This past weekend I hiked two days' worth of the oldest road in Japan, which is found in the mountain range to the east of Nara basin.
The Yamanobe no Michi （山の辺の道）trail runs roughly from Tenri （天理） to Asuka （飛鳥）, the ancient capital.
It's 16 kilometres of gentle hills and long stretches through persimmon and mikan groves that are still tended by the locals as they have been for generations.
Colourful shrines and sombre burial mounds make welcome stop-0ff points along the way, and provide a source of inspiration and contemplation for pilgrim and tourist alke.
While the route has been developed to make it easier for hikers, it does not have the artificiality of some trails, and you really feel that you are guests on the properties of working farmer families.
Isonokami Shrine （石上神社）near Tenri is a good place to begin. You can avoid the first couple of kilometres of urban concrete in Tenri city by taking a taxi here.
The shrine keeps chickens, though only the strutting cockerels are allowed to wander free, as this fine fellow below was doing.
It may no longer be the Year of the Chicken, but at Isonokami Shrine it still seems to be!
Yamanobe no michi trail to be continued in my next post....
Japan hiking Tenri Nara Japan Blog Shrine
Monday, October 16, 2006