They were selling steamed buns and mugwort ice cream to a handful of history buffs when I arrived at the entrance to War Land, or to use its full name, The Immersion Museum — Sekigahara War Land.

The open valley basins of Gifu Prefecture at the very center of Honshu, where the town of Sekigahara lies, were easily co-opted as theaters of war. It's no coincidence, given the martial history of the region, that the prefectural town of Seki, sitting on the Nakasendo trunk road connecting Tokyo (then Edo) and Kyoto, was once known as the premier sword-making spot in the country.

The rural aspects of Gifu may have changed over the centuries, but it remains a wide, open prefecture with strong and enduring ties to nature. On the way to the museum, I passed through landscapes fringed with mountain ranges, undulating meadows and immaculately cultivated tea plantations. It is also a landscape soaked in history.