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A John and Sherry Hemingway, Peter and Ann Tarlton, Janet and Michael Thompson and Laura and Jeff Lundy. mong the world’s most enchanting walks, Japan’s Nakasendo Way traces beautifully preserved sections of the ancient highways of the samurai. The adventure offers deep insight into Japan, both as it was and is now. Dating back to the 7th century, the Nakasendo Way became especially important during the Edo Period (1603-1868) when the Tokugawa family ruled Japan as shogun. The roadway connected Kyoto and Tokyo, with post-towns offering its travelers inns, shops, and porter services. Some still operate today. Last spring, a group of us, spouses and friends, traveled to Japan to walk the historic Nakasendo Way. Our group included Laura and Jeff Lundy and Janet and Michael Thompson of San Martin; Sherry and John Hemingway of Morgan Hill; and (John’s sister) Ann and Peter Tarlton of New Hampshire. Over the course of nine days, we walked 80 miles in the footsteps of Japanese history, and met unforgettably charming people along the way. We booked our trip through Walk Japan (walkjapan. com). They handled lodging reservations and luggage transfers, and provided our tour guide, Giorgio, who greatly enriched our trip experience. He interpreted Japanese history, culture, and customs with humor and depth. Italian by birth, Giorgio has made Japan his home for the past 13 years. In remote rural areas where there was little to no English written or spoken, his fluent Japanese was essential to our understanding and enjoyment of everything. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN Nakasendo’s Origin The Nakasendo Way stretches east-west through the heart of Japan from Kyoto to Tokyo, winding through 330 miles of forests, waterways, and low mountains with elevations exceeding 4,000 feet. Four centuries ago, the route was a source of power in the Shogun Tokugawa’s control of Japan from his base at Edo Castle (later renamed Tokyo). He stationed his shogun lords across the land and ‘invited’ their wives and children to live in Tokyo. Thus, the shoguns had to travel to Tokyo to see their families and pay taxes. Since the trip could take three weeks, the roadway was developed with 69 carefully-spaced juku (post towns) offering food and shelter. Large stones served as distance markers. Carved stone deities were a symbol of protection. Tea houses welcomed weary travelers. Starting in Kyoto Before our walking tour, we explored the ancient capital of Kyoto on our own. Sightseeing included the UNESCO World Heritage site, Nijo-jo Castle, a treasure from the golden age of architecture. Japan’s geisha continue to be the subject of fascination and legend among the world’s visitors. Each spring, in the Gion district in Kyoto, the geisha come into public view for limited performances of the Miyako Odori. Luckily, tickets were available for this rare show of traditional dance and music. april/may 2019 101