During the Edo Period, Narai (奈良井) marked the half way point between Kyoto and Edo to travelers along the Nakasendo Route. It was the most wealthy post town of the Kiso Valley, and was sometimes referred to as "Narai of a Thousand Houses". Visitors will understand this nickname when comparing Narai to the other former post towns in the area; the preserved houses stretch on much longer in Narai than elsewhere.
The long walk down Narai's main road is not without interest, though the restored houses are very similar to each other. Among the buildings, two are former residences open to the public, while others house souvenir shops, restaurants and minshuku. Narai's main drawbacks are that the Honjin and Wakihonjin (the main inns of former times) no longer remain, and that vehicular traffic is permitted on the street.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 December to March) Closed: Mondays from December to March (following day if Monday is a national holiday) Admission: 300 yen
This building is a prime example of a typical residence in Narai. It is maintained in the same manner as it was kept during the Edo Period. Artefacts of the original owners are on display.
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 in March and November) Closed: December to February Admission: 300 yen
The spacious former residence of a local wholesaler, this building is maintained as it was in the Edo Period. There is a small garden in the back of the house.
Narai Notice Board
In former times the notice board was the means of pronouncing decrees from the shogunate. This notice board is heavily faded. Decrees and proclamations are written in Japanese.
This bridge crosses the Narai River, which runs parallel to the main street. Extending 30 meters, it is one of the longest wooden bridges in Japan. It was built quite recently, in the 1990s.
Narai is a station along the JR Chuo Line, 25 minutes south of Shiojiri Station and 20 minutes north of Kiso-Fukushima Station by local train. Limited express trains between Nagoya and Nagano do not stop at Narai Station. Instead, change to a local train at Shiojiri or Kiso-Fukushima.
Narai Station is located at the town's northern end. You can explore the entire town on foot from the station. If arriving by car, the most convenient parking lot is located at the town's southern end.