Day 9 – Torii Toge

** WARNING: This is a long photo post again =P**

Today marks the beginning of my Nakasendo (中山道) Adventure! And I am off to conquer Torii Pass (鳥居峠)!

What is the Nakasendo? Nakasendo was the inland road that connected Kyoto to Edo (aka present day Tokyo) during the Edo period. Current day Nakasendo Highway is an actual highway for cars/vehicles that run along side the Edo Nakasendo. Torii Pass is said to be the hardest part of he hike as it takes you up to roughly 1,800m elevation in the mountains.

Verdict, Torii Toge:  Beautiful hike!! In terms of effort, nothing compared to Fuji! Ahahahah The highest point of Torii Pass was roughly 1,800m. There were so so so so soso soooooo many beautiful moments… but I just don’t know my angles good enough to capture them =(  Of the two Nakasendo Hikes I did, Torii Pass and Magome Pass, I really loved Torii Pass alot more =)

The morning started off with a super hearty and healthy breakfast prepared by the Isamiya Ryokan (勇屋旅館) couple… which I err seem to not have a photo for! oops! ahahah

This is the map the innlady gave me, but I did have a pdf of it on my phone.
Basically, I hiked through a very quiet Yabuhara-juku (藪原宿), as I started at 8:30am no shops were open yet. Slowly worked my way through the mountain, and hit the several major places of interest: Old Meteorological Observatory, Maruyama Koen, Place of worship (forgot the Japanese name!), the big Torii Gate, a hut that marks the highest point of the hike (on the map it says this hut is the Torii Pass, but there is not Torii here..). Then I continued down down down and I suppose the only other interest point is a really dilapidated Naka no Chaya. Then abt 3-4hours from the start of the hike, I arrived in Narai-juku (奈良井宿)! Let the photo spam begin! Here are some photos from Yabuhara-juku:IMG_0618IMG_0621Japan has really funny plants I’ve never seen before! / orange post box is love!! / fountain into a watering can / mini house model / something water =D hahahahIMG_0628There’s alot of signs that direct you toward Narai-juku via the Nakasendo. Like Fuji, you’ll never get lost! Japanese sure are thoughtful! =PIMG_0636 IMG_0644 Sign that says Torii TogeIMG_0650 IMG_0651 IMG_0655 IMG_0664 Saw a gate/door that leads to nowhere….IMG_0670 IMG_0674 At first I saw this stop sign, can’t read it of course. Got really confused as to where to go, then I saw the trusty Nakasendo direction signpost! So I think the Stop Post is like no cars.IMG_0694 IMG_0696 IMG_0703 winding up and up a mountain side! so so so so pretty with the sun rays through the treesIMG_0708 Took a gut feeling detour to the Old Meteorological Observatory SiteIMG_0728 IMG_0732 IMG_0733 Guest book in the hutIMG_0739 IMG_0741 Here is the intersection for Maruyama Koen, Place of Worship, and to continue onto Narai-juku. The old man is another guest from Isamiya Ryokan! He spoke to me alot in the morning but I had no idea what he said cause he mumbles alot. So I couldn’t understand his accent. I later found out he was just on a weekend break and he lives in Kyoto. In this pic, oyaji is going up to the place of worship, and I went to Maruyama Koen.IMG_0749I decided to follow the oyaji up to have a look. Plus always follow the locals! They know where’s the best!IMG_0756 Good thing I did too! Beautiful scenic views!!!IMG_0763 But creepy ass shrines…IMG_0766 THE Torii gateIMG_0771 IMG_0776 IMG_0786 Wasn’t sure if we should travel together since language barrier.. so I quickly took a selfie XDIMG_0789 According to the map, this point is THE Torii Pass, also 1,800m elevation. Oyaji drank the spring water and said it was like really nice and cold! I wasn’t so keen on risking parasites.IMG_0791 IMG_0797 Like I said, LOTS of signs!IMG_0801 IMG_0803Naka no Chaya. Some monk lost his beads I guess..
IMG_0823 IMG_0826 Ok, this pic may look really shit, but I had to upload it because.. As I was walking there, the leaves just started to flutter down, like snow. It was so incredibly beautiful. Imagine when it’s autumn time. I am in love with Japan’s mountains!IMG_0841Another little rest hut. I gave Oyaji a senbei cracker and had a broken Japanese convo, and then we travelled the rest of the way to Narai-juku! For someone who is Japanese, he sure looked alot more lost than me!
IMG_0849 IMG_0858 IMG_0861 Narai-juku kita!! Oyaji went to do his own sight seeingsIMG_0877 I went into a museum..IMG_0882.. and touched things I probabaly wasn’t allowed to touch =PIMG_0898 Here’s a signboard along Narai-juku that explains its history:IMG_0902Some sights along Narai-jukuIMG_0904 IMG_0914 IMG_0915 The Kiso Valley is famous for woodcraft, especially Hinoki (cypress) wood. Hinoki is naturally anti fungal/anti bacterial. And it is also used to make the ofuro お風呂 (bath) smell nice.IMG_0921 THESE UMBRELLAS ARE SO PRETTY!!! I wanted to get one, but it’d be too hard to travel with it =( Might pic one up in Hiroshima just before I head back to Tokyo I guess =PIMG_0933 These are photos form the Nakamura House museum. It shows how ppl during the Edo period lived in Narai.IMG_0941 IMG_0948 Giants would not survive.IMG_0950 IMG_0969 IMG_0974 IMG_0985I met a legit artist!! He used to be a hardcore salaryman, then he quit and became an artist! Mr. Kazuo Osuga. He was painting the Nakasendo Trail. I later bumped into him in Magome!IMG_0993Thank you for the autograph Osuga-san! Btw, his English was fantastic! And he knew some Chinese too because he worked in Singapore before!IMG_0994 I had lunch at Usagi Cafe, just opposite Narai Station.IMG_1000Lunch with a view… life is good v( ^___________^ )v

Sansai (aka mountain veggies) Tempura soba! 山菜天ぷらそば. Also that was the strangest grape I ever ate. The skin and just outer flesh was really sweet, but the whole center  bit was like a jelly, sticky, chewy thing that couldn’t be bit in half. And it was sour…IMG_1006

I saw oyaji again after lunch waiting for the train back. He asked me what I was doing in Japan. Once more, we had a broken and confusing Japanese conversation, but he was so helpful! He told me how to get to Magome. Originally, my plan was to walk from Ochiaigawa Station, because it looks really close to Magome on the map provided by JNTO. Tis not. He said I gotta get the train to Nakatsugawa Station, then take bus from the front of the station to Magome.

Back to Yabuhara, with my little Kiso Valley omiyage.IMG_1007After  I got back to the ryokan, I bathed and napped. Such a relaxing day. Absolutely loved it. Can’t wait for the Magome>Tsumago trail. Though, in terms of natural scenery, I don’t think it’s as good as Torii Pass, which is said to be the hardest hike of the Nakasendo trail.



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