Monday, January 13, 2014

That was lucky

Ancient road number 2: the Nakasendo Highway.  Like the Tokaido Highway from our last post, this was an important road linking Tokyo and Kyoto back in the days when Tokyo was called Edo.  Unlike the Tokaido Highway, the Nakasendo Highway is a fair bit north in the area known as the Japan Alps.  Thus snowy.   The trail was treacherously icy at points.  One clever old man on the trail had wrapped twine around his shoes to increase traction.  We just repeatedly wiped out for 8 kilometers.  But it felt awesome to consider that we were walking the path that feudal Japanese lords would follow to visit the capital from the provinces.

The story of our getting here is yet another testament to how gracious Japanese people can be.  We arrived in the sleepy mountain outpost of Tsumago by bus at 6pm without a place to stay.  The sun had set and no signs were in English.  It was freezing, and there would be no more buses until the next morning.  From the narrow street, every house, restaurant, and potential hotel had the same dormant exterior.  We briefly considered sleeping under an awning somewhere.  Fortunately fate led us past a man walking his shiba inu at night and smelling vaguely of sake.  It took a while with our limited knowledge of each other's languages, but he made some phone calls for us and found a lady willing to lodge us at her Ryokan (old style inn).  Her cedar-wood onsen (hot tub) was incredibly relaxing and her breakfast was delightful: salmon, egg, miso-rice wraps, pickles and sweet beans and, most bizarrely "sticky potatoes."  Imagine raw potato hash embedded in a spittle-like foam.  If you ever come to Tsumago, look her up:  it is called the Daikichi Inn.

Tsumago is about halfway between Nagoya and Matsumoto, the latter being an awesome place to find yourself randomly on the second Sunday in January.  We had no idea when we arrived that it would be the weekend of the Candy Festival.  But the candy was nowhere near as impressive as the teams of people carrying shrines on their shoulders and bouncing around the town.  There was squid on a stick and Taiko drumming and then it all culminated in an epic tug of war contest to commemorate an ancient feud between two local warlords.  It was pretty sweet.  (har har)

1 comment:

  1. Salmon and pickles for breakfast! Mmmm! What an amazing adventure for you both, thank you for sharing it with us! I like the parts about food! nom nom