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FIVE THOUSAND MILES One Prew's adventures in Japan. April, 2014.

Day 11: Magome & Tsumago

I needn't have got up quite as early as I did – 7am-ish. I packed up my things, including loading my rucksack with a few extra things as I'd be forwarding my suitcase ahead without me to Kyoto. I had my breakfast at the hotel – a basic breakfast of toast with butter and jam, fried eggs (and it should have had sausage but I asked for it without) plus yogurt. I consumed plenty of coffee and some melon from the salad bar too. But salad is not something I wanted to eat much of at 8am.

I checked out soon after and left my suitcase with the hotel staff, as I was to be doing a three hour walk from Magome to Tsumago and a suitcase really wouldn't be helpful! Having successfully had my suitcase delivered for me to Takayama previously, I was less worried about it getting lost. I headed over to the station, very aware that it was probably about to rain. In fact the weather forecast had said heavy rain for Nagano – just how far away that is from where I'd be, I didn't know. I booked myself a seat on the 9.52 to Nagoya using my Japan Rail pass for the first time and waited for the train.

The train only took just over an hour and I got off at Nakatsugawa where I hopped straight onto a bus to Magome. The train journey was through rain and mist – both of which actually made for nice views, especially when safely inside. And it didn't seem to be raining when I got off the train and swapped to the bus.

However when I got to Magome and wandered up the hill to the tourist information place, to pick up a map, it had started to rain quite a lot. It wasn't walking in the rain that I was worried about, more that my camera would be damaged if I tried to take too many photos!

After getting my map of the walking route from Magome to Tsumago, I looked for somewhere to buy an umbrella as I needed it to at least shelter my camera, if not my own head. Note the relatively neat and straight hair, below. It didn't last.

Nobody mentioned bears.

Magome seemed fairly busy with tourists, particularly those from tour groups, but when I left the centre of the village and began my walk to Tsumago, it seemed I was doing it alone. The walk was about 8km long, which I only realised afterwards is 5 miles – I can't work in kilometres! And it followed part of the Nakasendo Way, the old samurai road that went from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo).

Well worded sign here.

I was previously informed that it would be with some gentle inclines, but I struggled for the first bit with my heavy bag on my back. It didn't help that the rain was making me irritable either. But after the two kilometres or so the roads got less steep and tended to go down more often than up. Some parts were a bit slippery which wasn't great but the scenery around was quite pretty dispute the rain – with plenty of trees.

There were several bells along the route that you were to ring a few times to ward off any nearby bears! It was only later at my minshuku when the lady who runs it, a grandmother, said she had never seen a bear that I realised I needn't have bothered. Still it was a little nerve-wreaking knowing you're out walking on your own for three hours and there could be bears around!

I tried to befriend this cat but it wasn't interested.

Ice certainly wasn't an issue, just slippery damp leaves on the uneven ground.

I never did find out why these trees had tape wrapped around them.

Note how my hair was well and truly not straight and neat anymore!

I enjoyed the many trees on route and mini waterfalls that ran with the stream.

When I got closer to Tsumago there were some great views of mountain mist and some cherry blossom trees in the foreground.

I saw very few people on my walk, most going the other way but one (I think) Australian couple asked me if I knew where the Odaki-Medaki waterfalls were. I didn't, and I wasn't going looking for them myself. They caught up with me later when I was admiring the view and the man took my photo with the trees and misty mountains backdrop.

Crazy word spacing, or sentence spacing even, going on on this sign.

Sleepy looking doggy. I think I woke him or her up.

Not long after that I found myself in Tsumago.

Random little Australian koala.

After a little bit more wandering around, I attempted to find my minshuku. If it hadn't have been for the photo that Inside Japan Tours provided in my info pack then I'd have stood no chance. The map wasn't very helpful! I had to match the trees and lanterns to the exact building in the picture in order to find the right one. Inside the door I noticed a Trip Advisor logo too, so assumed I must have been in the right place.

The minshuku seemed bigger than the one I stayed in in Shirakawago, it had two floors for one thing! But the rooms weren't quite so traditional. Whilst they had tatami mat flooring, the door was an actual lockable door rather than a sliding screen and the walls were, well, walls.

But nonetheless it was great. Dinner was served at 6pm and I met some more Australians, two different groups of them, and they were friendly. It was nice to speak in English anyway! Although our host was quite good with her English. She told the Australians that she had visited Australia herself several years ago.

Dinner was similar to my previous Japanese meals but with the addition of grasshoppers. Now bearing in mind, they knew I didn't eat meat and hadn't given me any horse, I thought it would be rude not to at least try one. They must have assumed grasshoppers were an exception or something and to be fair, I only don’t eat ‘meat’ because I don’t like it. So after 13+ years of not eating anything but fish (and that being only the last two years), I ate two grasshoppers and, actually, they were alright. Whatever they were flavoured with made it okay. Other than grasshoppers there were soba noodles, tempura veggies, salmon sashimi (raw), a whole small rainbow trout (she wanted us to eat the head, but I didn't), pickles, purple rice and mushrooms. I ate most of it, leaving just a few things because I was stuffed.

I sat a little while telling two of my fellow travellers about my trip. They all seemed to be keen walkers, so I felt a little ashamed for being tired out by my short 5 miles walk in comparison to theirs. But the two who I spoke to seem interested in how I was travelling alone and so far from home. In fact anyone that questioned how I was doing it alone seems impressed. I was impressing and surprising myself everyday. After dinner, I considered going outside but it looked very dark – no streetlights – and shortly after that it began to rain. Instead I rested my weary legs and set my alarm for 6.30am!

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