Departing the sake brewery, it is just over one more mile to Mochizuki along curving roads through rolling countryside. There was a castle on a hill above the town at the end of the Warring States period, but it was destroyed in the early 17th century along with many other small castles. Mochizuki was ordered to be a post-town, but went into slow decline despite the business which passed through. In 1843, there were only 360 people and 9 inns remaining.
Today, however, Mochizuki preserves much of the atmosphere of an old post-town. The waki-honjin survives in excellent condition and several sake breweries with white-washed walls and blackened timbers line the narrow road.
Leaving Mochizuki, the old highway passes through an extraordinary five masugata as it doubles back and winds its way up the hill flanking the old castle’s foundations.
Cresting the hill, the Nakasendo gains the first close view of Mt. Asama. Riding beautifully above the landscape, the volcano often wears a benign plume of smoke. The volcano, however, is not senile and occasional earthquakes warn everyone that an eruption could occur anytime. Soon the post-town of Yawata stretches out along the highway. In 1843, 719 souls lived here, but there were only three inns for those brave enough to tempt the volcano. For the daimyo, however, the post-town must have been a frequent stop since there was one honjin and as many as four waki-honjin. Today, no inns survive, but two miles further on is the next post-town of Shionada.