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My Japan Travels - Follow-along with me

Old May 16th, 2017, 07:21 AM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 1,753
Glad you are having a good time.

Your story of exercising with the older ladies reminded me of a park in China where a large group of women were exercising to music. One song was the Macarena which they weren't doing, so I joined them and showed them the dance. They picked it up quite quickly and I received a lovely applause when we were done.

Even before I became a vegetarian 30 years ago I wasn't adventurous as far as food goes. I only recently started eating Mexican food, I really think I'll have a problem with food in Japan. In China I was mostly served a vegetable that looked like cooked spinach. Day after day after day, lol.

If we go, I'll pack stuff to eat.

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Old May 16th, 2017, 07:30 AM
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" In China I was mostly served a vegetable that looked like cooked spinach. Day after day after day, lol."

Were you on a tour? I got some lovely stir frys by going into the kitchen and pointing at what I wanted. I have veggie friends who lived in China for three years, I am quite sure they didn't eat spinach all the time!
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Old May 16th, 2017, 03:13 PM
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Yes, I was on a tour with meals served family style and this dish was pointed out as vegetarian. Hardly any other options, if I am recalling correctly, but not really a big deal.

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Old May 17th, 2017, 06:18 PM
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@kfreeland900, thanks for following along.

@KRNS, despite the food issue (which is getting better), I'm having an amazing time and it's such a wonderful country and people. So don't let the food issue dissuade you.

@thursdaysd, haven't seen much tempura yet. I did walked by a restaurant that was advertising it but with meat. I meant to go back and asked if they had vegetable tempura but didn't get around to it.

Today I leave Kanazawa for Matsumoto. But I have to say I fell in love with Kanazawa. The weather has continued to be very much spring-like minus the rain. Yesterday I did a day trip to Shirakawa-go, by taking the bus from Kanazawa Station which takes about 1 hr. to get to Shirakawa-go and what a lovely time I had. Gorgeous scenery and landscapes with jaw dropping vistas every which way the eyes can behold. (Before coming to Japan I was nerve racking myself trying to find the perfect walking shoes/sandals from the Keens, Tevas, Chacos, Naot, you name it I tried them all. Then one day while on Merrel's website I saw a pair on sale for $34 and thought what the heck for that price it won't hurt to purchase. After receiving them they were light weight but I didn't care much for the insole and felt it needed more lift so I took out the insoles from a pair of shoes I have and wah-la added the extra lift and support I needed. I also didn't want to pack my Keen hiking shoes due to them being so heavy and bulky so I purchased as pair of Keen sandals which were also on sale at Nordstrom. These 2 have turned out to be the best thing ever in walking shoes. I've only worn the Keens once relying mostly on the Merrels which are as light as a feather and offer great support especially with the addition of the extra insoles). I mentioned the shoes only to say that I walked must've been everything nook and cranny of the Shirakawa-go village (trying to avoid the hoard of Chinese tourists that had also descended offense to any Chinese) in the time before I needed to be back at the bus station. I took too many pictures to count because at every turn that was something that was worth photographing. I kept imagining what it would be like in the winter with the snow covered roofs with those giant mountains as a backdrop and told myself I'll need to come back during the winter time just to see is winter wonderland.

I stopped briefly to grab something to eat which was my first time trying soba noodles with fried tofu, seaweed, radish and green onions in a delicious hot broth. Happy that I didn't go hungry trying to find a vegetarian meal, I continued exploring the area until it was time to get to the bus station for the return to Kanazawa. At the bus station I met a lovely family from Australia who were spending the night at a ryokan who were also vegetarians and came with their cards in Japanese (which they give me one even though I told them I had one) that's says "I'm a vegetarian. I can't eat meat, poultry or fish including dashi. Eggs and dairy are ok. Thank you for understanding." After telling them that it's been hard for me, the wife whom I gather is not really fully vegetarian, although of of the sons is gluten free, mentioned if that was the case if she had to eat fish she would. The husband did say that it was his choice to become vegetarian because of the treatment of animals. I suppose we all have our reasons why we become that vegetarian, personal choice, dietary or allergies. After talking with them some more, turns out the husband was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Missouri, lived in Baltimore for a time before moving to Australia. My bus pulled into the station so we bid each other goodbye and says that maybe our paths would cross in Kyoto where they were heading to after Shirakawa-go and where I'll be heading on Monday. So who knows our paths may cross.

