We passed a concrete bridge over a slow flowing river. As we entered Tsumago, in Nagano Prefecture, we were greeted with wide asphalt roads with a few vehicles on it. No vehicles were allowed during the daytime. There were hardly any “tourists”. Perhaps it was a Monday. We made our way into town and eventually located the Tourist Office. We collected our bags and I handed over the bell that I had obtained at Magome. Now where is our accommodation?
In Tsumago, we decided to stay at Fujioto, a ryokan or a typical Japanese inn, the most upmarket of all our accommodations in Japan. We planned to try out the various types of lodging on offer – hostels, “minshuku”, hotels and a “ryokan”. The locals are always helpful and directed us to the right place. Tsumago, in comparison to Magome, had a more authentic village atmosphere and experience. The main street, led us towards two rows of rustic dark wood double storey houses with sliding doors, wooden rain gutters and narrow balconies on the second floor. Indigo and white “noren”, cloth hung at the entrance of shops advertised their wares. Potted plants and a big sculptured broadleaf tree highlighted the deep dark brown of the wood. Further beyond, a dense mountain rose above the village.
Our ryokan was set in a lovely manicured garden with a koi pond several meters off the road. A stone pathway led us down to the entrance. We were greeted by the rather excited staff. This is our only planned ryokan experience. This conscious decision was the cost!
In our spacious room with a great view of the garden and mountains, we relaxed and sipped green tea. Later, we walked up the street and enjoyed the slow walk past inns, restaurants and gift shops. Through a back street alley, we emerged in a bright golden rice field. We soon discovered that something was lurking underneath. People smiled as we passed on the street. On a hill, we visited a temple. The vistas of the village below were attractive. Smells of hot buns wafted through the humid afternoon air. An elderly man was baking bread buns in a traditional fireplace with an assortment of filling, mostly sweet. It was light and tasty. There is certainly a homely feel to this place.