Yamato no kodo (the ancient paths in Yamato Province) (大和の古道)

Yamato no kodo stands for the ancient paths in Japan that were constructed in Yamato Province and it includes the following:
Some of the roads are located in the eastern area of the Nara Basin, and run north and south, threading along flat lands among mountains.
Yamanobe-no-michi Road

Yamanobe-no-michi Road are three parallel roads running in a north-south direction in the eastern areas of the Nara Basin. They are called the Kami-kaido (Kamitsu Michi), Nakatsu Michi and the Naka-kaido (Shimotsu Michi). They are also known as the three ancient paths of Yamato.

Others include two parallel roads running in an east-west direction in the middle and the southern parts of the Nara Basin. They are called Yokooji (Nara Prefecture) and Kita no Yoko-oji.

There is another road running obliquely in the direction of north-northwest to south-southeast. It is called the Sujikaimichi Road.

Summary of Kamitsu Michi, Nakatsu Michi and Shimotsu Michi

The three roads stretch straight in a north-south direction in equal intervals of about 2,120m, and run parallel to each other in the order of Kamitsu Michi, Nakatsu Michi and Shimotsu Michi from east to west. There are many traces remaining until today.

The date of construction is estimated to be in the mid 7th century, considering the description in the "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan) at the part of June 653 in the era of the Emperor Kotoku, saying that they constructed big roads in several places.

The three roads appear in the articles of the "Nihon Shoki" about battles at Jinshin War in the Nara Basin, which means the roads had already been constructed before the era of the Emperor Tenmu.

The purpose of constructing these roads is unclear. In the 7th century, there was a rush of construction of palaces, temples and residences of the nobles on the hills of Asuka Basin and its surrounding areas.
Especially in the era governed by Saimei, a huge stone-made facility was constructed, made up of large stone buildings and mountains.
These roads may have been laid with the purpose of carrying materials for this construction. Others suppose that these roads were constructed for military purposes, since the roads played important roles in battles including Jinshin War.

Kamitsu Michi

Kamitsu Michi is an ancient road that starts from Sakurai City, goes up north along mountains at the eastern edge of the Nara Basin, runs through Tenri City and reaches the Sarusawa-ike Pond in the middle of Nara City. There is a supposition that this road connected Nishiyama Tumulus of the Mononobe clan and Hashihaka Tumulus in the south during the Kofun period (tumulus period). In recent times, the road was called the Kami-kaido. Now it is called under the names of Ise-kaido Road and Hase-kaido Road.

At the southern end, the road crosses with Yokooji (Nara Prefecture) and connects to Yamada-michi Road that leads to Asuka. The road crosses with Kita no Yoko-oji at Ichinomoto (Tenri City).

Nakatsu Michi

Nakatsu Michi runs parallel to and between Kamitsu Michi and Shimotsu Michi with intervals of about 2.1km each.
The southern end formed the Higashikyogoku (eastern end) of Fujiwara-kyo, and the northern end formed the Higashikyogoku of Heijo-kyo later. This is a straight road stretching from the north foot of Amanokaguyama hill to Kitanosho-cho, Nara City. Since the southern part goes around the Kaguyama hill and leads to Tachibana—dera Temple, the road was called Tachibana-kaido in recent times. Nakatsu Michi also penetrates the center of Asuka. If extended southward, this road leads to 'Mt. Miha,' which is described in a poem in the "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves; 13-3230).
The 'Mt. Miwa' can be considered as 'Kannabiyama' (the mountain where gods live), and a guide for Yoshino known as 'Kamioka.'
Going further southbound, the road reaches Yoshino via Imo Pass. It is said that the Emperor Tenmu, after escaping from the Omi Court, went to Shimanomiya (detached palace) in Yoshino via Nakatsu Michi.

During the Heian period, the road bustled with pilgrims for Yoshino. According to Mido Kanpakuki (The Diary of FUJIWARA no Michinaga), FUJIWARA no Michinaga also passed this road to visit Yoshino. The traces of this road are unclear and interrupted, compared to those of other roads.

Shimotsu Michi

Shimotsu Michi starts from Fujiwara-kyo (present-day Kashihara City), goes through the middle Nara Basin northbound and becomes Suzaku-oji Street in Heijo-kyo (present-day Nara City). The width is 22.7m, as measured between the centers of gutters at each side of the road. The road goes south, brushing the western end of the moat around the Mise Maruyama Tumulus stretching from Ogaru-cho and Gojono-cho, Kashihara City.

Most of the part from Kashihara City to Tenri City corresponds to or runs parallel to the present-day Route 24. In recent times, the road was called the Naka-kaido.

