November 16th 2019
We pedaled from Kyoto to Omihachiman 近江八幡 tracing Nakasendo 中山道, which is one of the ancient main route connecting Kyoto and Tokyo.
First, we visited the Sanjo-Ohashi bridge 三条大橋 on Kamo river 鴨川, which is a starting point of Nakasendo 中山道.
In the Edo period, Gokaido, the five Routes, was built by Tokugawa Shoguns in the 17th century. Nakasendo was one of the main routes which linked Edo(Tokyo) and Kyoto. The 69 post stations on Nakasendo provided for travelers and consisted of inns, shops, restaurants, and checkpoints.
First ladies of Shoguns have usually welcomed from Kuge, 公家 aristocrats in Kyoto, and they traveled on Nakasendo to Edo. Therefore Nakasendo was also called Himekaido 姫街道, the princess road.
Cross the pass between Kyoto and Otsu
There are two routes, R1, and Kosekigoe 小関越, over the pass between Kyoto to Otsu 大津. Many cyclists tell R1 is dangerous because of heavy traffic and no sidewalk to escape around the pass.
We selected the Kosekigoe route 小関越. It was quiet and comfortable.
From the Koseki pass, we went down steep slopes to the city center of Otsu 大津.
We had lunch at a Hawaiian restaurant.
Ride along Nakasendo
Then we started retracing Nakasendo 中山道 at Setano-Karahashi 瀬田の唐橋.
Old Nakasendo 旧中山道 remains partly, so we often needed to switch between the busy main street and the ancient back road.
Kusatsujuku is one of the big post towns and a junction of two main routes, Tokaido 東海道 and Nakasendo 中山道, both of which linked Kyoto and Tokyo. There were more than 70 inns, souvenir shops, restaurants, hair salons, administrative offices, and a post office.
There was a remain of Honjin 本陣, the inn, which had been operating for 240 years. A lot of Daimyo 大名 and Kuge 公家, aristocrats, including the princess of Tokugawa Iesada, the 13th Tokugawa Shogun and Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th Shogun before he returned the title of Shogun to the Emperor.
We visited Ubagamochi, a Japanese confectionery in front of JR Kusatsu station. It was built in the 1560s and painted in Ukiyoe 浮世絵 of Hiroshige’s 53 stations of Tokaido 東海道五十三次.
Uba means grandmother, and it called the founder of the confectionary who started selling rice cake to make money for her grandson’s education.
The mochi, rice cake was soft and sophisticated. I think Japanese confectionery in the Kyoto area is more refined than the Tokyo area because it has a more extended history.
After the break, we pedaled east, tracing the old Nakasendo route.
Omihachiman 近江八幡, a historical town
17:00, we arrived Omihachiman 近江八幡, where is one of my favorite places in Japan.
The town was built as a castle town of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the powerful feudal lord in the late 16th century. He built Aduchi castle and gathered many merchants to his castle town.
It is conveniently located on the old Nakasendo and on the coast of Lake Biwa. The town became a vital hub of transportation and business and prospered during the Edo period.
The merchants in the town were called “Omi Shonin,” 近江商人 and they were good at business.
I love their business philosophy, “Sanpo-Yoshi” 三方よし. They worked not only for the customer and vendor but also for the society in their business.
Reunion in the historic area
We arrived at the historical preservation area in Omihachiman, in which there are former merchant’s residences and a canal used for transport.
In there, we met again with Itomaki san, who are working for NPO “Gorin Seikatsu” (五輪生活), which is gives cycling tours and events to promote this area.
And my husband and my son who came there from Tokyo at that day.
First, we arrived at “littlebirds“, a new hostel in the historical area of the town and placed bikes and bags inside it. The hostel was cheap, clean and comfortable.
We went to ”Minna no Ie“, みんなのいえ, a cozy Izakaya and enjoyed chatting, eating and drinking.
Itomaki san said “the residents in the town love their tradition and culture. They inherit lots of ancestral property such as caligraphy or paintings. But they don’t want to exhibit their property. They just keep their traditional way of living.”
Distance : 63 km, Elevation: 284m