Getting back on the Nakasendō felt good. A few months ago I ended a hot and humid day of walking at Suhara station (須原駅) in Nagano and promised myself I’d take a break from the walk as the heat and humidity of the Japanese summer set in.
Finishing at Suhara last time meant I had a very manageable 18kms of walking through the countryside to reach Nagiso (南木曽) this time. Just enough to get back into a routine but long enough to break the next section into an equally manageable chunk (Nagiso to Nakatsugawa via Tsumago and Magome).
Suhara to Nagiso was one of the more enjoyable sections of the walk so far (ignoring the 2km stretch of unavoidable Route 19) as it took in the wonderful village of Okuwa (大桑村) – a place I’ve always been fond of.
Unlike some other quieter sections there were actual signs of life in the countryside here. Yes, Japanese villages are dying, but Okuwa seems to be holding out with a nice balance of tiny hamlets close enough together to make a cohesive whole that leaves you thinking that it will be around for a few years to come. It’s a place that on the surface says you can live in the countryside, work, raise a family, and enjoy just enough convenience to make moving to a city unnecessary. It’s a good balance.
I could see myself living there – it’s big enough, it’s also small enough, and it’s right next to the JR Chuo line and Route 19 meaning Nagoya, Nakatsugawa, Kiso Fukushima, and even Matsumoto are easily reachable. But it remains remote enough to feel like a village tucked away in the mountains, which is exactly what it is.
There was one encounter that I enjoyed during the day with a man (why didn’t I ask his name?!) eager to show me the Chestnut tiger butterflies (Parantica Sita) 30m down the road that had made their way across the Philippine Sea to a tiny patch of flowers. He shouted me down and chased after me as I walked past as there was no way he was letting me continue without pointing them out. I’m glad he did otherwise I would have acknowledged them, “oh look butterflies” and then carried on oblivious to their unbelievable journey.
I’m not a butterfly person but I was in awe of their journey and charmed enough to stop for a good ten minutes or so. They were the real adventurers that day.
Here’s another short video that I made of the day.