My friend Mimi, a talented, LA-based photographer, and her husband, Reynald, recently returned from Japan, where they walked the Nakasendo Way, a historic route connecting Kyoto and Tokyo. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sharing some images from their trip on WCXC and she graciously agreed.
What follows is Mimi’s description of the trip in an email. Below that is a gallery of her images.
Here is a link to our photo gallery from our Japan trip. As most of you know, Reynald and I stayed in Kyoto for a few days, then walked the Nakasendo Way, a 700-year-old road/trail through the central mountains/hills. It is a road that runs between Kyoto and Tokyo and serviced the Shogun and high officials during the Edo period (1603–1868).
We went with a group of 10 people, through a company called Walk Japan, which was started by an American and Brit living in Japan 20 years ago. We were a very international group with people from Canada, Singapore and Thailand…and a couple of Americans. Our tour guide, Yohei, was born in Japan, but lived in England while in junior high and high school. His English was great and made it so that we could be very lazy and not speak of word of Japanese.
To walk the entire route would take 3 weeks, so we were aided by trains every so often. We walked between 6–15 miles a day, up steep mountain passes and down country roads. The leaves were falling and the air was crisp. Perfect hiking weather, and only one morning of rain for our entire journey. We stayed at traditional Japanese inns almost every night, where we would find our Yukatas (cotton japanese robes) waiting for us on our futon beds. We soaked in onsen (thermal baths) and wore our Yukatas to dinner with the other guests on the tour, in the dining rooms in the inns. The meals were lavish feasts of freshly caught trout, mountain vegetables, many varieties of miso soup, wild boar and even grasshoppers one night!
The only hard part of the trip was the last day looking down from our mountain perch, into the eyes of civilization, in the valley down below. We officially ended our tour, where the Nakasendo Road ends, on the Nihonbashi Bridge, just steps away from the bustling Tokyo Station in Tokyo. I picked up and lost a couple of really fantastic walking sticks along the route and left my last companion on the bridge underneath a menacing dragon. Perhaps a traveler headed in the opposite direction toward Kyoto from Tokyo, has it to accompany them. One fond memory we hold is seeing, at the beginning of a steep mountain pass, a barrel full of rustic, gnarled walking sticks, left by other travelers, open to the next climber in need. We found that the Japanese, as a culture, had a keen realization that they were part of a community, and the barrel of walking sticks was a perfect representation of that.
To read more about the Nakasendo Way, check out this article in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper.