The old Nakasendo road


Another in my series of posting things several months late.

I recently upgraded jobs from one grind in the bustling center of Tokyo to another, slightly better grind also in the bustling center of Tokyo.  But I had a bit of free time before my new job started, and a recharging session in the old mountains of Japan seemed to be in order.

Bike and Ontake

The first day was all about the bike. I took the long, slow, twisty,  roundabout way through the mountains of Nagano and Gifu, and stopped by Ontake to pay my respects to the mountain.


But my main goal on this trip was to reconnect with the older, simpler Japan that first drew me here.

I had booked a room at the Shirokiya inn in the old postal town of Magome, which was the 43rd of the 69 stations on the old Nakasendo road that linked the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Edo hundreds of years ago, and has been preserved largely as it was back then.

Shadows on the goheimochi sign

The old lady running the place suggested I park my bike out front, and the last rays of the setting sun spotlighting this old machine confirmed that this was the right choice.

Last light on the Harley

The cobbled road leading up the mountain showed my path for the next morning.

Night at the Shirokiya Inn in Magome

It’s not just me that thinks an old Harley matches this scenery pretty damn well, is it?



The next morning, I woke up early to hike the old Nakasendo itself, which winds through the mountains for roughly 8km to Tsumago, the next station on the postal road.

The old Nakasendo road between Magome and Tsumago

For the first few hours of the hike, I didn’t see another human being, although I did run into a family of Japanese macaques and plenty of signs warning of bears.

It's clear from things along the way that this path has been in

It’s clear from all this Mononoke stuff that this path has been in use for a very long time.

Cobblestone path over Magome pass

I think maybe I just really like winding roads, whether on two feet or two wheels.

After returning to Magome and changing back into my leathers, I then motored over the same pass on the normal paved road in a tiny fraction of the time.

I don’t usually prefer to ride alone, but this solo touring allowed me to do things like hiking and picking roads I’d never tried on a whim.  And every road I tried turned out to be gorgeous, with wild mountain wisteria blooming here and there and pure blue skies urging me to try yet another detour, to stay away from the expressways just a little bit longer, and to drink my fill of these exquisite mountains before heading back to the urban sprawl.

This turned out to be exactly what I needed to refresh me for the next step in my career.

I kept passing under wild wisteria on these roads--lovely!

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