Of the 69 stops along the old Nakasendo highway, Otajuku is the 51st post town, counting from the Itabashi end. Otajuku prospered because of its strategic location right before the Otanowatashi, one of the three most gruelling sections of the highway. It was also sited before the highway forked into the Hida and Gujo highways.
Otajuku spreads 680m east to west along the highway, and preserves much of its historic architecture and scenery, allowing visitors to enjoy the old atmosphere while strolling the streets. After walking past the Matsugata and entering the Former Nakasendo Highway village, the remains of the Honjin Gate are to the left, while on the right is a side building open to the public.
In the vicinity is Yusen-ji Temple, famous for its Waterfall Kannon legend, the grave of Banryu-Shonin, and monuments commemorating the poems of Shoyo Tsubochi, Hakushu Kitahara and Matsuo Basho. In the old days, travellers leaving Otajuku would cross the Kiso River at Otanowatashi, and head for Fushimi and Mitake.
The stone-paved road in Imaichi is part of the old Higo road that was used in the past. This important historical path was designated as an important cultural heritage site of the prefecture in 1972.
Imaichi Stone-Paved Road is located in the town of Notsuharu in Oita Prefecture. Notsuharu-cho became part of Higo territory from 1601, and Imaichi and the Notsuharu area formed a post station for the Higo clan until the late Tokugawa shogunate.
It is said that a teashop along the road here once prospered as a trading center. The stones used to pave the road reflect former ages. The 2m-wide section of stone-paved road lies in the center of the 6m-wide road. It stretches about 660m and reminds us of the time in the past when a daimyo lord would pass along this road.
The Kagokaki race, which takes place annually in August, is also famous. It is a race to reenact the cityscape back then. During the race, people run along the pathway, wearing a costume and carrying a basket.
Wakamiya Road is an old temple route located in Komachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. It is included as one of Japan's top 100 roads, and is also one of the 20 best scenic views in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Wakamiya Road starts from Yuigahama within Kamakura City, and leads to Tsuruoka Hachimangu. Established in the 2nd year of the Yowa era (1182), the road was built by Yoritomo Minamoto (and refers to Suzaku-oji road in Kyoto) in order to pray for his wife Masako's safe delivery of a child.
The road is currently part of Kanagawa State Road number 21 from Yokohama to Kamakura. There are three torii gates along the road: namely the 'first', 'second' and 'third' torii starting from the Yuigahama side. The distance between the second and third torii is called the 'dannkazura', literally translated as 'terraced tongue'. This is because of a certain type of construction method that was used to elevate the central part of the road. This construction method makes the road narrower on the Tsuruoka Hachimangu side, and creates a perspective that makes the road look longer than it truly is.
The Wakamiya Road continues to be the center of Kamakura, and is a road that is loved by all citizens.
Tachihada is a beauty spot in Kusu, Oita Prefecture, and is also known as Sunset Pass. From the Prefectural Highway Mt Kusu that runs alongside it for about 1km, one can see the rocky hills.
Tachihada is a famous spot within Ura-Yaba Valley. In autumn, the area takes on a red color that makes it even more beautiful. The rocky mountains reach up and appear to touch the skies while the green vines add to the wonderful sight. This view harmonizes with the farmhouses that dot the foothills to make a pastoral landscape that seems straight out of a folk tale.
The area is rich in edible wild plants such as bracken, royal fern and 'udo'. At 'Interactive Teahouse', fresh vegetables and dumpling soup are served and many tourists enjoy the different tastes of the seasons. Persimmon trees and local dwellings further complement the landscape. It is indeed a friendly mountain village.
Tachihada is full of scenes that you will never tire of seeing.
The Tsuyama Basin in Okayama Prefecture was once a prosperous area through which the old Izumo Way passed. On the eastern side of the basin was a post station known today as the Joto area.
On the streets of the Joto area, which has been designated for preservation by the prefecture, are old stores selling sake, paper and knives for example. The old Izumo Way passes for about a kilometer through the town from Tsuyama castle ruin, following an east-west route. The road is built using a style called 'kaimagari', which is maze-like for defence purposes.
The houses are distinguished by their low fronts with lattice doors and 'sea-cucumber' walls and recall the atmosphere of an old town. The highlight of a visit here is the Joto Mukashi Machi (Kyu-Kajimurake) area, which consists of buildings dating from the Edo to the Taisho periods. The Sakushu Joto Yashiki is a traditional fire-watchtower that gives an insight into historic methods of fire prevention. Joto is also famous as the location of the movie series 'Otoko wa Tsurai yo' and the drama 'Aguri'.
The town of Osafune, in Okayama Prefecture, thrived as the land of swordsmiths from the Kamakura period. The Bizen Osafune Touken Village is a unique museum specializing in Japanese swords, a once flourishing craft that continues today.
At Bizen Osafune Touken Village, each process relating to swordmaking can be seen closely. There is a forge, for example, where the 'tamahagane' metal is heated and extended at a temperature of 1,300℃. There is also a sword craft center, where swords are sharpened and sword hilts are made.
The reason why Bizen thrived as an area for sword production was, firstly, because high-quality materials and fuel were easily found here. Secondly, Bizen lay at a key junction for transportation between the Sanin and Sanyo areas. The iron sand found in the Chugoku Mountains was good for swordmaking, while the local sawtooth oak trees provided good fuel for the strong fires needed for the forges. In addition, the Sanyo-do highway running east-west was a major transportation route at that time. This enabled the easy circulation of materials and fuel for swordmaking.
Honjin are the inns located at post stations on the old highways. During the Edo period, they provided accommodation to traveling daimyo, kuge and officers, who were obliged as part of the Sankin Kotai system to live part of the year in Edo, the Shogun's capital.
Yakage is a town built along the Odagawa river. Major roads passed through Yakage from ancient times. In the Edo period, the town prospered as the 18th post station of the Sanyo Highway. It is the only place where the original honjin (of the Ishi family) and the original sub-honjin (of the Takakusa family) are both designated as important national cultural assets. The honjin mansion still fronts some 36m along the road, and has land 90m long with an area of 3,200m2. Dozens of buildings still stand today, hardly changed from Edo times, and provide representative examples of 'tsuma-iri' and 'hira-iri' architecture, as well as 'oni-gawara' roof tiles and 'shira-kabe' and 'namako-kabe' walling.
Every November, the town holds a festival with a daimyo procession and enjoyably recreates the atmosphere of the Edo period.