and shrines that can be visited in and around Narai-juku.
One of the highlights of Narai-juku is the Chosenji Temple, which is known for its elaborately painted dragon ceiling. This stunning artwork is a testament to the craftsmanship and artistic skill of the time. Visitors can marvel at the intricate details and vibrant colors of the dragon as they explore the temple.
Another unique feature of Narai-juku is the presence of roadside wells called mizuba, which provide pure spring water for travelers. These wells were essential for travelers during the Edo period, as they offered a source of clean water for drinking and washing. Today, visitors can still enjoy the refreshing taste of the spring water and appreciate the ingenuity of the past.
For those who are interested in exploring more of the Nakasendo Trail, Narai-juku serves as a starting point for a section of the trail that crosses the Torii-toge Pass and descends to the neighboring post town of Yabuhara. Along this section of the trail, visitors can walk on original cobbled paths and enjoy breathtaking views of Kiso’s sacred Mt. Ontake.
The Nakasendo Trail is a popular destination for hiking enthusiasts and history buffs alike. It offers a unique opportunity to follow in the footsteps of feudal lords and samurai and experience the beauty and tranquility of rural Japan. The trail is dotted with various post towns, each with its own charm and historical significance. Narai-juku is just one of the many gems along the trail that allows visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in the rich history and culture of Japan.
In conclusion, Narai-juku is a must-visit destination for those who are interested in experiencing the Japan of old. With its well-preserved streetscape, historic buildings, and charming atmosphere, this trade route town offers a unique glimpse into the country’s rich history and culture. Whether you choose to stroll along the main path, explore the temples and shrines, or hike along the Nakasendo Trail, Narai-juku promises an unforgettable journey back in time. So take a step back into history and discover the beauty and charm of Narai-juku.
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