Tsumago is a Protected Area for the Preservation of Traditional Buildings, and modern intrusions into its traditional appearance are not allowed – telephone wires, aerials etc. Though as we walk in, we pass a reasonably hideous intrusion into the village’s beauty – a small hydro-electric power station – so we suspend judgement until we’re into the (almost) car-free street – and it is beautiful. Low wooden houses, a rich dark-red, slatted fronts and overhanging eaves, and everywhere the sound of rushing water in the gutters covered by stone slabs. 

Down the street we come to the sculpted tree that you see in nearly all the views of Tsumago: heavily pollarded, with a large knot at the fork like an eye, looking alarmed at the passer-by. In our guest-house we have a traditional tatami-mat room, two cushions to sit on, the customary big thermos and teapot, and a very warlike mini-samurai display: a mini-suit of armour, quiver of arrows, and a small katana, all beautifully-mounted. If you like that kind of thing.

But the evening meal we are presented with by our hostess is staggering: raw slices of salmon, pickled lotus root, pickled fern, spinach, sesame paste, shredded daicon (a turnip variety), a small whole trout marinaded in soya sauce, tempura vegetables, an exquisite clear soup with mushrooms – there are 12 dishes with 23 parts – each. And – glistening in a small white bowl – a few grasshoppers, their thin serrated legs tucked into their bodies. I’m very nervous about this dish, until I taste them. They’re absolutely delicious, sweet and nutty.

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