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Akasawashuku, once a stopover village on the pilgrimage route from Mount Minobu over to Mount Shichimen, consists of a cluster of diligently preserved traditional buildings that make a wander through its steep, winding lanes feel like a trip back in time.

Having accommodated pilgrims since the middle ages, Akasawashuku began to flourish in the early Edo period (1603-1868), when a ban on women visiting Mt. Shichimen was lifted. The policy was changed after Oman no Kata, concubine to shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, began praying at the sacred mountain. Many more pilgrims began to pass through the village, and even more came after the pre-World War II completion of the Minobu Line railway. By the 1950s and ’60s, however, the number of visitors declined dramatically due to new roads.

It might seem curious that this not-so-easily-accessed enclave, at an elevation of 500 to 600 meters, became a bustling way station for travelers. A stroll around, though, soon reveals how pilgrims were rewarded with inspirational views out over the surrounding mountains.

Of the historic buildings that once made up a bustling village, some continue to accommodate overnight guests as ryokan guest houses: the almost two-centuries-old Osakaya is among these. Others have been repurposed while preserving their original architecture, such as the Shimizuya cafe located inside a former kominka residence.

The compact, two-story Akasawa Shiryokan museum (open 24 hours; please let yourself in) offers an intimate, time capsule-style look at how lifestyles in the village evolved over the centuries, with exhibits ranging from a bamboo palanquin to an early record player.


Venue Address

409-2733 Akasawa, Hayakawa-cho, Minamikoma-gun

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