The Nakasend? (, Central Mountain Route), also called the Kisokaid? (?), was one of the five routes of the Edo period, and one of the two that connected Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto in Japan. There were 69 stations (staging-posts) between Edo and Kyoto, crossing through Musashi, K?zuke, Shinano, Mino and ?mi provinces. In addition to Tokyo and Kyoto, the Nakasend? runs through the modern-day prefectures of Saitama, Gunma, Nagano, Gifu and Shiga, with a total distance of about 534 km (332 mi).
Unlike the coastal T?kaid?, the Nakasend? traveled inland, hence its name, which can be translated as "? = central; ? = mountain; ? = route" (as opposed to the T?kaid?, which roughly meant "eastern sea route"). Because it was such a well-developed road, many famous persons, including the haiku master Matsuo Bash?, traveled the road. Many people preferred traveling along the Nakasend? because it did not require travelers to ford any rivers.
Around the beginning of the seventh century, during the beginning of Ritsury?, the area that would eventually make up the Nakasend? was developed[by whom?] to connect Kinai (modern-day Kansai region, which included the former capital of Japan) with the provinces of the T?sand? (part of the gokishichid?) that lie to the east.
During the Sengoku period, which lasted from the 15th to 17th centuries, the T?sand? was controlled by the Takeda (Kai Province), Ogasawara (Shinano Province), Kanamori (Hida Province) and Oda (Mino Province) clans. In order to connect the T?sand? with the T?kaid? (and Takeda's troops with Oda's), a road system was developed. This route is generally followed by the modern day national highways numbered 52, 151, 153, and 22.
In the early years of the Edo period, many political, legal, cultural and intellectual changes took place. Among them was the rejuvenation of Japan's thousand-year-old highway system. Five roads were formally nominated as official routes for the use of the sh?gun and the other daimy? and to provide the Tokugawa shogunate with the communications network that it needed to stabilize and rule the country. One of these five roads was the Nakasend?, which stretched from Edo, from where the shogun wielded the real power, through the central mountain ranges of Honshu and on to Kyoto.
Until the establishment of these formal trade routes, many shorter routes had existed, connecting towns over various distances. For example, the Kisoji route's eleven post towns all become part of the Nakasend? (from Niekawa-juku to Magome-juku). Prior to the Edo period, the route had been called both "Sand?" ( "mountain route") and "T?sand?" ("eastern mountain route"). During the Edo period, the name was changed to Nakasend? and was written as both and , but the Tokugawa shogunate established as the official name in 1716.
Although much of the Nakasend? no longer exists in its historic form, its route is now roughly followed by modern roads. In order, they are:
Portions of the following railway lines approximately follow the path of the former Nakasend?:
Although there has been much modern development along the Nakasend?, a few stretches remain in its original form. Three sections in Nagano Prefecture and Gifu Prefecture have been accorded National Historic Site of Japan status by the central government in 1987. These include the section between Wada-shuku and Wada Pass, the section between Shiojiri-juku and Midono-juku, and the section between Tsumago-juku and Magome-juku. The most well-known section lies in the Kiso Valley, between Tsumago-juku and Magome-juku. The area was first made famous by the early 20th-century writer Shimazaki T?son, who chronicled the effects of the Meiji Restoration on the valley in his landmark novel Before the Dawn. This eight-kilometer section of the Nakasend? can still be travelled along comfortably by foot, and both Tsumago-juku and Magome-juku have preserved and restored the traditional architecture. The walk between the historical post towns requires two to three hours to walk, with forests, restored paving and fine views of waterfalls along the way.