Journal 20081006 Japan

It rained hard, from last evening all through the night. We slept well enough, but both of us were aware of the heavy downpours. It was an early start, and I went down to the onsen for my morning bath. Unlike yesterday when I bathed alone, there were several men doing the same today.

The Japanese style breakfast was also in the same private room as last night’s dinner. We were liking this special treatment and our particular server. Upon checking out, we presented her with a postcard and Pound coin from home. She took great happiness from this, and even hugged us as we got into the shuttle bus. We were likewise touched.

The journey to Matsumoto began with an hour-long bus journey through the high mountain, and we almost got off at the wrong stop! Thankfully the bus driver realised we meant to go the train station, not the town centre, and spared us agony. We transferred to a local train service, then again to a Shinkanten (bullet train). This was our first Shinkanten experience, and I was impressed with its speed and efficiency.

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We arrived at Matsumoto at an awkward time. If we went straight to the hotel, we’d likely pay an additional taxi fare to get back into the town and back. So we decided to make use of the lockers at the train station. After enjoying another session of Mos Burger meals, we went to Matsumoto Castle.

There, Madame Oui really didn’t like the steep steps within the castle. They really were like climbing ladders; one set was at an incline of 61 degrees! She remained on the second floor while I climbed up to the 6th floor and back down. Rejoined, we enjoyed the courtyard gardens, while having an ice cream snack. We were glad that we didn’t try to visit this site in a rush Tuesday morning.

We collected our bags and took a taxi to the hotel. The map suggested that it was about 2,000 metres away, and I expected a fare of about 1,000 yen. Indeed, I deliberated about walking the journey. I was so glad that we went for the taxi, because the journey took about 20 minutes, must have been 2 or 3 miles, and the fare was 2,000 yen! I’ll have to suggest to Inside Japan Tours that future customers are forewarned about this aspect.

At the hotel, I was impressed to see my name written on a large outside notice board. This stood out from the other guests’ name, which were written in Kanji. The staff made us feel very welcome, and we had a particularly lovely assistant escort us through all of the procedures. For example, she took me to where we could hire a private hot tub, which Madame Oui and I could use at the same time (versus the gender segregated, public baths).

Dinner was served in our room. It was a feast. Later I realised that it was a proper sukiyaki, with fresh meat cooked, in your presence, in a pot with leeks and other items. She returned with new items, and it was another fine dining experience.

After a short rest, we went down to our hired hot tub. With the backlit garden, the soothing water had a romantic effect. Madame Oui told me to work on getting one of these for our home.

Back in our room, we chilled out with a cold Asahi beer and listening to Yohsida Brothers from my iPod, discovering that my headphones make acceptable impromptu speakers.

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