Nakatsugawa

Gateway to the Nakasendo

By Justin Dart   Nov 30, 2011 - 3 min read

“The Kiso Road is all in the mountains.” “Spring is slow coming to my mountain home” - Toson Shimazaki wrote when describing the area around his home in the modern day Nakatsugawa in his book “Before dawn”. Located only 1 hour and 15 minutes from Nagoya on the JR Chuo line, Nakatsugawa city has wide diversity of attractions.

Historically, Nakatsugawa was a stop on the Nakasendo between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. Today it remains an inland stopping point for those traveling between Tokyo and Nagoya or Kyoto. 

Nakatsugawa still has deep ties to the Nakasendo history. At the Nakasendo History museum visitors can learn about the architecture of the buildings, the construction of the road and the stories of those who used it. One can visit the historical buildings of Nakatsugawa Juku, Ochiai Juku and Magome Juku as well as take the three-hour hike from Nakatsugawa station to Magome Juku which includes a section of the old stone road. Just a short 40 minute hike from Nakatsugawa station, takes you to Naegi Park where the remains of Naegi Castle sat over looking the Kiso River and the domain of the Naegi Shogun. 

Besides historical places, Nakatsugawa provides pure natural beauty. From the 930m high Nenoue lake to the waterfalls of Tsukechi Gorge, Mt. Ena to Mt Kohide there are courses for the weekend walker to the extreme hiker. Within an hour from Nakatsugawa station, hikers can climb Fujimidai and see all of Central Japan and on a clear day, Mt. Fuji. There are camp grounds all over the city for those wanting to connect with the energy of the Japanese forest, mountains and rivers.

For the sweet tooth, Nakatsugawa is home to some of the best chestnut deserts in the world. Kawakamiya and Nitaro have become two of Japan’s top Japanese deserts (wagashi) specializing in chestnuts. At the Nigiwai Tourism office next to Nakatsugawa station, visitors can try various local products as well as soft-serve chestnut ice cream. For the creator, check out Iga Kuri no Sato to gather chestnuts and learn how to make your own chestnut deserts. 

Art and culture abound in Nakatsugawa with stone masons, painters, potters, musicians and even locally produced kabuki. The Kabuki performances at Meijiza in Kashimo have become a must for visitors to the prefecture. Free to the public, seats fill quickly so get there early.

For the kids, there is the Children’s Science museum where kids can explore hands-on, Fureai Farm with horseback riding and sausage making and the Minerals Museum where you can learn not only about Japanese geology but try your hand at panning!

Nakatsugawa is a great stop for a day trip from Nagoya or a stop on a journey to the Hida region or for those hiking the Nakasendo. Nakatsugawa is where art, nature and history are one.

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