Nakatsugawa 

Nakatsugawa Station

Nakatsugawa Station kiso valley

Bus stops are on your left when you go out / Arrêts de bus sur votre gauche en sortant

Bus tsumago magome kiso valley

To Magome take the bus on the platform 3 / prendre le bus pour Magome à la plateforme 3

Naegi Castle / Château de Naegi
400 years of History are waiting for you. The ruins of Naegi Castle are quite popular among the young ladies because it is known as a power spot. Some of them are also History fans. Most of them rent an assisted bike at Daiso close to the station. You pay 1000 yens for 4hours and when you give it back, you get 500 yens back.

400 ans d’histoire vous attendent au Château de Naegi. Les ruines bien mises en valeur sont appréciées des jeunes femmes, fans d’histoire ou à la recherche de “power spot”. Bien que des bus s’arrêtent à 10min à pied du site, beaucoup optent pour le vélo assisté. Vous pouvez le louez pour 1000 yens à Daiso dans la rue en face de la gare, sur le côté gauche. À rendre dans les 4heures max, 500 yens vous seront rendus.

Rental bike nakatsugawa kiso valley

Daiso is a music shop / Daiso est un magasin de musique

Cheap rental electrical assisted bike kiso valley

Open hours are between 9am and 7pm / location entre 9h et 19h

Shochu japanese sake kiso valley

Just next to Daiso a shop with a good selection of Japanese alcohols (try satsuma IMO shochu) / juste à côté de Daiso une boutique avec une belle sélection d’alcools (essayez satsuma imo shochu)

広告

Ena Station↔Akechi Line

When you arrive on Ena Station it may brme not easy to find the platform to the Akechi Line. 
Here some help : 

  • You will probably arrive to the platform 2 if you come from Nagoya 
  • Go to the platform 1
  • Ena jr station nakasendo japan

    View from the Akechi line platform entry on the stairs


    The stairs when you go down to the platform 1 are in the background.
  • Akechi line iwamura nakasendo

    Entry to the Akechi line on the right

     

    Summer in Gifu : close the Alps of Japan in the forest

    August in Japan is like getting close to an oven… with the humidity ! If the temperature can rise above 40°C with 60-70% humidity rate, as we are surrounded by nature fortunately at our guesthouse in Iwamura the nights are cooler. No need most of the time of the air conditioner to sleep well ! You can enjoy the fresh air of the Japanese Alps at guesthouse Tomida.

    Tomida Guesthouse Iwamura Japan paddy fields

    Paddy fields in August in Tomida

    Spending time around the castle or in the nearby mountains can be a good option to avoid the heat under the trees. The Japanese forests around close to our guesthouse in Ena, close to Tsumago – Magome, are most of the time manly planted forests.

    Some history : the trees of Gifu

    Forest industry in Gifu is really old. Keiko’s father was in the business about half a century ago, some of her husband’s family are still running business in Ena related to wood. If you come around, you will see the green scenery and the forests. If you get closer you can remark that a bunch of trees, or almost all of then, are from the same essence.

    Hinoki (a kind of Japanese cypress) and Sugi (Japanese cedar, but actually closer to cypress) were widely planted after the WW2 to support the rebuilding of the country, the electrification, etc. Those essences are really different :

    • hinoki is more expensive, harder than sugi and resists to the moist, it mainly used for expensive building like temples or bathroom.
    • sugi is less expensive, softer. It is widely used for flooring, furnitures, and outside paneling with the traditional technique of “burning” it. Once burned, so it becomes dark, it becomes pest resistant and moist resistant.
    • both have a nice scent praised by the Japanese
    Hiking Japan Alps Forest Iwamura Gifu

    Entrance of the hike to Mt Mitusmori and Suishozan

    However, due to the harsh landscape (high % slope), forest exploitations costs are quite high : logs have sometime to be evacuated by helicopter. Added to the fact that concrete came into direct competition with wood for electrical post and even for housing or construction, and that the country once rebuilt did not need so much wood, the prices fell down and many businesses closed down during the 70s and 80s. So the trees stay there…

    Now it is less expensive to import wood than to use Japanese wood… despite the large amount of stock available. Lumberjacks have to keep cutting the trees despite the cannot sell them to keep the forest clean and breathing.

    iwamura gifu mountain forest

    View of the forest and mountain from Tomida

    Some challenges facing the Japanese forests

    One problem of this intensive plantations is that the ecosystems were changed especially for monkeys, shika or Japanese deers and bears that struggle to find food in this kind of mono-essence forests.

