Tarui is one of the oldest post-towns on the Nakasendo having formerly been a post-town on the original Tosando highway. Records indicate it served continuously in this capacity from the late 12th century, although its’ position at the entrance to the valley leading to the pass at Sekigahara, one of great strategic importance, suggests the history of Tarui post-town probably dates back even earlier. In fact the site of the early 8th century provincial capital (kokufu) of Mino lies just to the north of Tarui, reinforcing this claim.
Six miles to the east of Tarui is the castle town of Ogaki. As with Mino Kokufu, its location here reflects the military significance attached to this site throughout the ages. It was at Ogaki that Ishida Mitsunari had made his base on the eve of the battle of Sekigahara. As troops from the west gradually made their way to his side, shortage of accommodation there forced some of his allies to find quarters in Tarui. At least they did not have to march quite so far back to the battleground after Tokugawa Ieyasu had tricked Ishida to quit the castle and take up defensive positions in the open field.
The road to Ogaki branched off the Nakasendo at Tarui and continued on to join the Tokaido highway, which crossed the southern part of the Mino plain. Known as the Mino-kaido this was an important connecting road, well frequented by travelers in the Edo period. As a junction town, therefore, the importance of Tarui post-town was further enhanced. By 1800 the town had a population of 1239 in 328 households, of which forty five were inns. The census also records numerous shops, selling tea, vegetables, rice, sake, soy-bean paste, salt, and many other daily necessities. This suggests Tarui served an important market function for the surrounding area, a function which seems carried on today as a similar variety of shops still line the main street. A number of old buildings also survive, including an inn (Kamemaruya) which has remained in operation continuously since the Edo period.
Leaving Tarui the Nakasendo crosses a river and branches left from the Ogaki road (Mino-kaido) to follow a narrow country lane neatly lined with hedgerows. The next post-town, Akasaka, is reached after just over three miles. The name means ‘red slope’ and reflects a time when roads in the post-towns were unpaved and often muddy. The slope down into the center of town is still there, but the only sign of the red earth which once surfaced it is at a nearby quarry which dominates the hillside to the north. Marble is mined here, a product with which Akasaka has been associated since the Edo period. Many of the inhabitants of the town in those days spent their spare time fashioning small statues or other trinkets from the stone, to sell to travelers passing through, or stopping at any of the seventeen inns.
Like Tarui, Akasaka thrives today as a small market town and home for a growing number of commuters who work in the Nagoya region. Much of the former post-town charm is retained, however, and the fact the town is surrounded by rice fields and market gardens helps preserve a distinctly rural character. This agricultural scene dominates the next five mile stage across the flat plain to Mieji post-town.