During the Edo era, there was two main routes from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo). The lower, most widely know route, was the Tokaido. The other, more interior route, was called the Nakasendo. Preserved along a portion of the Nakasendo are a series of old post towns that keep that old Edo charm focusing on traditional wooden architecture and small shops.
Narai, is one of the premier towns along this route and a great escape for Tokyo’s urbanites that really want to slow it down, way down. The town itself, features only one primary lane about 500 meters long with wooden storefronts featuring unique overhanging eves. Accommodation wise there are only a handful of 旅館 (ryokan, traditional inn) and homestays along the way, so I was naturally a bit excited when I found out me, my wife, and her mother and father would be staying at Echigoya, the oldest ryokan in Narai at over 200 years old and nine generations of family owned proprietorship.
An inn as old as Echigoya focuses on simplicity, quietude, and attention to detail. No distractions here. After checking in we are served green tea and then are free to enjoy the sites and sounds of the wooden home. After taking a soak in its small cypress wood bath and changing into yukata our course dinner is brought to us as each course is explained in detail. I particularly enjoyed the koi sashimi with a miso paste sauce. Following this we retired to our futon prepared rooms and fell asleep to the creeking of the wooden floors.
The morning breakfast is light but meticulously prepared. Unfortunately we are out the door to our train by 8 AM… like most guests, a one night stay is usually the max (at around 20,000 Yen a night/per person one can see why).
Spending that whole day on train rides and exploring other post towns en route to Nagoya, we are happy to finally get on the Shinkansen to head back to Tokyo, and what seems like a bizarro world after only a day and a half in “old Japan”.