AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Driving through the Japanese Alps

Driving through the Japanese Alps


Posted on Jul 21, 2014

Our time in the centre of the Japanese Alps was now over and we were going to head to the southern Alps to the Kiso Valley. The Kiso Valley is well known in Japan because the Nakasendo, which was one of the main ancient highways between Kyoto (the capital) and Edo (before it was renamed Tokyo), ran through the valley. The journey took about 23 days between the two cities and was used by everyone, from samurai to officials, tradesmen, pilgrims and just ordinary people looking for work elsewhere. Along the route was 69 Post Towns, which had lodgings and food for the travellers. These are the ryokans that Japan is famous for. They provided an evening meal, a bed and breakfast the next morning. We were going to the post town of Magome (pronounced MA GO MAY) and staying in a ryokan which offered food and a traditional room (albeit with modern amenities such as power, lights, fridge, kettle, flushing toilet). This was a family run ryokan and looked better than the one we’d stayed at in Takayama. It cost a lot more too, so we had high hopes. But first we had a day to kill. We were tempted with finding a walk in the mountains but a few things put us off. It was boiling hot in the sun, we had to be prepared for rain which meant carrying umbrellas everywhere and we couldn’t find much information out about paths and routes. So we decided to take a scenic drive through the mountains on some small roads for most of the day, then visit one of the later post towns further up the Kiso Valley, before getting to the ryokan in good time. Evening meal is served at 6pm sharp. Be late and it’s gone! Plus we needed a bath before eating. We grabbed some lunch from a convenience store and put it on the car for later. Hopefully we’d find a scenic spot to eat it. Then we set off up the back roads in our lovely Prius. The car itself is comfortable to sit in and everything is well laid out and easy to use, but it’s awful on corners because the suspension is so soft, it feels like the car is going to fall over. Then the engine, well it’s more the automatic gears, are annoying. In eco mode the car has no power (but uses about the same amount of fuel), in power mode the car keeps the gears about one lower than it should be, so it makes a huge noise but unless I floor it there’s little extra power to...

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