The name Toriimoto means ‘at the gateway (torii) to the shrine’, and refers to a large torii which once stood here, as at Takamiya today, to mark an entrance way to the great shrine at Taga Taisha. Although closely hemmed in on one side by the Shinkansen and on the other by the Meishin Expressway, Toriimoto today maintains plenty of its former character as a provincial post-town. (Possibly this is precisely because it is ‘cut-off’ from the outside world by these two great routes.) Many former inns from the Edo period remain, and even some of the original sign-boards, although none of these buildings continue to serve travelers now. In late autumn, the sides and fronts of these buildings are ablaze in orange, as row upon row of persimmons are hung out to dry. This recalls one of the major activities in Toriimoto in the past, which was the preparation of waterproof paper capes for travelers caught in the rain. Waterproofing was achieved by the application of the oil of driedpersimmons.
Midway through the town the traveler is confronted by a masugata]- a ‘dog-leg’ bend in the road which was designed by the Tokugawa authorities to intimidate and confuse travelers unfamiliar with the area. Adjacent to this bend is one of the original waki-honjin (assistant inn for high-ranking guests), and next door to this is Toriimoto’s most famous establishment – the herbal medicine shop which sells “akadama”, or little red pills for the stomach. Made from a compound derived from plants which grow wild in the surrounding hills, this family business has been in continuous operation for more than 300 years. Although the manufacturing is now carried out in a modern, purpose-built factory, the shop (which serves as the local pharmacy for all modern drugs as well as traditional medicines) is the same as it was in the Edo period.
Leaving Toriimoto the Nakasendo rejoins Route 8 for a short while, before turning east to climb Surihari-toge. The pass is short, but quite steep, and so steps have been built into the hillside to make climbing easier.