During the Edo period there were no planes or cars, so when feudal lords had to come and go from Edo to other places for "Sankinkotai" (a system of alternate year residence in Edo), they had to travel by foot or by horse. If you take the bullet train, you can get from Tokyo to Kyoto in about 2 hours, but at the time when people had to walk, it took about 2 weeks to get from Nihonbashi in Edo to Sanjo-ohashi in Kyoto. There was the need to rest during the long journey by foot or horse, so staging posts were built along the road from Edo to various places, and many shops began to gather around them, developing the areas as post towns. The famous roads that connect Edo with different places are the Tokaido Road, Nakasendo Road, Nikko-kaido Road, Oushu-kaido Road, and Koshu-kaido Road. During the Edo period, many post towns prospered along these roads where many people would pass through. This time, I would like to introduce 8 of these post towns where the historic atmosphere from the past still remain. 1. Ouchi-juku (Fukushima) The post town of Ouchi-juku is located on the former Aizunishi-kaido Road that goes through the secluded mountainous region of Minamiaizu, Fukushima. In Ouchi-juku there are more than 30 houses with thatched roofs, and you can enjoy an atmosphere reminiscent of the Edo period. Ouchi-juku one of the most popular tourist spots in Fukushima with more than 1.2 million visitors each year. During the snow festival that is held every year in February, many tourists from all over Japan come to the town to see a fantasy-like scene illuminated by snow lanterns. The snow festival begins with fireworks, and it is full of many fun events including a costume contest and a soba eating competition. More information on Ouchi-juku 2. Narai-juku (Nagano) On the Nakasendo Road, an important road that connected Nihonbashi in Edo to Sanjo-ohashi in Kyoto during the Edo period, there were 69 post towns, and these post towns all together were called the "69 Stations of the Nakasendo". Within the Nakasendo, the section that connected Mino Province (now southern Gifu) and Shinano Provice (now Nagano and a part of Nakatasugawa, Gifu) was called the Kisoji Road. On the Kisoji Road, there were 11 post towns, and the most prosperous of these was the Narai-juku. There are still buildings from the Edo period left, and you can feel like you slipped back in time. In February, there is an event called the "Ice Candle Festival", where homemade ice candles are lined up along the houses for about 1km, and decorating the houses with a dream-like atmosphere. At this festival, you can enjoy beautiful fireworks as well. More information on "Narai-juku" 3. Magome-juku (Gifu) The Magome-juku is a popular tourist spot located in Nakatsugawa, Gifu, along with the Tsumago-juku post town in the neighboring prefecture of Nagano. Out of the 11 post towns on the Kisoji Road, this post town is located at the most southern part. The Magome-juku is a town with an approximately 600 meter long stone pavement with houses, teahouses, and hotels line up along it. At the "Kisoji Ice and Snow Lantern Festival" that is held every year in the winter, the streets of Magome-juku are filled with homemade ice candles, creating a beautiful scene. More information on "Magome-juku" 4. Tsumago-juku (Nagano) The Tsumago-juu located in Nagisomachi, Kisogun, Nagano was the first post town out of all the post towns in Japan to begin working on preserving the historic atmosphere of the old town. It is a popular tourist spot that represents the Kisoji Road together with the nearby Magome-juku in Gifu. There is a parade held every year on November 23rd, Labor Thanksgiving Day, where about over a hundred people dress up as samurai, ronin, express messengers, and monks, in reminiscence of the atmosphere of the post town during the Edo period. The scenery of the people dressed up taking a seat on the wooden floored rooms during lunchtime to have a meal will make you feel like you just stepped foot into a post town of the Edo period. More information on "Tsumago-juku" 5. Wakasa Kumagawa-juku (Fukui) The Kumagawa-juku is a post town in Wakasacho, Mitakaminaka, Fukui, located on the former Saba-kaido Road that connects Wakasa and Kyoto. In the old times, Wakasa was a country that presented the imperial court with food. The road came to be called Saba-kaido because people used to take the road to carry large quantities of Saba (mackerel) that were caught in the Sea of Japan from Wakasa to Kyoto. You can tell that the historic atmosphere of the town has been preserved from looking at the old buildings lined up along the road. In the Kumagawa-juku, there is a facility called the "Kumagawa Bansho" which is a restoration of a place where watchmen who worked as guards stayed in the Edo period, just like the police station of the present time. This "Kumagawa Bansho" is the only guard station in all of Japan's post towns that was restored. More information on "Wakasa Kumagawa-juku" 6. Former Hokkoku-kaido Unno-juku (Nagano) The Unno-juku located in Tomi, Nagano is a post town along the Hokkoku-kaido Road that was an important road where people used to transport gold from the Sado Gold Mine during the Edo period. The town was also a place busy with visitors who came to worship at the Zenkoji Temple. The quiet town with a sense of the lives of people left from the olden times is a perfect place to spend some leisurely time. In the center of a 650 meters long road, a canal that was used for horses to drink from still remains today. The view of the canal running through the center of the road and the willow trees lined up along it creates a beautiful traditional Japanese atmosphere. More information on "Former Hokkoku-kaido Unno-juku" 7.Chizu-shuku (Tottori) The Chizu-shuku located in Chizucho, Yazugun, Tottori, was a post town that was used as a place to rest by the people of the Tottori Domain on their way to Edo. There are many historic areas that remain in the Chizu-shuku that is surrounded by mountains, and it is a perfect place to take a leisurely walk. If you visit Chizu-shuku, you must see the "Ishitani Residence". Denshiro Ishitani, who was a member of the National Diet, took 10 years to build this house. It is the largest building in Chizu-shuku, with an area of 3,000 squre meters and more than 40 rooms. The house is now open to the public, and the beautiful Japanese garden inside it is a must-see. There is also a tearoom where you can enjoy a meal while viewing this garden. Address： 2067-12 Chizu, Chizucho, Yazugun, Tottori Website： http://cms.sanin.jp/p/chizu/kankou/pickup/01/ 8. Former Post Town Hirafuku Hirafuku, which is located in Sayogun, Hyogo, was the most flourished post town on the Inaba-kaido Road that connected Harima Province Himeji (currently Himeji, Hyogo) and Inaba Province Tottori (currently Tottori, Tottori). The street called "Kawabata Scenery" where mud-walled storehouses and river houses are lined up was used as a set for a historical drama. Legend has it that a Japanese swordsman named Musashi Miyamoto spent his childhood in Hirafuku, and had his first duel at the Kanakurabashi Bridge when he was 13. Near the Kawabata Scenery, there is a stone monument with a passage from The Book of Five Rings by Musashi Miyamoto carved into it. Address：Hirafuku, Sayocho, Sayogun, Hyogo Website：http://34cho.com/ These are the 8 highly recommended post towns. There are many more post towns through out Japan than these 8 that I have just introduced. Be sure to visit one of them to experience an atmosphere different than that of everyday life.