Never did I realize that it was a journey of no return. Never did I realize that the trail I followed that day, on a sunny mid-autumn day in 2014, was an answer to my heart’s calling.
The Magome-Tsumago trail in Japan is part of the 700-km Nakasendo Highway in Kisoji (or Kiso Valley) which extends from Nagano Prefecture to Gifu Prefecture, weaves through and along the mountains of the Central Alps. The Highway was a vital ancient route for traders traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period. Defying time and change, both Magome and Tsumago are post towns which were rest stations for those traders. Both are joined by the trail like a red thread that draws a good marriage between yin and yang.
My journey from Magome to Tsumago was launched with a climb. A rustic water mill rotated leisurely outside of a house with Edo-architectural design, restraining the urge to divulge the transformational power behind this well-preserved legacy I was about to explore. The leading narrow, tapered cobblestone street next to the mill climbed steeply uphill, running along smoothly, only interrupted occasionally by flights of stairs. The street was framed on both sides by low feudal-style wooden houses. The black-and-white minimalist décor of old-latticed windowed residential houses, inns, tea houses, restaurants and souvenir shops were time-machines on their own. It seemed like there was an organic, artistic side to Japanese technology. And I knew, for sure, then and there that there was no other way I could connect with the soul of Japan better than a visit to its past, with a fully present frame of mind.
The traditional village houses teeming in the heart of Magome were gradually replaced, as I kept going uphill, by grassy fields and masses of woodland trees on both sides of the trail, like willowy girls wrapped in auburn Kimonos. The path led to the peak of Mount Ena, elevated at more than 2,000 m, where I enjoyed a bird-eye view of the surrounding mountains in Kisoji. The match-box houses and the massive maple richness were serenading me from the depth of the valley. I enjoyed a moment of reminiscence, peace, and magnificence there, feeling myself light and powerful, like a heroine ready to fulfil her destiny!
Leaving Magome and my memories behind, I went uphill first and then down. Effortlessness accompanied my descent and surreal calmness guided my every step. The woods painted a picture of pastoral serenity, vibrant green lightly adorned with persimmon sweetness and Safire passion.