Route: Nakasendo Way (Japan)


Léonie van den Haak posted:

The Nakasendō (中山道 Central Mountain Route), also called the Kisokaidō (木曾街道), was one of the five routes of the Edo period, and one of the two that connected Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto in Japan. There were 69 stations (staging-posts) between Edo and Kyoto, crossing through Musashi, Kōzuke, Shinano, Mino and Ōmi provinces. In addition to Tokyo and Kyoto, the Nakasendō runs through the modern-day prefectures of Saitama, Gunma, Nagano, Gifu and Shiga, with a total distance of approximately 534 km (332 mi).

Unlike the coastal Tōkaidō, the Nakasendō traveled inland, hence its name, which can be translated as "中 = central; 山 = mountain; 道 = route" (as opposed to the Tōkaidō, which roughly meant "eastern sea route"). Because it was such a well-developed road, many famous persons, including the haiku master Matsuo Bashō, traveled the road. Many people preferred traveling along the Nakasendō because it did not require travelers to ford any rivers.

Although there has been much modern development along the Nakasendō, a few stretches remain in its original form, while others have been restored in more recent decades. The most well-known section lies in the Kiso Valley, between Tsumago-juku in Nagano Prefecture and Magome-juku in Gifu Prefecture. The area was first made famous by the early 20th-century writer Shimazaki Tōson, who chronicled the effects of the Meiji Restoration on the valley in his landmark novel Before the Dawn. This eight-kilometer section of the Nakasendō can still be travelled along comfortably by foot, and both Tsumago-juku and Magome-juku have preserved and restored the traditional architecture. The walk between the historical post towns requires two to three hours to walk, with forests, restored paving and fine views of waterfalls along the way.

Although much of the Nakasendō no longer exists in its historic form, its route is now roughly followed by modern roads. In order, they are:

National Route 17: Tokyo to Takasaki (Gunma Prefecture)

National Route 18: Takasaki to Karuizawa (Nagano Prefecture)

National Route 142: Saku to Shimosuwa (Nagano Prefecture)

National Route 20: Shimosuwa to Shiojiri (Nagano Prefecture)

National Route 19: Shiojiri to Ena (Gifu Prefecture)

National Route 21: Mitake (Gifu Prefecture) to Maibara (Shiga Prefecture)

National Route 8: Maibara to Kusatsu (Shiga Prefecture)

National Route 1: Kusatsu to Kyoto

Here's a GPX to the route. Without getting lost the total distance should be 537km, eventhough Garmin has added some bonus miles......


Léonie van den Haak announced her intent to set the FKT (OKT?): "The date has been set: on April 29th I will start in Kyoto. Without getting lost the total distance should be 537km, even though Garmin has added some bonus miles...... I will share the link to the live tracking website soon. On social media you can follow me via #nakasendo_fkt Since I live in Tokyo and running towards your house is always easier than running away from it, I will run the route starting in Kyoto and finishing in Tokyo on a supported FKT attempt. Temperatures are still doable and as an added bonus I might be able to spot some sakura trees in bloom. As far as I know, nobody has set an FKT on this route just yet but I stand corrected if there is one. Any tips and feedback are welcome!"