Narai-juku is a historic post town – known as ‘juku’ or ‘shukubamachi’ – that once serviced a 70km trade route through the Kiso Valley, part of the greater 500km ‘Nakasendo Road’ that connected Kyoto and Edo – now called Tokyo. As one of five official highways between Kyoto and Edo, the road was busy with government officials, merchants and pilgrims, typically forced by the shogunate to move on foot.
Located at the midpoint between Edo and Kyoto, Narai was the wealthiest of the 69 towns that marked-out the Nakasendo Road. Today, much of the town remains and visitors relish in the extent of the preservation. Historic buildings stretch on much further than any of the other extant post towns which now serve as guesthouses, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Once known as ‘Narai of a Thousand Houses’ due to its size, visitors to the town will get a strong sense of its past significance. For detailed information regarding the trail, please refer to our ‘Walk the Nakasendo Trail’ page. In February, the Narai-juku Ice Candle Festival is a quiet yet beautiful festival that should not be missed.
For visitors heading to Narai – or the other attractions of the Kiso Valley – we recommend basing yourself in the area around nearby Kiso-Fukushima Station. It has the greatest variety of accommodation in the Kiso Valley and as a stop on all Limited Express Shinano services running between Nagano, Matsumoto and Nagoya, it is the most convenient point from where to explore the region including the nearby Kiso Ontake Mountain Range. For accommodation listings in the area, see our ‘Kiso-Fukushima & Narai Area’ hotel page.