    Second problem is the health effect on the surrounding population. Hinoki and Sugi plantations are so dense, that they lead to “kafun” or to very virulent pollen allergy during some months of the spring.

    hinoki gifu iwamura guesthouse

    Inside the forest : a lot of hinoki…

    Third one is more about a socioeconomic outcome. Ageing population in the countryside leads to less people to work in the forest. Forest industry is not really attractive here as the lumberjack revenue depends to the cut trees. Furthermore the business relies a lot on subsidies to survive and it is despairing looking for “how to value the trees”.

    Natural Japanese forest in Gifu is really beautiful, but quite rare as the ancients thought they were planting gold. If you have the chance to spot it around, go for it.

     

    Pictures credit : Orsola & Carlo from Italy ! Many thanks !

    A propos de la location de voiture et du permis (driving licence in Japan)

    Plusieurs personnes ont été surprises de ne pas pouvoir louer un voiture avec un permis en anglais ou un permis international. Dans le premier cas seul la langue japonaise est officielle et dans le second cas, il existe plusieurs conventions internationales, et malheureusement celle que la France a choisi n’est pas la même que le Japon (conventions de 1926, 1949 et 1968). Ici la France a ratifié celle de 1968 mais pas le Japon (1949).
    Comme le rappel le texte extrait du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères français :

    “Le permis de conduire international délivré en France n’est pas reconnu au Japon. Les Français de passage peuvent conduire avec un permis de conduire français, accompagné d’une traduction en japonais effectuée par la Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), qui dispose d’un bureau dans la capitale et dans toutes les préfectures du Japon (siège à Tokyo : 2-214 Shiba, Minato-ku – tél : +81 3 6833 9100 – site internet).

    La traduction du permis de conduire est acceptée pendant les douze mois qui suivent la date de première entrée au Japon. Les résidents de longue durée (plus d’un an) doivent être titulaires d’un permis de conduire japonais. Si la police japonaise peut faire preuve de tolérance à l’occasion d’un contrôle de routine, il n’en est pas de même en cas de collision ou d’accident de circulation entraînant des blessures corporelles, quel que soit le degré de responsabilité du conducteur.”

    La traduction accompagnée de votre permis vous sera demandé lorsque vous récupérerez la voiture préalablement réservée via Internet (choisissez Nagoya par chez nous).
    Pour ceux qui ne veulent que louer une voiture lors de leur passage chez nous, un garagiste local propose des (grosses) voitures à la location. Pratique pour marcher dans la montage ou la forêt (Mt Ena), faire de l’escalade à Kasagiyama, aller se baigner aux onsens ou à la rivière…

    English version :

    Note : International Driving licence, Inter American Driving Licence, and English written driving licences are not legal in Japan for driving. So you CANNOT rent a car with this.

    Actually only one International Driving Licence is OK in Japan, so it is better to get a translation of your driving licence from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) . With your original driving licence and the translated document you can pick up your booked car (in Nagoya for example).

    If you want to rent a car for driving around our area, there is a garage in our village (big cars only). Good idea if you want to go to onsen, have fun in the river, do rock climbing at Kasagiyama, go to Mt Ena for a hike…

     

    What did you miss in October ?

