This is the front of our hotel. I snapped this while we were waiting for the shuttle bus and I wondered whether or not the Bellagio in Las Vegas was aware there was another hotel with a frontage as grand as theirs?
Today we were walking the very popular trail between the old towns of Magome and Tsumago – these are two names that just don’t stay in your memory, hence us calling them Mugabe and Tsunami – both unfortunate substitutes for such pretty villages!
The trail between the two picturesque towns follows the Kiso Valley along a section of the old Nakasendo – the route between Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period. Naka (middle or central) Sen (Line) and Do (Road) is the literal meaning in English.
Magome (literal meaning = “horse and Basket”) is where most people tend to start the hike up to Tsumago. The beautiful old cobbled post road, is truly memorable and lined with old ryokan, souvenir shops and cosy restaurants. Of course, many of the establishments have been converted to take advantage of the growing tourism in the area but the look, feel and old structures have been preserved beautifully.
Tsumago (meaning = “Wife and Basket”), is very different from Magome in that it has a more rustic and rugged feel. Tsumago really does give you the feeling of stepping back 100 years with the town left very much as it was.
Although the hike is pretty easy – and we caught the bus for the 2km uphill bit, it is a long walk and at times quite hard on the knees. The walk is just beautiful and offers some of the best scenery with running streams and tall trees and waterfalls.
The shuttle bus dropped us off at the bottom of the hill and we walked up through the town of Magome – the name – Horse & Basket is perhaps the reason for the basket shops (note: there were no horse shops)
This is the road up and the view back down the hill.
There was a disappointing amount of sakura (cherry blossom) on our walk,
(this is what it should have looked like)
but we snapped up the beauty when if presented itself.
We reached the top of the street and waited at the bus stop for the local bus to take us up the the Magometoge – The highest point in the trail.
We alighted form the bus and ran into a couple from our hotel who had just walked “2 clicks straight up”. We asked them if we’d missed anything spectacular – not really minding as we had 5.5kms of beautifulness ahead of us. The lady replied, “Yes, it was fabulous, but it was hard going.” The she looked us up and down and said, “but you probably wouldn’t have made it – not with those shoes on.”
Now I’ll have you know that both Jenny and I had our quality walking sandals on (yes, mine were being worn with socks, which is nobody’s business but my own).
The hike was hardly hard core, but they were wearing matching trousers that zip off into shorts, matching hard core hiking boots, matching puffer jackets and matching backpacks. So Jenny and I spent the first 20 minutes of the journey pretending we were having a conversation with the lady, telling her all about how high quality our sandals were, thank you very much.
This was our starting point – 5.5kms to go…
Some of the terrains our sandals had to get us over…
We passed a few grave sights along the way which would have been a quite peaceful place to be buried.
We were warned to take plenty of water as there were no restaurants or shops along the way and then about 15 minutes into our walk, we are across a place that served tea.
Where the chap took the water from this flow through trough…
Look at us go! 4.7kms to go…
Now, admittedly we didn’t do a HUGE amount of research for this hike, so it was a bit of a surprise to find out with 4.7kms to go that there were bears in them there hills.
These bells are posted all along the walk for walkers to ring to scare away the bears.
We didn’t see any which was only slightly disappointing.
Most of the signs were like this though, so there could have been warnings the whole way and we just didn’t know!
Here we are at 3.9kms to go…
Me Jenny – aka “Jenny Grylls” adapted to her surroundings very quickly and found a stick to act as a walking stick to help her over the rough terrain in case her substandard sandals let her down.
There were restrooms along they way that rivalled some of the public toilets in towns/cities – complete with electricity and running water.
We started to think that the kms on the signs were completely accurate as we’d only walked about 20 metres from the last sign and now we’re at 3.7kms to go….
Some of the path took us onto the road…
for what was way less than 1km, but here we are at the next sign…. with 3.6kms to go!
Lovely rapid flowing water….
and there were funny little villages dotted along the way. These were like spooky ghost towns, where people seemed to live – washing on the line, shoes at the door, etc…. but not a person was to be seen.
Me Jenny catching a small glimpse of the sakura.
such a pretty flower – both the blossom and Me Jenny!
A lot of the buildings were derelict, a little bit like the land that time forgot.
and yet there was wood at the ready…..
That’s 5kms (bar the first 2kms where we caught the bus) down and 2.7km to go……
Me Jenny giving the bear bell a good ring.
In Tokyo, our guide, Yoko took us to the Shinto shrine and told us all about how they have a shrine to all living things – especially the ones we eat – i.e.: the shrine to the shrimp; shrine to the clams; shrine to the rabbits….. and today we saw the shrine to the black cattle who helped pull things up the hill.
I’m glad they got something, because as the sign says, most of the pagodas are for the horses.
Only 2.3kms to go!
Then, very quickly, only 2.2kms to go!
This was another village we came across which seemed to be like a fish farming enterprise…
There were makeshift fish ponds that had been left for nature to take over (there were still fish in there)
And numerous fishing implements lined up.
Looking good – only 1.8kms to go.
These things look like props that had perhaps been placed there go add charm and character to the houses, but I don’t think they were….
This is where you hang you hat and coat…
Now, this whole walk we were lucky if we saw other walkers let alone an actual Japanese person living there…. except this one person! She was busy with her topiary.
Now we’re on the home stretch – 1km to go.
and another little blossom – domo arigato Japan.
so…… the home stretch seems to be getting further away now – um…. 1.2kms to go?
And more sakura to admire along the way.
So we didn’t see any bears, but we did come across this chap. Jenny spotted him first and he appeared to drop his head as it to be hiding from us, but as we passed him, it appeared that he was a little under the weather – still alive, but maybe only just. Don’t know what it was, perhaps a racoon?
And now we’re back on track with 0.8kms!
And we finally made it to the town of Tsumago, which is a long street of old, quaint houses and buildings. It does feel like you have, indeed stepped back in time.
Here is a quality piece of plumbing from the school of “Use what you have”
I’ve loved the cards in Japan. Everything has a snubbed nose and this one has a snubbed bottom as well. My guess is that they are like that through lack of space? Cute though.
We passed one clothes shop in Tsumago and this was it. If anyone would like a pair of these trouser, please let me know asap.
We stopped for a little lunch at this tiny place where you could help yourself to green tea…
and dine on these fabulous little rice balls of happiness.
There was a hearth in the middle of the room where the cafe owner would cook the dumplings. Quite delicious!
Tsumago is geared for tourists and most of the buildings had either souvenirs or snacks. This lady was making a plastic basket out of all that mess of plastic strips.
We stopped at a rest room to use the facilities and came across this couple. I sneakily took this pic as I was exiting the toilet area – where they were cooking up some noodles for their lunch!
Their bikes were outside and by the looks they were riding around the world. There were flags and stickers all over their bikes from the countries they’d been to. What a way to go hey?
I’m not sure what I was really expecting, but a lot of the buildings to me are not what I thought Japanese buildings would look like. These trees however fit the picture I had in my mind.
Our final destination – the Tsumago bus stop where we would catch our shuttle back to our lodgings, where we’d love to have an afternoon lay down, but as they pack the beds away during the day…
We will be forced to have a beer in the lounge – wearing our kimono wraps.
Yeah, we did!
At first there we walked into the lounge area where we were greeted by our worst fear – being the only people dressed up in leisure wear…. but they didn’t bat an eyelid, which gave us the confidence to just get on with it – we’ll be wearing these for our dinner reservation as well….again, domo arigato Japan!