Narai-Juku, a time machine in Nagano prefecture

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At almost the halfway point between Tokyo and Kyoto, you will find a small typical town, considered national treasure of Japan, where you will feel like going back in the 19th century through a time machine. Why ? Because this place has an incredibly well preserved architecture, dating from the Edo period.[caption id="attachment_3393" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Credit: Wikimedi Commons Credit: Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Also called "the town of a thousand buildings", it is better known as Narai-juku. There are not exactly a thousand of houses there but the nickname makes more reference to the illusion given by the wonderfully well-aligned wooden houses on an area with a length (from north to south) of nearly 1 km.[caption id="attachment_3394" align="alignright" width="300"]Credit: www.flickr.com Credit: www.flickr.com[/caption]Narai-Juku is located in Nagano Prefecture (famous for having hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics), more precisely in the present-day city of Shiojiri in the Kiso Valley, Chubu region (area of central Japan). Historically, Narai was among the most prosperous post towns of its age on Nakasendo highway (one of the 5 trade routes ruled by the Edo Shogunate).Divided into three sections - Kanmachi (uptown), Nakamachi (midtown) and Shimomachi (downtown) - this authentic little town has several attractions including the Narakawa Museum of History and Folklore, the Nakamura Residence, many beautiful shrines or temples (like the Chozenji Temple) and also a large number of souvenir shops selling sake, handcrafted products made of wood, dried fruits or tasty rice cakes (mochis).[caption id="attachment_3668" align="alignleft" width="293"] Credit: www.flickr.com[/caption]The museum has several exhibitions rooms, surrounding a lovely garden, where you will enjoy the view while learning about the customs of  the people of the Kiso Valley. The residence is a preserved house from the Edo Period, originally owned by a wealthy merchant named Rihei Nakamura.Another Narai's attraction is the Kiso Ohashi, a modern bridge made of 300 year old cypress wood (among the longest wooden bridges in Japan), shaped according to a traditional design and stretching 30m over the Narai River.[caption id="attachment_3641" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Credit: Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Enjoy the journey !

Narai-Juku

Address:Narai, Shiojiri City, 399 6303Access:- By car:From Shiojiri IC: via Route 19 / 35 minFrom Ina IC: via Route 361 / 35 min- From train station:From Narai Station (JR Chuo Line): It is just adjacent to the stationFrom JR Shiojiri Station: Get in the "Step-Kun" Bus (Narakawa Line) to the Naraieki stop (61 min) or to the Gonbeibashi stop (65 min)Hours & Fees:Nakamura Residence (admission 300 yen)Narakawa Museum of History and Folklore (admission 300 yen for adults) - open from 9am to 5pmRecommended season:Kisho Ohashi's bridge is illuminated at night from April to NovemberContact:Shiojiri City Tourist Association - Tel : +81 (0)263-54-2001 / Fax : +81 (0)263-52-1548

Sources:(1) http://www.kamikochi.org/tourism/kiso-valley/narai.html(2) http://www.unique-nagano.com/detail.php?id=21