    Seki-city is about 1h by the highway on the road to Gifu. There you have the 刃物祭り hamono-matsuri or Blades Festival each October. Even if it may collide with your beloved Oktoberfest, I urge you to get there during this time : you will see the traditional forging technique for katanas or tanto (short blade) used by sacred blacksmiths.

    traditional Japanese sword crafting

    Sacred shinto blacksmiths forging a Japanese sword blade

    But Seki-shi is also the place in Japan for every single blade : razor blade, scissors, cook knife – among the best of the world according to numerous Chefs. – and other cutting devices (Mazak…). That is not a hazard if the German knives maker Zwilling J.A. Henckels holds a factory in Seki ! There is a real know-how – and you know how Japanese love crafting things to the perfection.

    katanas displayed in seki city

    Nice katanas blades made in Seki

    Here a promotional video for Seki-city and its blades corporations : A day without cutting object

    Version française

    Si vous admirez la maîtrise des savoir-faire traditionnels, je ne peux que vous recommandez d’aller faire un tour à Seki, ville des objets tranchants. Si un musée est à disposition – avec de belles pièces – il est plus intéressant d’y aller en Octobre lors du hamono matsuri afin d’admirer les forgerons traditionnels affublés des atouts sacrés shinto instillant les kamis ou esprits dans la lame du katana ou sabre japonais.

    Seki est aussi la ville des meilleurs couteaux de cuisine, des meilleurs ciseaux (à papier, bois ou ce que vous voudrez), des lames de rasoirs les plus coupantes…

    Bref si vous souhaitez ramener quelque chose de tranchant du Japon, c’est là qu’il vous faut y aller.

    Comptez 1 heure de voiture de la Guesthouse. Plus en train (passage par Nagoya….)

     

    Things to do in autumn in Iwamura

    Okay maybe it is more about “things to do in Japan” thing but in our case you can enjoy the real rural and natural perspective of those recommended things.

    Season of the fruits

    Really close to our guesthouse you enjoy grapes directly in the farmer plantation. In Japan, they call this “budogari” and you generally pay a fee and stay there to eat as much as you want. Note that Japanese tend to avoid eating the skin of the fruits, if the fruits are not treated there is no problem.

    horakuen2

    As you can see there are also apples – nice and juicy Fuji apples – and the Japanese pear, nashi.  The plantation where you can enjoy them is a little bit farther as you must pass by the grapes yard and walk a little bit more. I will say 30 min from the house. For both locations : get down, take Agi direction, climb the slope, get left and keep on walking on the road. Take care there are sometimes wildboars and small bears around – if you make noise there will be no problem, use the bells that you can find at the Home Center.

    Chestnuts can also be purchased or found on the roads around, but if you like them just try the local (a little bit expensive) pastry specialty only found during the chestnut season, the famous kurikinton (a link to a maker down to Ena, close to Enakyo).

    Contemplating the colors of the autumn

    Around Iwamura mountains and hills turn red and orange before the rest of Japan, the paddy fields are harvested – so the scents are very special. The colors of “momiji” are very nice, and you can enjoy them in various spots like on the banks of Enakyo. Personally, I prefer hiking for that : Mt Ena and the near Mt Mistumori have nice forest even if the later contains a lot of hinoki or sugi that are evergreen. You can also enjoy a nice cycling tour to get the whole picture at your pace, check Nenoue (Né no ué) Highs – about 15-20 min by car – and the Tono Cycling Tour (Tono is for Higashi Mino or East Mino, Mino was the historical region before Gifu and its fusion with the Hida region).

    Some places offer the possibility to share a moment in the fields during the paddy fields harvest (from September to beginning/mid October). The harvest best moment is the Ena Minojiminori Matsuri late September.

    The temperature are now below +10 to +15 degrees in the morning, so if you plan to stay with us do not forget some warm clothes !

     

    Where to eat after Tsumago Magome or visiting Ena ?

    Tsumago Magome is a great tourist spot but it is quite touristic with all the good and bad sides, and the foodies may be disappointed. Ena with the nice climbing spot or the Enakyo scenery – where you can also do some canoe or kayak with Mr. Ito – is more convenient but the main trouble is to find info about the city in English or any other foreign languages, especially about “where to eat”.

    At the Guesthouse we had a lot of guests that asked us where to eat. So here some good places for different budgets.

    High price High quality : Gosechie

    I know the chef, Tomoharu Fujii, he is a nice guy passionated – once a promising athlete before breaking his Achilleus tendon – about sport and Japanese cuisine. His cuisine is quite traditional – Kyoto style ? – but he brings his own touch and do not hesitate to change menus according to the fresh ingredients new arrivals. It is hard to eat twice the same meal with him!

