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Saturday, September 23, 2017

I will add an entry to mention this place, as it struck me for several reasons, even if I staid for one night only.

First of all, I will mention the fact that, on 199 pounds for one night, the Hinotani resort it's the most expensive hotel that I have booked in this trip, and being a three stars, I was a bit suspicious about the worth of the place. OTOH, both an abundant dinner and a meal-class breakfast were included, and this brings the effective cost down to 150 pounds. Moreover, I absolutely needed a base near Ise but somewhat halfway to Nara. I could have staid in the Nara region, but this place was also part of my backup plan in case I couldn't visit Ise the first day, and this part of the plan worked perfectly.

After having visited the Ise Jingu, I head for Misugi, a very little village on the old road between Ise and Nara. This road was probably the most important route in the very early years of the Yamato "empire", before they conquered Izumo and in an epoch where they were still called Yamatai. Traveling this road was one of my dreams, and indeed is the central part of the novel I wrote.

Misugi is the last village before exiting the mountains if you came from the Yamato, or the first village where you could have prepared for the dangerous travel in the mountains of Uda if you came from Ise.

I arrive in the location at dusk, but this only adds to the beauty of the place. The sunset is terse, and wrap the high cedar forests from which this place takes its name (Misugi means "beautiful cedars"), in a soft golden light which warms my heart. I am sorry I couldn't stop to get any photo on the way, but I have this from when the morning after, from my room looking down on the main village.

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The resort is a bit more than an hotel: it has several attractions (that I won't have the time to explore), plus an open air onsen that I used two times.

The view on the hall from the fifth floor is also quite impressing for a three stars:

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And the food, at a all-you-can-eat internal restaurant is top notch:
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But the resort sells itself as the "ninja" resort. In fact, the so called Hinotani valley (or "fire valley"), a secluded path stretching northward between Misugi and Iga, is said to be the birthplace of the Ninjas. There are many Ninja themed attractions in the area, and this resort is the starting point of trips organized both by the local tourist agency and by private tour operators in search of the origin of this mysterious and fascinating warriors.

For what concerns me, I didn't see them. How could I? They're ninjas!

But what is most interesting about this place is the fact that almost all the tourists are Chinese!

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The dinner included a demonstration of the making of rice bread for which Mitsue is famous (... ok, it's famous for its cedars, the best in Japan, for its bread, the most genuine in Japan, for its Ninjas, the most invisible in Japan... this place has a lot of qualities!). The demonstrator is Japanese, while all the tourists that tried to throw some hit are Chinese. Seeing Japanese and Chinese working together, after all the hate and killing that was uselessly spread, was really heartwarming for all the people in the room.

The morning after, as I left my room... by the way, the first Japanese style room I ever tried, with a real futon!

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... so, as I was leaving my room, I met up with a Chinese family, 5 members, one of which was a quite aged man, the grandpa of the family, I suppose... all dressed as Ninjas!

The grandpa seemed just a bit embarrassed, but everyone else was simply enthusiast in their ninja costumes. Again, seeing this family of Chinese people, one old enough to have seen the second world war with his own eyes, all immersed in the Japanese culture, and enjoying themselves, was heartwarming.

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