Welcome to the second part of our Kiso Valley behind the scenes look. If you missed the first part of this journal, just stop right here and read this first: Kiso Valley Trip Day 1.
For all the others, let’s continue our little trip together.
We finally arrived at Tsumago after a 40 minutes drive from our last POI. My daughter and I were eager to take a bit of rest and to get something to eat. Yes, I am a horrible father, so for lunch we only had a few Onigiri (rice balls), some mixed nuts, and water.
To our surprise, Tsumago was really different from Narai in many aspects. First of all, there were a LOT more people; about 70% of them were tourists from China, Germany, France, and Australia. Also unlike Narai, shop owners are more “English” friendly and our Ryokan, for example, had a full team of English speakers on staff.
Once the nice people from our Ryokan helped us with our luggage, my daughter and I had an hour or so to take a rest in our little room. My daughter watched some cartoons on Netflix on my iPad, and I started to off-load all our photos and videos on my external drive, checking to see if I needed to re-shoot some part of the trip. Luckily, so far so good. A few slightly over exposed shots will need to be retouched in post, but nothing too serious.
At 6pm sharp, our host laid down a magnificent table with many local wonders for dinner. They even made the extra effort to prepare a kid-friendly meal for my daughter. How nice of them!
The dinner was really fancy with some nice trout, mouth-watering tempura, local rice, and a little surprise in the form a local delicacy: Grilled wasp larva.
Now, I know this may sound gross, and it kinda looks gross, but it tastes like soy sauce and other spices, so nothing to worry here! It was funny to see other foreigners around us freaking out about this. Maybe my many years living in China helped me to get used to weird things like this.
Anyway, it was time for us to go to bed and get ready for our early morning shoot of Tsumago.
Unlike Narai, our wake-up at Tsumago was warmer and more pleasant. Once our breakfast was finished, we were welcomed by a gorgeous sunrise.
Tsumago is more interesting than Narai in many ways. First, Tsumago is well isolated from the Kiso valley major road and railway, which makes Tsumago feel more “traditional”. Before 10am and after 4pm, Tsumago is nearly empty of tourists. It is only from around 10am to 4pm that you will see the place crowded with people from around the world. Now, I am not saying that Tsumago is better from Narai – both places are really great – but they so different. Narai is spread out along a single main road, while Tsumago looks more like a small village.
Here as well, locals are wonderful, and even if they don’t speak English they will still great you with a “Hello”. This is really refreshing because in Tokyo there are places like Yanaka Ginza that are really unfriendly with tourists, forbidding anyone to even take a non-intrusive picture of a road. People here (in Kiso) are warm and welcome even the noisiest tourists and will always smile.
With our day over, it was time to say good-bye to our host and head toward our last spot, Magomoe, a few hours walk from Tsumago and around 40 minutes away by car.
Hope you enjoyed this second part of our trip and we will see you again next week for the third and last installment of our journey!