Yesterday I booked a flight to Cambodia for the coming Thursday. Since my time in Japan is coming to an end, it is due time that I get my act together and start writing about it. Originally I had planned only to stay for 1.5 - 2 weeks, but due to the political instabilities in two of the countries I wanted to spend the most time in, I ended up extending my stay to 4 weeks!
I've stayed in 4 cities, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka, over the last couple weeks and will top off my time in Hiroshima.
What has been my favourite part so far?
Despite being a city girl at heart, one of the highlights of my time in Japan has to be the day I walked the Nakasando trail from Magome to Tsumago. The Nakasando was one of the routes used in the Edo period (circa 1603-1868) that connected Kyoto to Tokyo.
I took a train from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa and then connected to a bus to get to Magome, which you can see in the above photo. Since it is located high in the mountain, you get treated to some amazing views of surrounding mountains and valleys.
The 7.7km of the trail is clearly marked along the way in both English and Kanji. Along the way you get treated to amazing views of the forest, waterfalls, small towns, and rice paddies. The photos will more than explain why the trail will be one of the more memorable things from my trip. It felt like being transported back in time. (aside from when the path intersected with the road here and there)
There are also bear warning signs along the path with bells. There are signs for asking you to "RING BELL HARD" to ward off the bears. It seemed bizarre to me, but the one Japanese person that I came across along the trail was even wearing a portable bell on his bag so that you could hear it ring with every single step. Either way winnie-the-pooh did not make an appearance during the 2.5 hours I walked through the forest.
About midway between the two towns, there is a rest stop. The day I walked by, Mr. Suzuki, who drives a Suzuki, was working there. If you didn't voluntary stop, he would run out chasing you down to invite you in for tea. Myself and a group of Portugese travellers were all pulled in within minutes of each other. So we all sat around chatting over some green tea and a small cup of umeshu, plum wine. Mr. Suzuki even sang a Japanese song to entertain us. Alas, none of us were brave enough to sing a native song back for him. Gomenasai Suzuki-san!
I reached Tsumago faster than expected even with multiple stops along the way to capture photos. It is a very quiet town, most things start closing by 4pm. It didn't have bus loads of tourists like Magome, so even though it didn't have the same mountain vistas, I enjoyed it's quiet charm more.
Rather than wait for the bus, I continued on the trail another 3.5km to the nearest train station in Nagisco to catch 2 trains back to Nagoya. If I'm ever return to the Kiso Valley area again, I would want to tackle another stretch of the Nakasando.
Everything about the day was so perfect. The weather was amazing and the sights were all so stunning. Walking through the woods, I thought about what I normally would be doing on a typical Wednesday afternoon. That was when I knew taking this trip will always be one of the best decisions I'll make in my lifetime.
This was also the first time I took JR (Japan Railway) trains and a bus in Japan. Thankfully my tolerance for heading out in the morning alone without knowing exactly how I'm going to get somewhere has gotten much higher. I'm going to need as much of it as possible once I'm in Cambodia!
Do you enjoy cities or the outdoors more on your travels? I'd love to know!