The Nakasendo is probably the best known of the historic routes that existed in Japan for centuries. In the early Edo period the government undertook the building of five main routes through the country. The five routes combined the existing routes with new ones to traverse the country. Of these roads, two routes connected Edo to Kyoto. The Nakasendo was the most popular of these two routes because it was the central one and there were no waterways to ford on the journey. The Nakasendo name translates to "the road through the central mountains".
These routes were established to support travel by officials such as daimyo and samurai and along the way the towns were known as post towns. The post towns provided services to these travelers and policed the roads. Along with accommodation, food and drink, they also provided porters, beasts of burden, changes of horses for messengers and other services. Later in the Edo period commercial travelers became the primary users.
Many of these routes have been taken over or replaced by modern roads and highways but a few stretches remain in their original form. The most well-known section lies in the Kiso Valley, between the towns of Tsumago and Magome. It is a five-mile section of the Nakasendo which can still be traveled on foot. Both towns have preserved the traditional architecture of the post towns. The images in this gallery are of the post towns of Tsumago and Magome and also of Narai, another of the preserved post towns.
© Travels with Charlie