Toyko – Matsumoto, Nagano
We traveled 3 hours on the bus with the greatest view and experience of seeing Japan from the city to the country. We spent an hour/ish surrounded by tall buildings that represent the city then slowly it got less houses and more spaces like farm land mountains then into small villages scattered every where and lots of grave yards. The further we went the colder it got and snow covered everything like mountains, house roofs and land. And we stay here for a month with Chris’ dad.
I went to English class: I went with Mayumi to a class where she teaches English. We rode our bikes together and I loved every minute of the ride.. I could ride for days. In their class there were 8 Japanese mature students. For the first part of the class they all introduced themselves to me in English and each asked me one question about anything. Most were about Australia or personal and there were 2 questions that I really liked. The first was from a muso who asked if I play music? I told them I can play one song on guitar and asked if they knew Taylor Swift cause I can play one of her songs. One person understood and pronounced her name how they would understand and they got it… after the class one of the girls came and asked me “do you know shake it shake it?” with a small dance move while saying it. That was a special moment! We really bonded over this moment. The second was “what Japanese food do you like.” I said “I love Ramen, mochi and nikkoman” everyone laughed… I thought I pronounced something wrong, I didn’t really understand. Later that day we told Chris’ dad and asked why they might have laughed..he laughed also and said something like “well Ramen is originally Chinese and nikkoman is also Chinese it’s a super cheap food from a convenient store.” I now understand the humour.
Chris and I ventured out on our bikes one day into Matsumoto city. We stopped at Starbucks as Chris was desperate for coffee. Their smallest size was an Australian large haha and it apparently tasted like dirt…don’t be offended we are just picky. Then we rode to the Castle which is the oldest castle still standing in Mutsumoto. It’s so cool because you can go inside and explore. On the outside it appears to have 5 levels but inside there is a secret one. The stairs at the entrance are so huge short people really struggle at the entrance you take your shoes off and put on slippers. That castle is really big and has cool views on every side. To go up a level you have to have these steep stairs that are basically ladders. On one of the levels there is a “moon watching room” which was like a big veranda and big window doors. It felt very relaxing. The secret level had only one window so it was dark. And the very top floor had big windows with the best views of North,South,East and West. We went back to the bikes to travel on but found I had ridden over a thumbtack and the bike was no longer able to go on, so we tied him up and picked him up later in a car. So we walked around to all the natural spring water drinking spots then headed home.
We woke up at 6:30am to get an early start on the day. We drove 2 hours to a snowy mountain in Nagano where we then walked up a snowy footpath that took 30mins to go see the snow monkeys. There were so many snow monkeys, all ages, shapes and sizes. Some were alone, some were coupled up, some bunched up in big family groups, or in the Onsen keeping warm. We had a massive area where we could hang out with them being so close. Before they let you in the workers tell you not to look in their eyes for more then 3 seconds as apparently they will think you want to fight. So I was trying to take selfies with them and sometimes our eyes would make contact and it freaked me out these piercing, green, human-looking eyes and I would run away… I wasn’t interested in a fight. There were so many monkeys all over the place in the trees, on the fence, in the Onsen and just all over the ground where we walked. There was one monkey that picked on Chris… no eye contact was even involved… Chris was standing near a tall fence and a monkey walked behind him and then put his monkey hands on Chris’ shoulders for awhile and then turned around the put his monkey feet on him. He did this two separate times… Lucky we have the photo to prove it. Walking back down the track seemed a lot quicker. A few people slipped over, but not me and Chris. We were steady as someone walking on a normal footpath… we had it in the bag. We then hit up the Winter Olympic ice skating rink. It was free entry as it was the last day of the season. There were two types of skating areas. There was a normal size oval one, and a massive race track style one around it. We timed ourselves and it took us less then 2mins to complete a full lap of the big one… I was quicker! There are not many things that I am better at than Chris but I really am better at skating… haha. There was a lot of people, so skating fast was hard as you had to weave your way through the people to avoid a crash. There were heaps of little kids falling over everywhere, so skating behind them was dangerous. After the skating rink we hit up a local ice cream shop that sold the strangest flavours I have heard off… Pumpkin, sesame seed, milk, chestnut, soba, and green tea. We were intrigued by the sesame seed one as it was gray with black dots, but decided to try pumpkin and chestnut. They were delicious.
Snow day: it snowed from the sky, which is really cool as the snow we have been seeing has been older snow and on the mountains. It was snowing at the place we are staying so we went for a walk on a winters day. My first time of seeing snow fall from the sky, it was a big deal. We really enjoyed it. Not enough snow for a snow fight, just nice and light snow flakes.