Hein (fub) wrote,

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Tsumago, classic style!

As obasan of Hippari Dako in Nikko had said: "Tsumago, classic style"! Tsumago is a post town on the route between Kyoto and Tokyo, which has been restored to it's former glory. The cool thing about Japan is, that the 'classic style' dates from just before 1850 (when the Meiji Restoration made an end to the Tokugawa Shogunate). As a result, there is a lot of written history, photographs and semi-living memory. People still remember what their grandmothers used to tell them about their grandmother. As such, the traditions and style of that "classic" period is still vivid, instead of, in the case of the Netherlands, shrouded in the mists of time. (And it is not entirely clear to me the Netherlands had something that could be classified as 'style' in the period that is taken to be the classic period...)

One of the giant butterfly, finally captured on camera!

One of the giant butterfly, finally captured on camera!

We took the ancient route (now clearly marked as a hiking trail) to Tsumago, through really nice scenery. Tsumago itself consists of a row of houses in the classic style, all wooden, often in use as souvenir shop.

The main street of Tsumago

The main street of Tsumago

Some of the houses were empty so that the visitors could see what a house was like at that time.

The restored roof of one of the open buildings

The restored roof of one of the open buildings

Most of the visitors were Japanese - I don't think I've seen any other gaijin. Tsumago isn't even in the Lonely Planet guide for Japan, go figure! We spent quite a lot of time wandering the main street. There was a quiet and laid-back atmosphere in the town, one we liked very much. Of course, we acquired some lewt and ate a chestnut flavoured icecream. We had lunch at a small stall near the bus station (yaki-onigiri and another icecream) and walked back to the ryokan.
We continued on on the hiking trail, and I'm glad we did. We walked at a leisurely pace, which was good: we are both not very experienced walkers, so we had to take it easy. Because we needed to get back to the ryokan in time for dinner too!
The scenery was breath-taking (as was the heat). We walked past small rice paddies in the middle of the forest, really small villages (also with wooden houses!) and lots of small brooks and waterfalls.

Forest along the hiking trail

Forest along the hiking trail

When we got back to the ryokan we were completely drenched with sweat and badly sunburned... After a bath and some rest we went to dinner. Apparently your dinner 'progresses' through several sets, each night you spend at the ryokan, or so it seemed. The other guests (who were there for the first night) got the same we had the previous night, while we got something else. It was (as always) delicious. I don't like the taste of fish, so I had some apprehension about the food (fish being a staple of the Japanese diet). But so far, I didn't really mind the fish served to us: roasted with soy sauce, or raw salmon with wasabi.
We got an extra treat: the wife of the couple who owned the place had made a delicacy of her home town: 'rice popsicles' as we called them. The rice was made into a popsicle-sized ball around a stick. Then it had been marinated with soy sauce, crushed walnuts and sesame seeds. This had turned into a thick, sweet coating onto the rice, which gave it a delicious taste. We were also served a salad of the leafs of ochra flowers, but that wasn't very special or extra tasty.
When I went to the kitchen to get hot water for tea, the proprietors asked me whether we wanted bread and coffee for breakfast the next day. Apparently the whiny Dutch had complained about the food or something (overheard: "I don't know what it is, but I'm not going to eat it!"). If you have the choice of simple bread and coffee (or, in my case, tea) or a meal that someone has cooked with care for you, which do you choose? Right, the meal. So I answered that, when in Japan, I would like to have a delicious Japanese breakfast each morning -- I think I scored major points with that... ;)
We also made arrangements for when breakfast should be served. The proprietor checked the train times and informed us we should take a taxi to the train station, because the busses wouldn't go at that early time. He directly called a cab for us and made the necessary arrangements -- that's service!
We packed and went to sleep early, exhausted from the trek all over Tsumago.

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