The village of Akechi, in the municipality of Ena in Gifu Prefecture, is a hidden gem, and makes for a pleasant day trip from nearby Nagoya to the south.
Akechi has retained a large number of buildings from the Taisho Era (1911-1925), when the town had a thriving silk production industry.
Now a sleepy backwater reached by the Akechi Railroad from Ena city, Akechi is attempting to re-invent itself through tourism as "Taisho Village". The 50-minute train journey from Ena is spectacular, winding through mountain forests, verdant green paddies and pretty villages. You can even open the windows and lean out to enjoy the cool air.
On arrival Akechi Station and even the adjacent toilet are both done in Taisho Era style and their is plenty of similar architecture to come. The town is a delight to stroll: the narrow footpaths along the Akechi River, the picturesque lane of "Taisho Alley" and the roads leading to the Nihon Taisho Mura (Tel: +81573543944) - a modern museum reconstructing the life of the town in the early twentieth century and its then-thriving sericulture.
Just up from the Nihon Taisho Mura building is Old Miyake House, a thatched, wooden Japanese farmhouse and surrounding garden with a couple of old codgers in attendance telling visitors how ancient the house is. It dates from 1688. I told them I had lived in England and used to drink in pubs that had been refurbished in 1668. They no doubt thought I was a lunatic.
Back in the center of town, don't miss the old wooden post office (now the Museum of Communications) next door to the contemporary post office and the impressive Taisho Mura Museum across the road.
It's possible to walk into the hills on numerous hiking trails and see the ruins of Akechi Castle or walk on the Tokai Nature Path to Iwamura Station and catch the train back to Ena.
The quickest way to reach Ena is by JR Central Liner train from Nagoya Station. Then walk out of the station and turn left. The tiny Akechi Tetsudo Station is next to Ena Tourist Office. The first train from Ena is at 6.48am and the last at 21.44pm on weekdays, 20.54pm at the weekend or on public holidays. The train also stops at the historic castle town of Iwamura.
If you are driving from Nagoya take route 363 from Seto or route 11 from Toyota. Ena city is very near Ena Interchange on the Chuo Expressway, which follows the old Nakasendo post road to Magome and Tsumago at this point.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007