The Gardens of Magome

While visiting Magome-juku, a preserved post town in the Japan Alps (and formerly a post town on the Nakasendo and Kisoji travel roads), I appreciated the care the shopkeepers took with the tiny but manicured gardens located in front of many shops.

Shop Garden, Magome (1)

Magome’s single street is lined with restaurants, tea houses, shops, and minshuku (family-run inns, similar to a B&B). Many of these had small garden plots – rarely larger than 100 square feet, and sometimes less – in front of the entrance.

Each looked carefully tended, and the variety of plants and trees was delightful, even in autumn. One of my favorite gardens was located right outside the annex to Magomechaya, the minshuku where I spent four lovely days:

Magomechaya Water Wheel

The garden featured a decorative water wheel, hearkening back to the time when real water wheels provided power for the town.

Unlike the more strictly manicured gardens found at shrines and temples, these were clearly decorative but personal gardens featuring local trees and flowers that the owners kept trimmed but allowed to grow in more natural, informal styles.

Despite their often diminutive size, these gardens were lovely – and clearly loved – and they added a beautiful touch to the atmosphere of this delightful mountain town.