Stages of the Nakasendo (13): From Niekawa to Narai
The Niekawa Stage: Narakawa Village, Kiso County, Nagano Prefecture
*** 249km from Nihonbashi, Tokyo / 284km to Sanjo Ohashi in Kyoto ***
The Narai Stage: Narakawa Village, Kiso County, Nagano Prefecture
The Narai River flows down between the mountains, becoming the Chikuma River as it continues to the Sea of Japan. Today, the Nakasendo Highway rubs shoulders with an old trunk road, the new Route 19 Highway, and the JR Chuo Main Line, all squeezed into the narrow space between mountains to represent their respective ages.
The Nakasendo continues along the river as it skirts the foothills of the mountains. The Niekawa post town, some 7 kilometers from Motoyama, is the gateway to the Kiso Road. The old barrier can still be seen. This is also a center for the production of lacquerware. Lacquerware started around 600 years ago in Kiso Fukushima. But once the “sabitsuchi” base (an essential clay for a primer) was discovered, lacquerware from Hirasawa grew dramatically in the Meiji era (1868-1912), and still continues to this day. On an old Edo picture-scroll from about 250 years ago, the village of Hirasawa is said to be home to many Japanese cypress wood craftsmen.
It’s only about 7 kilometers along the river to Narai, where a thousand traditional houses are said to have stood wall-to-wall.