After a good night in Ina, followed by a quick stroll around town in the morning, Ryan and I were picked up by Yuko and Terrance, who were to be our tour guides for the day. With them was Hester and Terry, Terrance’s parents, who also happened to be on holiday in Japan for the wedding period.
The first destination for the day was to be the famous post town of Narai-juku, a nationally-designated architectural preservation site which basically means that the town is being kept such that it looks exactly like it did back in the Edo Period (between 1603 and 1868).
During the Edo Period, Narai-jujku marked the half way point between Kyoto and Edo to travelers along the Nakasendo Route. It was the most wealthy post town of the Kiso Valley (as well as the most elevated along the route), and was sometimes referred to as “Narai of a Thousand Houses”.
(This becomes quite apparent when you look at the sheer number of preserved houses compared to other similar post towns along the route.)
The drive out there from Ina is quite scenic, the majestic wooded mountains making for landscape that isn’t something I’m familiar with, and on arrival you are greeted by a massive steam locomotive (on display), and handed a rather informative little pamphlet.
The little town (ignoring the tiny cars parked along the main road) is a fantastic look back at the architecture of the era, and there are loads of bustling curio shops stretching from start to finish of the preserved building strip.
Shrines, marker stones, wells, pretty flowers, curios – basically there was more than enough things of interest to make for a genuinely pleasant excursion.
(Also, I bought two beautiful red polished, small wooden bowls – a trademark technique of the area – which happened to be the first keepsakes that I actually bothered buying on this rather fantastic holiday believe it or not!)
Oh, and with all the new people to take photos of, I got perhaps slightly camera trigger happy:
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Oh, and we got to spot another comically endowed Tanuki garden ornament, which was by far my favourite little character on this whole trip! :)
Related Link: Narai-juku