This website is a project which takes the Nakasendo highway in Japan as a metaphor through which a wide variety of topics about Japan are introduced. The metaphor is a fictional trip through Japan on the Nakasendo highway. Please use the links at the right to guide you through this site.
The Nakasendo connected Kyoto and Edo (now called Tokyo) over an inland route that passed 500 kilometers (310 miles) through the heart of Japan’s main island of Honshu. From Kyoto, it passed along Lake Biwa, over the mountains at Sekigahara, across the plains north of present-day Nagoya, close to the southern Japanese Alps, across the plain between Matsumoto and Karuisawa, and down to the Kanto plain which surrounds present-day Tokyo to Tokyo’s predecessor, Edo.
It was established around the 8th Century as one of several highways centering on Japan’s home provinces around the ancient capital of Nara. At that time, it served to knit the growing Japanese state together. While it succeeded in doing this to some extent, it was not until the Edo period (1600–1868) that the Nakasendo reached the peak of its development, but by this time, the political center had shifted to Edo at the opposite end of the road.
A full description of the main sections follows:
- Introduction Leads to a brief introduction about the original research project from which this website grew.
- The Highway Introduces the Nakasendo Highway, its history and significance, and provides some maps.
- Topics A list of the 250 major topics or articles in the site
- Post-towns A list of the 67 post-towns plus Kyoto and Edo and the topics associated with each place
- The JourneyThe following three sub-sections present the journey in three different ways:
- Kiso Road The Kiso Road, or Kisoji, is made up of the 11 post-towns in the Kiso Valley and can been said to be the heart of the highway. The post-towns are now the best preserved part of the highway.
- Features presents the special features of the highway such as its construction, the post-towns, the main inns, and the transport system.
- Anime Presents slide shows, conversations and cartoon animations through a series of conversations with slide shows and 9 animations, 1–2 minutes long. These introduce the major topics.
If you are interested in walking the Nakasendo highway (many parts of it are remarkably beautiful), Walk Japan Ltd. offers a tour that focuses on the Nakasendo as well as other tours in Japan.