10th Sep 2010
We're into the tour fully now and over the last few days have visited Nagano, Matsumoto and Takayama. We leave today for Kanazawa and then head to Hiroshima, Kyoto and Yokohama where we will watch the quarterly sumo tournament before having a couple of extra days before coming home.
Nagano is a small village within the Japanese Alps and here we stayed in a traditional lodging within the temple grounds. Our room was decorated with Japanese arts and crafts, we had a yukata (traditional bathrobe) to wear and we slept on the floor with a thin matress! We woke early to visit the Buddhist temple and observe the monks early morning service (5.30am) and also did did an excursion to see the snow monkeys in the alps which was excellent - they get so close and if you look them in the eyes they snarl at you. We watched them in the hot springs having a bath which was funny and saw the babies being carried around on their mum's back.
At Matsomuto, we visited its castle and ate out at a ramen, egg noodle restaurant, with a beef broth and pork dumplings. Tasty, but the beers are so expensive here - around 5 to 6 quid a pint, so we're getting used to tap water!
Here at Takayama, we've had 2 days exploring and have stayed in a Ryokan, another traditional lodging. Its also a small town with quaint little streets and traditional sake breweries, so we've tried that (made from rice, its about 20% alcohol and quite nice) and Nat's already picked up the taste for the local speciality, plum wine!
The place is famous for its annual festival displaying its 17th Century floats so we visited the museum, local shinto shrine and did a bit of browsing in the morning food markets with some interesting smells...raw horse meat anyone? One of the guys we've met had it. Looked like raw beef but he had a nice hair in it!
We also had a traditional meal in the Ryokan wearing our Yukatas and visited the local convienience store in them - needless to say the locals had a good laugh!
Its so traditional here which is great but there's only so much rice you can take for breakfast, lunch and tea! I tried raw fish the other night and I won't be trying that again, but most of the food is nice with local specialities.
Going to visit the ninja temple today in Kanazawa, and we:re 'hiring' a geisha in a few days which should be good! Also we're planning to go to the kareoke in Hiroshima - you know I will be in my element.
Chappers and nat xx
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