I took a lot of pictures so I’m going to have to separate these posts into a bunch for the places we visited so as not to overwhelm with pictures. We planned our trip so that we would leave Tokyo until the end of the trip (so that we could shop like crazy), which meant going from Narita Airport to Nagoya on the same day. But we also had to meet emmy’s friend in Tokyo because she wouldn’t be there when we got back, so we stopped at Tokyo station for lunch and then were on our way to Nagoya for our first night.
From everything that we had heard, there wasn’t much to do or see in Nagoya, so it was really a rest/transit stop for us before heading to the Kiso Valley. We stayed at the Sanco Inn Nishiki which is near the Sakae district which is where all the shops and night life are, a small room (of course) but it was nice enough and had a breakfast option. We didn’t do anything there, just had a look around the shops but nothing else really, rested and waited until our train/bus ride to OTsumago.
After travelling by train to Nagiso, and then finding a local bus to take us to Minshuku Koshinzuka (which has it’s own bus stop) we were informed by the inn-keeper that due to a funeral service we would not be able to stay there, but that they’d arranged for us to stay at a different minshuku for the two nights that we were scheduled for, Minshuku Tsutamuraya, just down the road. It was no skin off our back as the little old lady running Minshuku Tsutamuraya was very nice as well, although we can only guess how nice Koshinzuka must be since it is the top rated minshuku on tripadvisor. It’s really not easy to reserve a room at these places since the contact details are really hard to find, and they speak little to no English, but here is a page with telephone contact details under the Accommodation in Tsumago and Magome section, and here is a page with reservation options. Our minshuku actually had wifi amazingly whereas Koshinzuka apparently does not, make of that what you will.
It was a charming place, very old building (about 130 years old), they had a pretty shiba inu, and the little river running right outside, the lady was very nice, and had a great time playing with our little monkey. The food (breakfast and dinner) we had was of a very good quality and served with some kind of special osake which was very different to what we are used to. Wholly recommended, maybe Koshinzuka would be a little more authentic, I’m not sure, but sometimes you can’t completely withdraw yourself from the outside world.
In terms of things to do here, basically there is the nakasen-do between Tsumago and Magome, and obviously the two towns themselves. Be very careful though, there is only an ATM in Nagiso (which may or may not be open, maybe only on weekdays) and one in Nakatsugawa (need a bus from Magome) so make sure you have cash to pay the minshuku. Getting this out of the way early (maybe I mentioned it in my previous post already?), having a baby with us meant that we pretty much had to do everything during the middle (hottest/sunniest part) of the day which was a bit painful, but the scenery is still beautiful during the day. Tsumago has been kept in a much more authentic manner than Magome, both towns have souvenir shops aplenty and quaint old buildings and museums (not that we visited any of them). We wandered up and down the main streets, but due to unforeseen circumstances (very cranky baby), only one of us was able to walk the nakasen-do from Magome to Tsumago. We planned to do it that way because it is mostly downhill (the first two kilometres or so including Magome) are pretty much uphill then the rest of the way is smooth sailing
The path is very well signed (can’t remember if there was much English though) and easy to follow, the terrain is beautiful and apart from the first part out of Magome, mostly covered by trees. There are mossy green forests, running water creeks, and waterfalls all over the place, but in my rush (I wasn’t sure where my companions were) I only took one side-trip to Odaki and Medaki falls near OTsumago which were quite impressive. It only takes about two hours if you walk at a decent pace but probably three hours is good for stopping and taking pictures as well as resting (Tsumago to Magome would probably take longer). I didn’t see any bears but apparently they’re there, and there are bells along the path that you can ring that might scare them away (I did not want to run into any bears so you better believe I rang them).
We spent two nights there because we didn’t want to rush the nakasen-do which was a good idea for us, but with a luggage forwarding service and less cranky babies, you can probably do it with one night, we caught the bus to Nagiso before getting a train to our next destination, Matsumoto, which will be the topic of my next post.
And we’re back, two weeks travelling around central Japan was fun, but taking a 14-month old baby with us certainly made things more challenging and cost us some opportunities. But it was well worth it even if we didn’t get to do all that we had hoped.
Flying Jetstar and arriving at (and departing from) terminal 3 was already less than ideal, although terminal 3 doesn’t have any of the good shops that terminal 1 and 2 have, so we weren’t able to do any last minute shopping before leaving the country, but at least Jetstar has direct flights. That was a plus considering that the flight was only about ten hours each way (the return flight during the day was much more bearable than dealing with a tired and extremely cranky baby on an overnight flight).
This was the first time that I’ve ever flown Jetstar on a long haul flight (I’ve flown to Tasmania domestic a couple of times) and I’m really not sure that I would do it again, even though they have the direct route to Japan. Once you add in all the extras it’s only slightly less (a couple hundred bucks each) than a full service carrier so in terms of value it’s definitely out the window. The direct flight option is where it has the advantage, Singapore is always the number one option, but Japan Airlines has direct flights from Sydney so that might be a better option next time.
In the end, the main issues we had were that our (sometimes) cranky baby needed to be baby-sat/fed at the most inopportune times, such as dinner time (sunset) and breakfast times (sunrise), the best times to go anywhere because of:
As always though, Japan is so much fun, and so amazing in almost every way, it really is like a giant theme park, the food is delicious usually, and relative to Australian prices for similar food, it’s a bargain. The shopping is endless, and the way that nature, history, and technology come together is something magical (usually). I really hope that next time we can go in Autumn or Spring (cherry blossom) season to avoid the heat, and also see some different colours on the natural side of things. Not sure where we would head next time, maybe Hokkaido, or somewhere else based on further reading. Any way, I’ve got lots of pictures coming so I’ll be breaking those down into several posts over the next couple of weeks.