Wednesday, June 6th
We woke up at Hotel New Station and took at traditional Japanese bath. To do this, you go to the 7th floor and go in the appropriate sliding door based on your gender. The women’s section locked so no men could get in. They didn’t worry about women getting in on the men’s side. There was an outer room where you can store your yukata (cotton robe) and keys in a basket. You then take your towel and washcloth and go into the next room. They have small stools in front of shower wands and mirrors. You wash and rinse yourself off, then you can go soak in the giant heated communal baths. When you are done, you dry off and go back to the first room where there are hair dryers and lotion for you to use. It was actually very relaxing and we went so early that not many people were there.
After the baths, Chris and I changed into normal wear and went to breakfast. They served us a bowl of rice with egg, lots of veggies prepared different ways, some bread, orange juice, milk (which I think was actually heavy whipping cream), grilled fish, and a bowl of soup.
After breakfast we boarded the train to Magome. This time we made sure we had both our seat and our fare tickets. After the train, we boarded a bus which let us off in the middle of nowhere, Magome. We stood there for a while trying to figure out where to go, when an elderly man came to help us. He only spoke Japanese, so we had to try to tell him that we were going to hike the Magome-Tsumago trail, called the Nakasendo Trail, but we needed to forward our luggage to Tsumago first. This was complicated, but he eventually figured out what we wanted and he began leading us up a hill. He kept a very fast pace and the hill, it turns out, was really a mountain. We had to jog to keep up with him as we went up the steep slope. Chris and I were out of breath at the top, but the older man was just fine. This is why Japanese people live longer than Americans. Once we got to the tourist center, though, we were able to forward our luggage on time before 11AM.
After this, Chris and I walked around Magome until noon and then we started the trail (7.9km or 5 miles of mountain trails). The first part of the journey begins after the mile road of Magome, which is all uphill. You begin the journey by going up the mountain, then halfway through the trail you go down the mountain to Tsumago. As we hiked, we passed several groups of middle/high school students on the path. Whenever you passed a group like this and said Konnichi wa, they would all respond the same in unison. We found a rest station a kilometer up that had toilets and sinks and we stopped for a bit. There were a few of the groups of students here and one group of girls came up to us. They were very cute and asked us where we lived in English. We told them America and they responded, “Obama!” Their teacher came up a few minutes later and she was an English teacher and spoke fluent English. We talked for a bit and the girls wanted to take pictures with us, so we did.
We continued on our journey after this. About 2.5 km from Tsumago we saw this old, traditional-style house on the path. There was an older man with a straw hat standing by the door. He was the host of a tea house. In ancient Japan, there would be tea houses on the side of the road to refresh weary travelers with tea and little snacks. This man had green tea and tiny green plums. All we had to do was sign his guest book. We also left a donation in a bamboo jar.
After this, we finished our walk to Tsumago. We got our bags from the tourist station and headed to our ryokan (Ryokan Fujito) for dinner.