gmhTODAY 25 gmhTODAY April May 2019 - Page 103

We stayed at Daikoku-ya, a ryokan that hosted samurai 1,200 years ago. Its owners are the eighth generation of their family to run it. It was the simplest and the most authentic of the ryokans, with rice paper screens dividing our group of four sleeping couples. (Don’t snore!) The next morning, our hosts bid us farewell. They waved goodbye—rotating both hands back and forth, like washing windows—until we disappeared over the hill. Day Four Hosokute, Ena (13.6 miles) A beautiful day of walking along old stone and dirt footpaths winding through forests of pine, cedar, maple, bamboo, willows, wild azaleas, camelias, wisteria and ferns. A section called the Juan-toge (Thirteen Passes) took us along ridgetops with beautiful views on both sides. The iconic cherry trees were in full bloom. Water was abundant in waterfalls, creeks and rivers flowing in manmade culverts. A stop at a little store provided a surprise touch of home. In the wine section, the smiling faces of George and Gene Guglielmo beamed from a display. The writing was in Japanese, but there was no mistaking the bottles of Morgan Hill’s famous Guglielmo wine. We bought a bottle and later opened it, toasting the Guglielmo's atop a mountain pass along the Nakasendo Way. Day Five Ena, Magome (11 miles) Leaving Ena, we spent a glorious day walking through farmlands and market towns. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN After lunch in Nakatsugawa, there was a lesson in generosity. A few of us stopped in a small shop filled with beautiful, hand-made clothing. Janet eyed a wool tunic and the shop owner motioned for her to try it on. When she tried to pay, the shop owner would not take her money. Giorgio explained the Japanese spirit of generosity and their belief that things are sometimes meant to belong to someone in particular. Janet gave thanks in her best Japanese, “Arigato!” That afternoon, we traveled the Magome mountain pass toward Kiso Valley, arriving in the post town of Ochiai. It was one of the best-preserved towns with some of the most scenic views on the tour. After a long day’s hike, we showered and then soaked in the communal baths. Another lesson: If you have a tattoo, cover it up! In Japan, tattoos are commonly associated with the Japanese mafia. Day Six Magome, Tsumago (6.2 miles) From Magome, we climbed Tsumago Pass and descended through woodlands and past waterfalls before arriving in Tsumago, another carefully-preserved historic post town, The town has banned telephone poles, electric lines, vending machines and parked cars along its main thoroughfare. Day’s end meant a stop at the village “onsen” (thermal hot spring) for a relaxing soak. Back at O-tsumago the dinner included locally-caught ayu (trout) for dinner. Deep-fried “trout on a stick” was served at every meal—we nicknamed it Teddy Trout. The Japanese eat the fish heads; we opted not to. april/may 2019 103