The Nakasendo Way
Japan brings to mind two very distinct images. There’s one of a hyper-modern society with concrete towers filling the skyline as far as the eye can see. Business men and women chirp away on their cellphones as they get off the train and over to their next meeting. Large screens flicker around every corner. In some cases, it looks as if Times Square was used as a model by a designer who thought it was too modest. It’s never quiet here. There’s always the sound of footsteps, trains, buses, cars, and chatter. Fresh air and greenery are hard to come by, but people are too busy to notice anyway.
Then, there’s the other side of the coin (or yen, I suppose). There’s the cinematic side of Japan with images of rural surroundings playing like a movie montage in a traveler’s imagination. What sticks out first is the architecture — it’s unlike anything in the Western world and feels distinctly Japanese. Next, one might think about the signs featuring a mixture of Chinese mandarin and Japanese Hiragana and Katakana characters. That fresh air so noticeably absent from the city? There’s an abundance here, but you’re too busy taking in the mountains, hills, and streams to notice the lack of exhaust.
The latter is, by some accounts, quickly disappearing. Alex Kerr noted his grumblings with the modernization of rural Japan in his wonderful book, Lost Japan. Still, to the untrained eye, hiking in rural Japan feels remarkably foreign and disconnected to the modern world.
This is just a preview. More words are to come over at The Explorer by Jacada Travel. Plus, video. Meantime, below are 30 photos documenting the scenic hiking from Ena to Tokyo over six days with Walk Japan on the Nakasendo Way.
Disclaimer: Walk Japan invited me to participate in a shortened version of their 10-day hike. As always, all opinions remain my own.