After leaving Tsumago, I headed off to Magome, another little town further south along the Nakasendo trail.  Even though there was a slight chance of rain, I decided to risk it. When would I next get an opportunity to do this?

DSC_0349 DSC_0357DSC_0359The trail passed by two beautiful waterfalls.  That’s one thing that I still remember about the trail.  The seemingly everpresent sound of trickling water, round a waterwheel, into a stone handwashing basin, a stream underfoot.

This resting area stood not far from a 250-year-old cherry tree just off the path.

DSC_0366Cooler still, I also passed an old tea house about halfway into the trail.  I peeked in and saw this bed of coals, tended to by a single, jolly old Japanese man who was jotting down notes and pouring hot water for a European couple that had stopped in before me.  He asked me where I was from and gleefully put a mark down in his notebook.DSC_0368After the brief pause to rest my feet (the elevation climbs about five hundred meters in the approximately eight kilometers between Tsumago and Magome), I was back out on the trail.  As I neared Magome, the scenery suddenly opened up, shifting from overhead forest canopies to the panorama of rice paddies and the lazy valley lounging in the shadow of Mount Ena.

DSC_0377 DSC_0389DSC_0392 DSC_0383Whereas Tsumago is a relatively flat walk, Magome begins atop a hill, with a stone pathway that descends into town and winds its way down past similar dessert shops and trinket stores, past tea houses and ryokans.  Just before I took the bus to Nakatsugawa, I stopped at a simple soba shop that seemed popular with the locals, and ordered a hot soba with one last gohei mochi.

IMG_0796 IMG_0794The meal, simple in its flavors and ingredients, was a quiet, understated, but deeply fulfilling one.  The earthiness of the buckwheat noodles, the steam and lightness of the soup, the hearty ending provided by the mochi balls.  It was a meal elegant and memorable in its purity and simplicity, straight-forward, no gimmicks.