Narai marks the halfway point of the Nakasendo Way, the samurai trade route that linked Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). As one of the wealthiest postal towns along the route, it was sometimes referred to as the “town of a thousand houses”.

Narai Map

Today the heart of the town is a 1km long stretch of road lined with beautifully preserved wooden buildings complete with traditional renji-goshi lattice work. Some of these buildings are ryokan inns, while others are former merchant residences now open to the public.

Narai guards the gateway to one of the highest points of the Nakasendo Way, the Torii Pass. The pass makes a great three hour hike with lovely views over the Kiso Valley, and connecting Narai with the postal town of Yabuhara further south.