Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Monkeys, Castles and early starts

I began writing this at 5am as I waited for the first subway to run on my way to the world’s biggest fish market, where tuna is sold whole for astronomical figures (think 5k plus). The streets are all empty and the metro has only now started to fill up. 

This on which is my last full day, is hopefully my earliest start. I’ve seen 4am before on my trip, but not from this side of sleep. Not that I ‘slept’ particularly well. My dreams are playing havoc with my perception (keep dreaming I'm at home, which is not particularly pleasant.) I don’t even think I probably nodded off until 2am. Giving me 2 hours of sleep, even though I went to bed at 11.

However, as its best to do things chronologically... says who? Here we go - Reeeeeeeeeeeeewind.

Ito as foretold last time, led to Nagano-Ken. My base for this area would be Nagano itself, home of the winter Olympics 1998. A few monuments/signs still hint at this and is Naganos main claim to faim. On my first day, the weather was still lovely and I went walking around Nagano. The main attraction is a temple called Zenko-Ji. As I arrived just before closing time it was quite quiet, this gave a nice feel, a more temple esque feel actually. The other thing to note about temples in Japan is that they are all very spacious, and have lots of greenery surrounding in the gardens.

Sights of Nagano itself done for the day, I had dinner, I think this was either noodle soup or pre-made sashimi due to being in ultra-cheap mode. These quick/easy/cheap dinners are actually pretty tasty.
The second day of Nagano involved taking a bus up towards the hills for a walk to Yudanaka to visit the ‘snow monkeys’ (Please note there was no snow at the moment). Despite the lack of snow, there were plenty of monkeys. Unlike the monkeys in China, these ones were pretty docile and indifferent to the presence of the humans. This is probably in a large part to the banning of feeding them. Before venturing to visit the monkeys I had a bath in the local hut. After all this I had some local style ‘soba’ Noodles. I thought these were dull and bland (They are however gluten free for all you food allergy people).

Third day was Matsumoto castle day, the temperature rocked up to 30 degrees. Matsumoto is a city southwest of Nagano and home to an original wooden style castle. This was one of my favourite castles/sights, it overlooked mountains, of which snow could still be visible. You could go inside the castle and visit the top.
In the evening of this day we had a Sake party, all of which came from Fukushima, in a sort of solidarity movement. We also had various snacks, including but not only Grasshoppers, Sea Urchin and Jellyfish – not all tasty.

Day four it rained, so I did nothing. Day five I went to Kamakura. Not a lot happened in Kamukura, I walked about 16km, saw another big Buddha (this makes four at least) and some more temples as per the usual. The real highlight of kamukura was the guesthouse. Another traditional style with all the walls being removal doors. We had family cooked dinners of bbq fish and Takoyaki (a sort of octopus dumpling) both were excellent and the atmosphere perfect.

Time for Tokyo, I almost feel as if Tokyo should be its whole own post, so why not? Coming tomorrow I reckon, when you’ll hear about Ninja’s, spaghetti metros, maid & cat cafes and a whole host of other weirdness.
As always more pictures on the picasa, and even more tomorrow. Enjoy.

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