Walking the Kisoji – Returning to Ōkuwa

A tiny barbers shop in Okuwa on the Kisoji.

I revisited the small village of Ōkuwa on the Kisoji/Nakasendo at the weekend after last walking in the area in 2020. This time, instead of sticking to a defined route, I decided to pick a small section and wander, giving myself the freedom to explore.

The reason for my return (and potential future visits) was Masaharu Sawada (沢田正春), a photographer who spent years on the Kisoji. I mentioned him in a previous post, and his books and photographs have inspired me to take my time and look around with more purpose.

I wanted to walk where he had walked, to see what, if anything, remained from all those years ago.

However, the more I walked, the more I felt a sense of melancholy, even sadness. Ōkuwa, like other areas in rural Japan, seems to be slowly fading away.

I saw only a handful of people all day and most (all?) the shops were closed.

Despite this I enjoyed the stillness and the solitude, especially the peacefulness while resting at the tiny Heiwa Park (Peace Park) up on the hill. I was even expecting a bear to jump out on me at any moment it was that quiet.

There was history in the abandoned sheds, the weathered facades, and the occasional broken window. They were all a testament to the passing of time, and the stillness of the village was a welcome respite from modern life on the Pacific coast, as long as you managed to get away from the constant roar of National Route 19.

I just wished there had been more people out and about to talk to.

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