A cemetery and tiny buddha statue. The Chuo Alps in the background. No snow, so hiking season is open!

Nakasendō/Kiso-ji – Walking Agematsu to Suhara

This stretch was a mixed bag of wonderful Nakasendō/Kiso-ji (中山道・木曽路) backroads and the monstrous national R19, with truck after truck whizzing past. On a couple of occasions I found myself breaking out into a gentle jog to get some sections finished quickly while pondering whether cycling would have made it more enjoyable. The conclusion was no, cycling would not have made it more enjoyable, it would have made it worse. Staying as far away from those trucks as possible was the wise choice and a bicycle would have done the oppostie. Besides, the backroad were a delight.

  • Hair salon. Bright blue sign. Potted plants a staple in Japan. Rindow is the name.
  • The Kiso Valley ahead. Recently planted rice fields and mountains. Pure early-summer Japan.
  • The Nakasendo. Left? Up and over the Chuo Alps, perhaps? Straight? Along the Kiso Valley.
  • A cemetery and tiny buddha statue. The Chuo Alps in the background. No snow, so hiking season is open!
  • Warehouse/workshop. Cat in window. I took a wrong turn. Stupid sign.
  • Tires, tires, tires. There are always tires. A yard full of junk and a truck. Too common.

Local trains between Shiojiri and Nakatsugawa (中津川) are so infrequent that if I want to get home at a reasonable hour to hang out with my family then timing my walk to arrive at a station just before the train rolls in is imperative. That’s why I found myself abandoning Okuwa (大桑) as the destination for the day and instead finished in Suhara (須原) with ten minutes to spare before the (late) train arrived. If I’d missed that I’d have had to wait a few hours for the next one. Yes, carrying on to Okuwa was an option had I missed the train, but it was hot – almost real Japanese summer hot. So I decided to call it a day.

  • Very old abandoned car. Turned green (everything turns green). Tucked away in the overgrowth never to be seen again.
  • A farmer's tools. A green sheet (not blue), a tiny ploughing machine. Looks abandoned but probably not.
  • Man cutting grass next to recently planted rice paddy. A sneaky photo through the trees.
  • Abandoned liquor store. Roof covered in overgrowth.
  • A dog barking as I walk past. Blue sky, big garden (for Japan), concrete refinery? behind the garden.

I started this walk in Shiojiri (塩尻) late last year and I’ve been slowly plodding my way through month after month, 15 kilometres here, 20 kilometres there on a fairly regular basis but am now nearing the end and need to decide whether to finish the walk in the middle of summer or wait until autumn when things cool down considerably. I suspect the lure of the high mountains and the cooler temperatures (with zero trucks) will become more appealing so later is more likely. Whatever I choose, there’s no hurry (or obligation to get it done) and that’s one reason I’m enjoying it so much.

As usual, there’s a short montage of video below. It seems silly to take along a super modern hybrid camera and not make some video as well.


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Lived in central Japan since 2001 and spend free days exploring.

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