After an earlier, happy visit to Akechi and its preserved "Taisho Mura" on the train from Ena, I really wanted to return to that picturesque part of Gifu Prefecture at the earliest opportunity.
Iwamura, five stops from Ena on the historic 19th century Akechi Railway, looked the next most interesting place to explore further.
Iwamura is an old castle town on the northern, mountain trade route from Kyoto to Tokyo, known as the Nakasendo 中仙道. In Gifu the Nakasendo highway passes through Ena, Iwamura, Mitake and on to Magome and Tsumago.
Iwamura is spread out east to west in front of you as you leave the station, with the impressive stone walls of the ruined Iwamura Castle a steep, forty-minute walk up through the quiet streets to the hill above.
Nearest to the station are reminders of Iwamura's old merchant quarter, which prospered in the Edo Period (1603-1868). As you continue uphill some of the buildings are original early 20th century Meiji Period shophouses -- a pharmacy, a sake brewery, a noodle restaurant, a rice shop -- which retain their original, wooden advertising hoardings from a time when the town grew rich again, following the opening of the Akechi Railway link to Ena and Nagoya and the beginnings of a silk industry and exports to the West.
Before the hike or drive up to the ruins of Iwamura Castle visit the air-conditioned History Museum, with its reconstructed Edo Period watchtower and views over the village. The museum has relocated some of its exhibits to the town below including a wooden, Meiji Period notice board (高札 kosatsu).
Iwamura lacks the crowds of the more popular Magome and Tsumago but is an interesting step back in time and an easy day-trip by train or car from Nagoya to the south west.
The quickest way to reach Ena city 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 to Akechi and Iwamura is at 6.48am and the last at 21.44pm on weekdays, 20.54pm at the weekend or on public holidays.
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.
Iwamura Tourist office (above) is housed in a Meiji-era building on your left as you walk along the main street.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007