Yet another early start today to ensure that we would have enough time to look around Tsumago. Despite going to bed at 10pm, I was exhausted by the time the alarm went off at 6am, as Stuart was coughing and snoring all night.
Breakfast was a pot of yoghurt with fruit and a muffin that we bought in a convenience store last night.
Boarding the train at Takayama Station
By 7am, we were out on the pavement unzipping our bike bags and loading the bikes up.
It was a short walk to Takayama station, where Jez and I reserved tickets for the 8am train to Hida.
We packed our bikes back up and went to get on the platform but were stopped by the guard. It wasn’t possible for us to go onto the platform before an earlier train had arrived and left. As soon as the 7:40 arrived, we could see the challenge. There were hundreds of school children on it, who came pouring out of the station. As soon as they had gone, a slightly smaller group of children boarded the train.
Soon it was time for us to board. As usual, our carriage was the furthest from the entrance, so we had to lug our stuff to the far end of the platform.
Bicycles travelling in style
It wasn’t easy to see where to put our bikes, so we stacked them by the door and then found our seats.
The seats were spacious and comfortable, and we could see through the large windscreen at the front, where the driver was sitting.
After the train started moving, the conductor went to the front of the train, where he bowed before starting to check tickets. A few minutes later he returned to explain that we needed to move our bikes. We had to carry the bikes down a couple of carriages. This meant they ended up sitting in First Class!
Arriving in Gero
When we arrived at Gero, we unloaded the bikes. We then spent a few minutes on the platform as it was quite busy. Jez tried out a new beverage from the vending machine: hot milky chocolate tea. This one was a hit!
When we came out of the station, a taxi driver kindly took a few photos and warned us that it would rain. It was then onto the road.
Again the scenery was stunning. Down in the valley by the river, the cherry trees were in full bloom. This was the theme for the day. As soon as we climbed, the trees were in bud and then we would descend again and the trees would be in bloom.
EWarming up in a cafe in Tsumago
By 3pm, we arrived a traditional village, Tsumago, and decided to have a look around. It was a little cool and we felt a few spots of rain, so we pulled on some jeans. We weren’t sure where to put our bikes. Eventually, we put them in a gutter in the coach park and left them there fully-loaded and unlocked. This would be unthinkable in the UK, but we were confident that they would be in exactly the same place on our return.
We wandered up to the village and went in search of a cafe to buy some hot drinks as Stu was a bit cold.
We managed to find a cafe, which had an interesting system:
- read the menu
- select your food/drink
- go to a machine
- enter your order
- pay the correct amount of cash
- receive a ticket
- present the ticket to the waitress.
Something that has surprised me about Japan is the popularity of coffee. Cold tea is available from vending machines, but hot tea is not often an option, even though hot coffee can be bought.
After our drinks, we wandered around Tsumago village for a while. We paid to go into a traditional house/museum and a member of staff came out and gave us an impromptu tour. It was really interesting.
Cycling to the ryokan
When we left the museum, it had started to rain. We decided to return to our bikes and cycle to the ryokan (traditional guest house). Fortunately, our bikes were where we left them, so we removed our jeans and got pedalling as quickly as possible.
As soon as we left, we were on a hill. Jez and Stu swiftly pulled away from me, but I was ready for a couple of kms climbing. Shortly afterwards, I saw Stu and Jez on the other side of the road… We were almost there!
On arrival at the ryokan, we tucked our bikes on the porch and were shown to our room. As it is a traditional inn, there was a small table in the middle of the room with a cushion on each side and a tea set on the table. We had a cup of tea, put our stuff away and went down for dinner.
Wow! What a spread! We had a shared table with Jez and it was entirely covered in food. I avoided the fish, but found that there were lots of vegetable dishes.
After dinner, we went to the social area and chatted with some Aussies and a young English guy.