    Typical Japanese atmosphere at Gosechie

    Gosechie focuses on the seasonal products and the real flavors of the ingredients – that are sourced in Japan for 90% of them. For lunch prices start from 5000 Yens and go up to 15000 Yens for the menus – if you ask fugu or other rare and precious ingredients, it can be far more. For dinner, courses start from 10000 Yens. It really worth the price in my opinion – as I was once treated to a famous Kyoto restaurant and I cannot tell the difference. Maybe only the experienced gourmets are able to tell it !

    From the Guesthouse, take the train form Iibama Station to Ena Station. Walk about 15 min to Gin No Mori.

    Open hours: 11 to 18 : 00 (6 pm)
    Closed on Wednesdays
    Reservation for dinner: 0800-200-5095
    Address: 2711-2 Yokohira, Oicho, Ena 509-7201, Gifu Prefecture

    In Iwamura we trust : Mitsuba

    You have a small budget but you want to enjoy a good and simple lunch ? Maybe you should head to Iwamura’s best restaurant – for me ! – Mitsuba. Udon specialist, nice place to have few drinks, you can have a lunch for less than 1000 Yens and a dinner for 1100 Yens. Easy to go by walk from the Guesthouse (around 15-20 min).

    Open hours: 11 to 14 : 00 (2 pm) for lunch, from 17:30 (5 pm) for dinner
    Closed on Thursdays
    Reservation : 0573-43-5038
    Address : 264 Iwamuracho, Ena, 509-7403, Gifu Prefecture

    Fed-up with Japanese food? Give a try to Nanhouse, Ena good Indian Restaurant

    Maybe not the most sophisticated Indian restaurant but I love their nans – and you get some for free with some menus ! They also include free soft drinks – with a local version of lassi. Nepalese staff is really friendly even if a little bit shy at first glance.
    The access is not convenient if you do not have a car however… but if you have a tight budget and some will, then you will be able to enjoy a meal for around 1000 Yens.

    Open hours: 11:00 to 15:00 (3 pm) for lunch time, 17:00  (5 pm) to 22:00 (10 pm) for dinner
    Open all year around.
    Tel.: 0573-22-9717
    Address: 25-1 Higashino, Ena, 509-7202, Gifu Prefecture

    Hungry after the ride in the train ? Go for Swing in front of Ena station !

    I like the retro atmosphere here. The couple who manages Swing is also very kindly and open minded. The husband loves music and play in a local folk band. The coffee, where you can eat lunch and maybe dinner – I never try this later –  is really close to the Ena railway station. Lunch is 780 Yens with a coffee and is quite good even it is really simple. Very convenient once you arrive there on an hungry state ! The coffee served here is also quite good. They however do not have espresso…

    Open Hours : from 11 : 30 (am) to 14 : 00 (2 pm) for lunch time
    Closed each third Wednesdays of the month
    Address: 293−31 Oicho, Ena 509-7201, Gifu Prefecture
    Tel.: 0573-26-0006

    The famous and delicious kankara mochi (yellow is kinako, purple is anko and grey is goma sato)

    The famous and delicious kankara mochi (yellow is kinako, purple is anko and grey is goma sato)

    Other things to eat or drink in Iwamura

    Have a drink at night in Iwamura? Go for Karin and its nice obachan – just do not forget to pay as it is not so cheap ! There is karaoke with a lot foreign songs.
    Want to eat some nice sweets? I recommend personally Kankaraya and its delicious kankara mochi. The 3 main flavors are kinako = soja bean powder , anko = fresh red bean paste, goma sato = sesame and sugar, my favorite. It is great with a green tea. Other sweet specialties are goheimochi (like in Mihara) and castella (several shops). You can also try a local smoked cheese, hebo (vespae larva seasoned with sugar and soy sauce), or the local sake (rice wine) of Onna Joshuu (Lady of the Castle) up to the main street.
    One special dish of Ena is “keichan”, chicken cooked with cabbage (very good). Not too far Ena station you can eat keichan and other chicken specialties at Chicken House (map). There is a second store in Nakatsugawa, easy to reach from Nakatsugawa railway station.