Yokooji

There are two Yokooji; one is the road in an east-west direction starting from the southern area of Mt. Miwa in present-day Sakurai City to Mt. Nijo in Katsuragi City (Nara Prefecture and Osaka Prefecture) and the other is the road in an east-west direction starting from around Horyu-ji Temple in Ikaruga Town to Ichinomoto in Tenri City. As a general rule, Yokooji refers to the former one, and the latter is called Kita no Yoko-oji.

Sujikaimichi Road

It is an almost straight kando (a road that is improved, managed and maintained by the Japanese nation) connecting the area around Horyu-ji Temple (Ikaruga Town) and Asuka (Asuka-mura). The road was called Sujikaimichi Road (diagonal road) because it was oblique in the north-northwest to the south-southeast direction by about 20 degrees from the north-south line. The road was also called Shakodo Road. Another name of this road is 'Taishimichi,' as Prince Shotoku is supposed to have passed this road.

Yamanobe-no-michi Road

Yamanobe-no-michi Road threads the skirts of the mountains located in the east end of the Nara Basin, starting from the foot of Mt. Miwa at the southeast of the Basin to the foot of Mt. Kasuga standing by Mt. Wakakusa in the northeast. The route of Yamanobe-no-michi Road has been slightly changing according to the traffic conditions of each era.
The name of Yamanobe-no-michi Road is supposed to come from the descriptions in the "Kojiki" (Records of Ancient Matters) at the part of the Emperor Sujin saying that the tumulus was at the Magari hill in Yamanobe-no-michi and the part of Keiko saying that 'the tumulus was located along Yamanobe-no-michi.'

It is also supposed that Yamanobe-no-michi Road connected the Furu Site and the Makimuku Site in late Yayoi period.

Starting point

In present, the starting point of this road is Tsubaichi (also known as Tsubakinoichi).

In ancient times, the place was called Yaso no chimata (the ancient crossroad of Tsubaichi), and was located around the area of Odono, Sakurai City.

In 926 in the middle of the Heian period, the designated starting point was the area around Tsubakiichi kannon hall.

Tsubaichi (or Tsubakiichi) market place

The place prospered as there were periodic markets at this place when the governmental center was mainly in the southeast area of the Nara Basin. It was also an important place of amphibious traffic, since water transportation from the Hase-gawa River to the Yamato-gawa River and river ports had already been established. The place corresponds to present-day Kanaya in Sakurai City at the south of Mt. Miwa.

In the article of August 608, there is a description saying that they welcomed the envoys from overseas at the crossroad of Tsubaichi. From this, we can suppose that the envoys from the Sui Dynasty took the route via Hase-gawa River by boat, got off at Tsubaichi, got a welcome there and went to Oharida Palace in Asuka. There is a stone-made guidepost along the road saying that it was the ancient road of Tsubaichi kannon, and at a short distance is located the Tsubaichi kannon hall.

Route

Leaving the town of Kanaya, one can go northward along the foot of Mt. Miwa to reach the Omiwa-jinja Shrine, where Omononushi the god of Mt. Miwa is enshrined. The Mt. Miwa worship may date back to Jomon period or Yayoi period.

In Kofun period, huge tumuli with the length of over 200m were constructed at the foot of mountains. The "Kojiki" says that the Andonyama Tumulus (242m) of the Emperor Sujin was located at the Magari hill in Yamanobe-no-michi and the Shibutani Mukoyama Tumulus (310m) of the Emperor Keiko was located along Yamanobe-no-michi. The first Yamato regime is supposed to have started at this place.

Since the "Kojiki" says that tumuli of two emperors are located at the hill of 'Yamanobe-no-michi,' it is supposed that the road had been constructed before early 8th century, or at the end of 7th century in the era of Fujiwara-kyo.

Now the winding road at the foot of mountains is a silent place, but it has long been a popular road dating back to Jomon and Yayoi periods. The periods of Asuka and Fujiwara saw the prosperity of the Tsubaichi market place.

Sights and landmarks along the road

Isonokami-jingu Shrine
Historic site of Uchiyamaeikyu-ji Temple
Oyamato-jinja Shrine
Nishiyamazuka Tumulus
Chogaku-ji Temple
The speculated Mausoleum of Emperor Sujin
Kurozuka Tumulus
Kushiyama Tumulus
Yamato Tenjinyama Tumulus
Shibutani Mukoyama Tumulus
Hashihaka
Hibara-jinja Shrine
Yatogi-jinja Shrine
Mt. Miwa
Omiwa-jinja Shrine
Takenouchi Kango Shuraku (circular moat)
Kayo Kango Shuraku

Facilities along the road

Tenri Municipal Kurozuka Tumulus Museum
Tenri City Trail Center (Trail Aogaki)