So often, quaint towns lie off the beaten track. Travelers want to visit–but how? Without a car, appropriate budget or language skills, charming and undeveloped locations usually remain inaccessible. Finding somewhere that straddles convenience, affordability, and charming rural nostalgia is downright difficult. But your prayers have been answered in the village of Magome.
Only ninety minutes via bus from Nagoya Station, this post-town (think “rest stop”) to the old “Nakasendo Highway” offers you a blast from the past. Founded during the hey-day of the Tokugawa period (1600-1800s), it offers a glimpse of the rural life and highway culture of that time, filled with well-preserved architecture, local craftsmanship and a robust agrarian community. The cobblestone streets, mysterious alleyways, hidden old houses, winding stairways and profusion of waterwheels all contribute to its rural aesthetics!
Taking one of the early morning buses, you will arrive in time to enjoy the morning hush. Watch shop keepers set out their wares, admire the unique light created by the mountainside mists, and listen to the gurgling of water all around. These “gurgles” come from the waterways and waterwheels constructed to help channel the runoff from the mountain to the field. With so much water about even landlocked-Magome feels nautical!
I recommend visiting in June – although this is the rainy season, especially in the mountains, tourists are fewer. This means that you can enjoy leisurely strolls along the rice paddies, mossy foot bridges, and elegant gardens without feeling completely surrounded by others eager for similar experiences. Magome is all about taking your time. Pop into the local apothecary. Sample the delicacies. Enjoy the hilltop views. Attempt to traverse the stony remains of the Nakasendo Highway. June offers less crowds, less humidity, and a quiet atmosphere that suits the village well.
Despite catering to travelers, the food in Magome is authentic and delicious. If you can, ask the locals for a recommendation – they will not steer you wrong. Most all the restaurants are small and unpretentious–serving solid country fare that use seasonal ingredients. Of particular note is gohei-mochi, famous to the Nagoya and Gifu region, a type of hot gluttonous rice ball (not quite mochi, not quite rice) brushed with sweetened soy sauce. Due to this delicacy’s many vendors, the sweet scent of slightly burnt soy charmingly wafts through the air.
Offering scenic mountain beauty, a quaint shopping street, delicious food and a sense of mystery Magome and its environs have enough to keep you entertained for a pleasant day trip from Nagoya. Refreshed from the mountain air and water you’ll be able to return to your city streets and crowded temples with the memory of the quiet cobblestones and churning waterwheels of your rural adventure.
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