Heart of the preserved Nakasendo
May 23, 2006
|Tsumago and Magome are really beautiful more than anything else. As preserved traditional villages, they are obviously something of a tourist trap, but unlike the Hida Folk Village outside Takayama (where they moved very old farmhouses and other old buildings together to make a Greenfield Village style area), these towns remain working rural towns (even if their 'hearts' are very tourist-centric).
The walk between the towns - about 8km - is really quite lovely, a walk through the forests and by the waterfalls.
[Hillary writing now...]
We took the train from Kiso Fukushima south to the stop closest to Magome and hiked through along the Nakasendo hiking course to reach the ancient post town. The hike was well labelled and included many old buildings that are not part of the pristine and well preserved town. In a way, this just adds to the authenticity of the Kiso valley area- people still live and work here, hanging their laundry out to dry and tending their rice fields. In Magome and Tsumago all the work seems to center around selling omiyage (souveigners). There are also many inns in both towns that cater to people like us (except Japanese) who want to taste what life was like in the Edo period. Our inn in Magome came from our Ryokans in Japan book and the Matsushiobara did not disappoint. The room(s) we found ourselves in were surrounded by paper soji screens on every side and were connected to the main building by a covered outdoor walkway. Thus, when we sat in our tatami rooms wearing our yukata and sipping green tea, we could look straight out to the neatly tended garden and hear the wildly overfed carp jumping in the pond. Seriously, these carp were about 20lbs each and when you put 20 of them in a pond the size of a small ditch, you will large fish jump every 4 minutes. Anyway, our inn felt totally nostalgic and Aron referred to himself as a samurai a few times- of course were we in Edo times and I was sharing the room, I would have to be a prostitute from the local area. Wives rarely accompanied the samurai on these trips as they would have been left as hostages with the shogun. But, no matter. After our dinner of many many cooked fishes and some stretchy mountain potato thing, we slipped on the geta (those wooden Japanese sandals) and foolishly hobbled around town. This truly is a joyful activity as the town is dead quiet and perfectly lit and all you see or hear are other people pretending to be samurai and hos walking around in geta. Too bad for the gaijin with laughably short yukata and dangerously too small geta. But, we still had a good time.
That night I became best friends with one of the other guests while our husbands watched baseball. She finally corrected my use of the word `go shujin` to refer to Aron as it should be `otto`. Thanks alot Kayo/Yosuke. :) She was very curious about the 3 main things most middle aged Japanese people want to ask foreign travelers about
1) how to we feel going nude in the onsen?
2) how do we like Japanese food?
3) how are we at using the Japanese style toilet?
The next day, Aron and I ate a surprisingly good ryokan breakfast (I think the owner heard my response to question 2 through the paper screen door) and headed out for Tsumago. The paper, as the owner showed us, predicted rain for literally the entire country, but Aron and I are optomistic fools. We did purchase two cheap ass umbrellas for the trek and have our rain jackets. Luckily rain didn`t strike until only a km out of town. Once in town we got soaked but there were lots of buildings to duck inside. We left from Tsumago a little worse for the wear but feeling highly cultured nonetheless.