The Nakasendo Way: A Journey to the Heart of Japan is a comprehensive resource on the historic highways of Japan with particular emphasis on the Nakasendo Way. It also introduces a wide variety of topics about Japan by describing a fictional trip along this ancient highway through this fascinating nation.
The Nakasendo connected Kyoto and Edo (now called Tokyo) over an inland route of about 540km (336 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:
The Nakasendo Way: A Journey to the Heart of Japan website is the center of a project which takes the Nakasendo Way in Japan as a metaphor through which a wide variety of topics are introduced.
The Nakasendo Way stretched from Kyoto to Edo (modern-day Tokyo), through the centre of the main Japanese island of Honshu. As it connects the pre-modern and modern capitals while also traversing core of the main island, Honshu, it touches on. what might be termed, some of the ‘hearts’ of Japan.
This project, by Dr. Richard Irving, Professor at the School of Policy Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, and Dr. Thomas A.Stanley, formerly with the Department of History, University of Hong Kong, began as a multimedia CD-ROM project. The project contains some 250 articles of various, usually substantial, lengths (some 130,000 words in total), nearly 200 glossary items (definitions) and over 300 photographs, maps and illustrations. More photographs will be added at a later time.
This site’s written material is of three main types.
1. The 225 main topics and clickable maps. These are richly endowed with links to written and pictorial materials.
2. Entries which describe the physical journey. These too have links to written and pictorial material.
3. Glossary entries, which provide short definitions of names and terms. These may have links to written or pictorial material.
- The Journey Introduces the Nakasendo Way, its history and significance, and provides some maps.
- Post-towns A list of the 67 post-towns plus Kyoto and Edo and the topics associated with each place
- Kiso Road The Kiso Road, or Kiso-ji, is made up of the 11 post-towns in the Kiso Valley and can be 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.
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.
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