Lanterns on the Nakasendō

During my autumn 2016 research trip to Japan, I spent three nights on the Nakasendo–the “Central Mountain Route” that once connected Kyoto with Edo (now Tokyo) via the Japan Alps. Since the southernmost part of the Nakasendo overlays the even older Kisoji–a travel road that will feature in an upcoming Hiro Hattori mystery novel, I focused my time on Magome, the southernmost post town, which has been restored to its Edo Period condition and preserved as a slice of living history. Most visitors leave Magome at 5pm, on the final bus for Nakatsugawa (the closest railway station, and major town, about 30 minutes

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Dawn on the Nakasendo

(Click here to start the series of posts on the Nakasendo from the beginning.) During Japan’s medieval age, the Nakasendo was the primary northern travel route connecting Edo (now Tokyo) with Kyoto. The southern end of the Nakasendo tracks the course of an older travel road, the Kisoji, which connected the mountain towns of the Kiso Valley. A preserved and restored portion of the old Nakasendo/Kisoji runs through the mountains between the southernmost post towns of Magome and Tsumago. The 8.5 km (just over 5 mile) journey takes between 2 and 4 hours, and includes some breathtaking views of the Kiso Valley. On the morning I made the

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A Visit to Magome, Japan

(To start this series from the beginning with a night in a Japanese guest house, click here!) Magome (also called “Magome-juku”) is a preserved post town in the Japan alps which was once the last of the stations on the Kisoji, an ancient travel road that passed through the alps from north to south. Later, during the Edo period (1603-1868) Magome served as the 43rd station on the Nakasendo–the northern travel road connecting Edo (now Tokyo) with Kyoto. Today, Magome and neighboring Tsumago (the next post town to the north along the Kisoji and Nakasendo routes) have been preserved and restored to their Edo-period state, allowing

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Travels in Magome: An Evening at a Japanese Guest House

Research for my upcoming Hiro Hattori novels allows me to travel widely in Japan, and whenever possible I try to stay in traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) and guesthouses (minshuku). People often ask about the difference between ryokan and a minshuku — and although accommodations vary, minshuku are generally more like a family-run bed and breakfast than a full-service inn. For example, guests at a minshuku typically make their own beds, and the bathrooms are often located down the hall (as opposed to having private ones en suite). Minshuku are often (though not always) less expensive, too, though depending on the area and the inn in question, the experience can vary widely. Last autumn, I

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A Visit to Magome, Japan

Last November I spent four nights in the preserved post town of Magome, which was one of the rest stations on the Kisoji and Nakasendo travel roads during Japan’s medieval era. Today, Magome (like neighboring Tsumago) offers Japanese and foreign tourists a chance to step back in time and see how people lived in samurai-era Japan. From Nakatsugawa, I took a bus to the “lower entrance” of Magome: Cars and buses are not allowed on the street; visitors who want to see Magome, or visit its shops and restaurants, must walk. This can be challenging for visitors staying in one of the local minshuku (family inns, smaller than ryokan,

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Magome: a Town From Japan’s Medieval Past

During my recent research trip to Japan I spent four days in Magome-juku, a preserved post town on the Nakasendo travel road that was once a popular northern travel route between Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto. Although not as famous as its southern counterpart, the Tōkaidō, the Nakasendo was the primary northern route for people and goods during the Edo period (1603-1868). The road had 69 stations, or post towns, where visitors could stop for the night (or for a meal). (I’ll blog more about Magomechaya in the days to come, but I recommend it highly for visitors wanting to spend a night in Magome or to

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