Day nine. It’s one of the Lonely Planet Japan top 25, so I had to do it. A 7.3 km hike (exactly please) between two beautiful villages in the hills. Think of them as a Japanese version of Swiss Berner Oberland villages, they render the same impression, including the dark wood and the flowers, but with scattered mini shrines.
I left soon as the sun showed up (5h16) and started with a good step, happy with the solitude until I bumped into a sign that said: ‘Watch out for bears: danger. Ring your bell regularly’. Suddenly, the forest became a bit spooky.
Yet it was a nice hike. However, upon reaching Tsumago at 7h45, nothing was open for breakfast. Turned back and did it again in the other direction. After eight it became quite hot, so when I came across the waterfalls, I dived into the iced cold water using the swimming costume I usually wear at the onsens: It was divine.
Back in Magome, I discovered happily that there was a post office opposite the guesthouse. Japanese post offices are a modern version of the Ali-Baba cave: 3-D pictorial cards that unfold with buttons to press to make circumstantial noises (e.g., bangs for fireworks, cui-cui for the birds and glou glou for the water fountains), puzzle post cards where you write your message on the back and then undo it so that your loved one can sweat a little bit before reading your words, fancy letterhead paper with stickers and models pillar boxes. The Japanese really found a way to stimulate snail mail in the electronic age. But the best part at the post office is the staff themselves. They weight the letters as pharmacists would weigh dangerous extracts, bow before and after with a smile and provide reading glasses for those over 40 who forgot theirs. A lot of my family and friends will be surprised to receive news after this vacation.
Afternoon, I sadly hopped back for one of my last trips on the Shinkansen. A last Bento lunch, a glimpse at Mount Fuji behind various factories and mid afternoon arrival in Tokyo to crash in my Ginza hotel.