This is my second post on my long holiday to Japan. It covers the two middle places we visited on our trip: Yudanaka and Matsumoto. If you want to read about Kyoto (and you totally should because it rocks) please go here.
I'm going to do this post in the same style as the last one. A little bit of observations about Japan, a little bit about what I did. A lot of photos. Bonus snow monkeys.
- Snow monkeys don't care about you. No, they're not tame, they are not trying to eat out of your hands. They are more like cats: they'll climb over you on the way somewhere but they don't need your affection. They've got their sauna and they're too busy chilling to give you any love.
- The Snow monkey park is incredibly beautiful and a really special experience. Seeing the monkeys arrive and get into the bath, and how close they get to you is absolutely worth visiting the small town of Yudanaka for.
- We were really nervous about onsen/hot spring baths before we got there for the concept of communal bathing. We worried all about it, the etiquette, the procedures. We were not ready to find that the problem was that they were just too hot! The natural springs were at around 60 degrees centigrade and I could barely put my foot in for very long! The whole town was full of this hot water that came to the surface up in little foot baths, or could be heard gushing underneath. It means that all the ryokans in town had hot water every day!
- Shoes off. Shoes off at the castles. Shoes off at the restaurants. And then shoes off, slippers on at the ryokan. But then slippers off and toilet shoes on when you need to pee. Then toilet shoes off, slippers on, slippers off, shoes on to go out... Don't go to Japan with a suitcase full of lace-ups.
- People seem to eat out a lot. They don't have pubs, so the eating and drinking happens all in one place. But there are far more restaurants in any given town than we would have. As space is at such a premium it didn't seem like people had big kitchens or went in for as much home cooking, as the restaurants were always busy. Quite prepared to be corrected on this one though.
- Don buri. Mmmm. Seaweed, spring onions, mushroom, fried chicken and raw egg and mayo all on top of Japanese rice. With some kind of mysterious spices that gave it such a unique flavour.
- Drinks were expensive, but many places the servers just give you green tea with your meal anyway so you don't have to order a drink.
- The landscape as we traveled across by train is so flat, and then suddenly mountainous. The cities have long wide flat roads that go off into the horizon and then huge mountains above. It seems strange back in Britain not have these white topped peaks at the end of the horizon. They were so beautiful.
- There was a lot of roadworks going on outside our ryokan in Matsumoto, and they were using these colourful giraffes to mark the pathway. When we first went this way it was late at night and we also thought there was a special display going on, with something colourful and flashing across the road. There was a road blocked off by a show of lights like someone with too much money in their Christmas decorations budget. So, at least in Matsumoto, roadworks were pretty friendly.
- Matsumoto Castle was utterly magnificent from every angle. Although the rest of the city didn't have as much to offer it was definitely worth a visit. It had this vast moat around the outside, and a beautiful red bridge going up to it. Once inside you take off your shoes and go round and up each layer, where the stairs get steeper and steeper. Until you are at this ladder like incline and packed in with other tourists. Trust me, they wouldn't like people do that in England.