Archives for posts with tag: Tsumago

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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I’m standing on the old Edo trade route, or Kisoji, on the way to Tsumago. Gill is shrieking at me, her face a mask of horror. This is our second day in Japan, after leaving Sydney, and we are walking the lovely old road from Magome. The weather is beautiful – immediately after the chilly autumn of Australia, we have flown straight into the late spring of Japan, where, here in the mountains, the cherry blossom is heavy on the trees.

I was apprehensive about the Japanese part of the journey – and the autumnal Sydney day had a back-to-school feel. But I had an email from someone called Owen, apparently from Lewes, who’d seen my blog on VivaLewes, and is currently living in Sydney. In fact, coming to King Street in ten minutes! We met in the street, and of course, I know his father. He knows our son. A small world, indeed. He told us about his life in Sydney, learning to be a baker, fruit-picking in Orange, living eco-consciously, and enjoying life. A very impressive young man.

The only drawback about this Kisoji trail seems to be the bears. It’s easy walking, the signs are very explicit, parts of it are even paved. But every kilometre or so through the woods, there’s a brass bell hanging, with a sign that tells you ‘Ring the bell hard Against the bears’ (sic). There are black bears roaming the woods and we really don’t want an encounter. So we ring them really hard and hurry on to the next bell.

So – Gill is yelling my name at me while I’m thinking about the bears, but I’m on a wide paved bit of the path, and I can’t think what the matter is, until I see her pointing at my feet, and I suddenly get the dread realisation that I am, in fact, standing on a five-foot long green snake. And I do a sort of strangled gulping scream of my own and a sort of shuddering, scissor-kick little jump sideways – and the snake slithers off into the ditch. On the Kisoji there are also well-appointed toilets from time to time; and yes, they have heated seats.