The Japanese Alps

Saturday 22nd April – Matsumoto

Up early this morning in our Ryokan, with Mr Muroyama dropping us at the station for our journey to Matsumoto. This trip seemed to use every train in the region so thank goodness we were travelling with just our day bags, and could get from one train to another fairly easily.

On the way we were to stop at Tsumago, which is one of the best preserved villages along the old Nakasendo route between Kyoto and Eco. The town has been strictly preserved with even things like telephone lines and electricity put below ground rather than spoiling the scenery.

To add a bit of exercise to the trip, we got a bus up to a starting point at the Odaki and Medaki waterfalls, a couple of kilometres out of the village, then wandered back down the hill until we reached the village of Tsumago-juku.

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It is really lovely, helped by it being a beautiful day and the cherry blossom appearing just in time for our visit, and the main street called Tereshita is lined with buildings and temples, some which date back to the 16th century.

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We had a wander through the town, visiting some of the little shops which produce local crafts then stopped for an ice cream made from chestnuts, a local speciality, and sat in the sun. With so much blossom and nice weather it really feels like spring has arrived in Japan.

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Back on the bus and then the train, we travelled to Matsumoto, a cute city sat surrounded by snow covered peaks, with one of the best preserved wooden castles in Japan. Meg took us for a Japanese style pub dinner, all small dishes around a huge table, which gave us the chance to try lots of small dishes of odd things. Slightly odd was the pickled aubergine which was bright blue, the gyoza were great, and the meat skewers weren’t as bad as the translations suggested – chicken skin skewers anyone?

To finish the night, we wandered up to the castle which, as it was cherry blossom week, was flood lit so looked really lovely. All set off nicely by the firework display that was going on in the background – the Japanese know how to put on a welcome!

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