Yagyu Kaido: the Sword Master’s Road in Nara
The small village of Yagyu just outside of Nara doesn’t seem like much of anything today, but this village is home to the famous Yagyu clan. The Yagyu clan were some of the most skilled swordsmen in all of Japanese history, namely the samurai Yagyu Jubei. They were also the founders of the prestigious Yagyu Shinkage-ryu school of swordsmanship. Many would-be swordsmen would travel to the remote village of Yagyu in the hopes of studying with these great masters. The road from Nara to Yagyu is today known as the Yagyu Kaido. Stretching all the way from central Nara City, the historic Yagyu Kaido follows the footsteps of some of Japan’s most infamous swordmasters.
About the Yagyu Kaido
The Yagyu Kaido starts from Nara and goes all the way to Yagyu, where many great sword masters, such as Yagyu Jubei and Yagyu Munenori, were born. Also before the invention of trains and cars, the Yagyu Kaido was an important road the people who lived in the eastern part of Nara Prefecture used to get to Nara City.
The Yagyu Kaido consists of two roads: the Takisaka no Michi (Nara to Enjo-ji (12km)), and the Kengo no Michi (Enjo-ji to Yagyu (9km)). It takes roughly 5-6 hours to reach Yagyu from central Nara City. Though this might sound like a pretty long hike, the trail isn’t arduous and makes for a pretty relaxing day hike. Of course, If you do not have enough time to walk the whole trail, you can take a bus from Nara Station to Enjo-ji and walk to Yagyu from there. There are many signposts along the trail, but if you want to have a map with you, you can download one from here (Available in English and French)
Be very careful to plan well before you set out on this trail! Make sure to leave early in the morning as there is no station near Yagyu and the last bus bound for Nara Station leaves Yagyu at 5 PM. If you miss it, you will have to walk 2 hours all the way to Kasagi Station.
Hiking the Yagyu Kaido
Takisaka no Michi [Nara – Enjo-ji]
The trail entrance of the Yagyu Kaido is a bit hard to find, especially because the trail head for the Kasuga Primeval Forest is right next to the it. (These trails also merge later.) Make sure to go right at Asuka Junior High School. The very first part of the Yagyu Kaido runs deep in to a forest, along a stream. It is quite nice to walk in the cool shade of the trees, away from the crowds of Nara City.
When you reach the “Decapitated Jizo” the Yagyu Kaido will merge with the Kasuga Primeval Forest Trail for a little while.
After just about 30 minutes or so, the two trails will split off from each other. You will reach a fork in there trail where the Kasuga Primeval Forest Trail continues on your left, while the Yagyu Kaido goes to your right. Make sure you stay on track!
After a while, we were out of the forest and walking long some rice fields that we felt were somewhat reminiscent of the time we hiked the Yamanobe no Michi. In the fall, many people use this road to walk to and from Enjo-ji Temple to appreciate the fall foliage.
Enjo-ji Temple is quite old— dating back to the 8th century. It is also one of the most famous spots for pretty fall foliage in Nara Prefecture. There were so many people that the bus from Nara was completely packed. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to the temple, but you can take a walk outside the temple and enjoy their beautiful Japanese maple trees.
Kengo no Michi [Enjo-ji – Yagyu]
From Enjo-ji Temple, go down the middle road shown below. The trail after Enjo-ji Temple can be a bit hard to follow, so make sure you have your maps ready.
After a while, we reached a little community called Oyagyu. We’re almost at Yagyu! The trail makes turns here, making it really hard to follow.
After Nanmei-ji, we walked toward the mountain and passed through the Kaeribasa-toge Pass. Unfortunately, the hardest part always comes last. The trail becomes a deal steep here, but once you make it through the mountain, it evens out again.
After passing through the mountain, we arrived in Yagyu. We had expected Yagyu to be a big town, as we thought it to be a popular destination, but it is really is a small village in the middle of the mountains. In Yagyu, there are no hotels or even convenience stores, so it maybe it’s not as popular as we imagined… However, this is indeed the birthplace of the famous Yagyu clan.
Overall, our hike took us a grand total of 6 hours. It was quite a nice hike since there are many interesting sites you can see along the trail, such as historic temples and beautiful flowers. It is especially nice if you wish to enjoy a light hike!!
From Yagyu To Kasagi
In fact, the Yagyu Kaido does not end in Yagyu. It goes to the JR Kasagi Station (off the JR Kasai Line). However, most of the trail is paved, so it is pretty easy to walk down. It is 11km to Kasagi, which should take 2 hours or so.
On the way to Kasagi Station, you will be Kasagi Temple. It was famous not only for a famous fall foliage and sakura place but also for the site where Emperor Go-daigo hid at the end of the Kamakura period. It is quite a unique temple, so if you have time, I really recommend dropping by this temple!!
From Kasagi Temple, it is another 45 minutes to descend Mt. Kasagi. You can walk either a mountain path or the paved path down to JR Kasagi Station.
One thought on “Yagyu Kaido: the Sword Master’s Road in Nara”
Wow! It has been 20 years since I have been up there! I don’t even have any digital photos to remind myself of the trip, so thank you for sharing these.
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