SYNOPSIS:  About nothing much.  A day in transit.  Nothing going on.  About the ride into the Japanese Alps.


I exchanged my 3-tatami cubicle room at the Eco Hotel in the fourth largest town, the shopping capital of neon-lit 21st century Japan, for an 8-tatami room in a traditional thatched farmhouse in the remote village of Ogimachi, which for all practical purposes, had gotten stuck in the 18th century and which has a mere 600 residents.  For a few days I replaced my carton juice, yoghurt, banana, or pre-packed sushi meals, with the home-cooked local cuisine.  The neon lights of Nagoya made room for the stars of the Japanese Alps.  And the annoying advertising trucks which blasted advertisements and sports news across town gave way to the slightly less annoying frogs which trumpet their news across the ponds.    I am not complaining.  🙂

To get here, my limited express train named Haida had to maneuver narrow steel bridges, balance along the edges of mountains and ride along in gorgeous valleys, which an English announcer at one point likened to the Rhine River.  Now there was an unexpected comparison!  For a brief moment it felt indeed like some German landscape. But the difference is that you have these enormous, rolling mountains here and unlike Germany, where you find yourself mostly immersed in the forests once you get in, here you get these frequent vistas along valleys and across mountain ridges which are completely unique, and trains rather than going through the forests ride along the edges. Perhaps there is a reason why this area of Japan is called the “Japanese Alps”.  Switzerland definitely has vistas and mountains that compare.  Haida got as far as Takayama.  From here there is only the bus.

It had to get through tunnels which were longer than any tunnel I had ever been in except perhaps for Afghanistan.  There was not just one tunnel, but tunnel after tunnel after tunnel with just a couple of hundred meters separating one from the next.  It felt like we were diving into the mountain, coming up for quick gasps of air before being submerged again by darkness.  This is a constant reminder how difficult this terrain is and again and again it invites my admiration on how the Japanese have built a network of infrastructure of roads, bridges, tunnels, and in this area dozens of dams, which is likely one of the highest ranking in the world.  No matter how remote a mountain village is and how high up it hides out — there is a way to get there which lives up to any 21st-century expectation, and there is electricity.

After a hiatus of a few sites such a the Pearl Island or the Ise Shrine, or an outright deviating shopping spree, I am “on track” again following the UNESCO trail of Japan.

But as always, these transit days are long but typically uneventful.  This one was no exception.

Good night.