Friday, April 23, 2010
The Yamanobenomichi (the road along the base of the mountains) has the distinction of being the oldest road mentioned in Japanese historical records, the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, as well as being mentioned in many poems in the Manyoshu. What is left of it runs from approximately Tenri to Sakurai in Nara Prefecture.
Sections of the route are footpaths, and sections are on quiet village roads. There is no real up and downs and so it can be walked pleasantly in a day.
There are masses of historical sites along the way. Many of the shrines I've already posted about here, including the major shrines of Isonokami and Omiwa, as well as lots of interesting smaller shrines including the Sumo Shrine where legend has it the first human sumo match took place.
A lot of the temples in the area were razed in the early Meiji Period, but there are several along the way including Chogaku-Ji.
There are also many burial mounds including some large ones like the Hashihaka Kofun. In the Meiji period the government went around and ascribed Imperial ancestors to all these tombs and built torii on them as part of the new State Shinto, but historians generally have differing histories to them. Many now believe that Hashihaka is Himikos Tomb.
You would probably want to bring your own lunch/picnic as there are not a lot of facilities along the way,... some vending machines and maybe farmers stalls selling fruit. The small settlements are very quiet and rustic, in fact the whole route is a very pleasant, quiet, relaxing break from the buzz and hubbub of nearby Nara and Kyoto.
Not actually on the route, but at one of the places you would leave the route to head back to the station in sakurai is the biggest torii in Japan. Built in 1986 to commemorate a visit by the Emperor, the black steel torii rises 32.2 metres, eclipsing the previous biggest torii at Yasakuni.