Today I had the pleasure of visiting one of Japan’s old ‘post towns’ – Magome-juku (馬籠宿). For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t until recently!) a ‘post town’ (or, ‘shukuba‘, 宿場) is a kind of resting place – a town where people stay the night on the way to somewhere, in ancient times. Literally, I think it is called an ‘inn town’. Magome-juku was “the forty-third of the sixty-nine stations of the Nakasendo, an ancient road that connected Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo) during the Edo period” (according to Wikipedia). Seeing the sign which pointed towards Edo, and following the path just a little, I felt an overwhelming urge to set out on some kind of insane mission to walk from Kyoto to Tokyo. I wonder how long it would take and how possible it would be these days without using public transport? I’d love to try something like that!
“To Edo” / 江戸へ
I stopped here, but apparently if I had kept going I could walk to Tokyo…
As some of you might know, I have a keen interest in haiku, and I found myself wondering if Basho walked these paths on one of his famous journeys. I feel sure he would have passed by this way, but when I’ve searched to find out more about his trail I haven’t found any evidence of this. I did, however, find this interesting site. I wish I could be commissioned to follow his trail like this!
Anyway, back to Magome…
We ate a delicious lunch at this traditional-style restaurant:
…and as we were walking back down the hill (Magome is a very hilly place! It’s surrounded by mountains.) we had a chestnut ice cream to help us on our journey!
Chestnut is a really good flavour for ice cream, and this was delicious! We had hoped to go chestnut picking today, but unfortunately it was all booked up wherever we went, and it wasn’t possible. This is the season for chestnuts in Japan (栗）, and many of the shops in Magome were selling chestnut flavoured goods, like ‘kuri-kinton’ (a sweetened mixture of boiled and mashed chestnuts).
As I said, Magome was surrounded by mountains, and some of the views from the car were quite breath-taking (I wish we could have stopped to take more pictures, especially of the mountains in the beautiful sunset on the way home…). The best picture I got of the mountains was actually one with me posing, so I’ll post that! ;)
I’d love to have gone hiking around this area – it felt like you could walk for miles and just be surrounded by mountains and rivers and bridges and trees. I hope I can go back sometime and explore a bit more. Perhaps I can even walk up that tempting path and make my way to Tokyo… ;)