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A Walk Back in Time

What does the historic Kisokaido Trail look like today?

Hiroshige and Eisen’s masterful woodblock series The 69 Stations of the Kisokaido depicts one of the five main arterial routes of Edo-era Japan. The Kisokaido (木曾街道), also known as the Nakasendō (中山道 Central Mountain Route), connected Edo, now modern-day Tokyo, with Kyoto, traversing a total distance of over 500 kilometers. As one of the main routes through feudal Japan, the Kisokaido was in its heyday crowded with travelers, including monks, merchants, and the ruling samurai class, as well as inns, shops, restaurants, and brothels along the way.

Today the Kisokaido is a quieter experience. Though it has seen much development since the woodblock series was completed in 1838, many sections of the Kisokaido remain open to walkers, affording a beautiful path through picturesque countryside as well as a chance to encounter Japanese history. Tour operator Oku Japan runs self-guided tours along sections of the trail, and shares some of their impressions of the historic route.

© all photos: Oku Japan