Arriving back at Kanazawa Station a little after 5pm, the next JR bus wasn't scheduled to leave until 6:20 so I decided to grab some dinner inside the Station before going back to the apartment since there's not much in the area. I ran into J.S. Pancake Cafe and after looking at the menu I saw something that piqued my interest, a salad of Avocado, smoke salmon (I asked if the could minus the salmon), lentils and black beans with baked potato fries so delicious. With my belly full, I headed to the bus stop where the JR bus was waiting. I got on the bus without paying any attention to its destination and because it was now dark outside, didn't paid any attention to the streets, until I realized the English translation was no longer being announced, but still I should've also realized there were only local Japanese on the bus. At this point I said to myself "hey Dorothy you're not in Kansas anymore", but figured the bus is going in another direction and would eventually end up back on Ohori Dori Ave by Kenroke-en Garden my stop, but the bus just kept going. Eventually with only 3 other passengers on board, I got up and asked the driver who don't speak much English if he was going to Kenroku-en for which he replied no, now that I understand. So I say "Kanazawa Station?" and he said yes. So I went back to my seat as we continued until we came to the final stop when the last passenger got off and it was just me and the driver on board. He waited a few minutes signing his arrival sheet and then checked the bus for anything that was left and then we pulled off back towards Kanazawa Station. Now paying full attention I got off at the only stop I recognized which is Omi-cho Market and walked the 15 mins back to the apartment. Turns out the JR bus that goes my route ends at 5:40. In all of this I never panicked. Not sure if it's because my friend Mari is always telling me not to be too afraid because Japan is safe or if it because I knew the bus will be going back to the station, but I'll say that there probably is that many who can say they got a sightseeing seeing tour of the real neighborhoods where the locals live. As the bus was driving through the different neighborhoods I saw kids riding their bikes coming from school with their headlights and white helmets which reminded me of ET and made me lol. All in all, an interesting end to a beautiful day.

Back at the apartment I started to pack my bags for departure the next day, showered and went to be. I got up at 5am and went for my last run in Kanazawa head back to the apartment did my last laundry and got ready to leave, took the right JR bus to Kanazawa Station where I am now writing this while waiting for my train to Matsumoto.

Matsumoto up next. Thanks for following along and pardon the errors.
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Old May 20th, 2017, 08:14 PM
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I had an entire post starting when I left Kanazawa and it has

I'll have start all over again which will take awhile so be patient with me.
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Old May 20th, 2017, 11:15 PM
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Thats annoying for you. I am enjoying your report and look forward to the rewrite for this last post.
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Old May 21st, 2017, 01:28 AM
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Matsumoto 5/18 to 5/22

Left the Kanazawa Station on the Shinkansen Hakutaka 562 which departed at 11:56am with a transfer at Nagano where we arrived at 13:18. I think took the Shinkansen Shinano 16 which left at 14:04 with an arrival at Matsumoto at 14:52.

I arrived at Matsumoto to beautiful almost like Kanazawa except it has been much warmer here. I've truly lucked out with the weather thus far on this portion of my trip after leaving Izu. Mari says it's been raining a lot in Tokyo. I hope the rain is gone by my return in early June (although June is the beginning of rainy season...fingers crossed). Once I got downstairs and realized I didn't know which exit the hotel would be the closest exit East/West. So I pulled out my iPad and plugged in the hotel name and the coordinates came up to head east. So head east and make a right and the hotel with .2 km away. Well, I did as google directed but ended up going well past .2 km. I then stopped a Japanese lady and showed her the hotel name on my iPad and asked if she knew where it was. After looking at the map she said it's the other way, so I headed in the opposite direction but still did not see the hotel so I stopped a gentlemen and asked him if he knew, after looking at the map he told me to follow him where we crossed the street, walked just a couple minutes and turned down a side street and wah-lah there is Hotel Mor-Schein. Mari had called them for me before I left Tokyo and they'd told her that they were directly across the street from the Matsumoto Station but not visible to the eyes so now I understand what they meant. The hotel is indeed across the street from the station and for those who may want to stay here, which I highly recommend, at the east exit of the station go left and cross at the light which is directly in front of the 7-11 (hallelujah), head left and at the end of that block turn right and there's the hotel. Hotel Mor-Schein is a small boutique hotel (and the only hotel I'm staying in on this trip, using AirBnB and a guesthouse) which has everything you will need. The staff is friendly albeit they don't speak much English but they're very helpful. The hotel is also within walking distance to all the sites. The room is your standard Japanese size room, which doesn't bother me, but has all the amenities one would need.

Finally arriving at the hotel, I told the attendant my name and she immediately recognized my name because my luggage which I'd sent from Kanazawa had already arrived and was in my room. She then told me my bill for the next 4 days which I needed to pay now and thankfully for the 7-11 next door as I didn't have enough to settle my bill, so I told her I'll be right back and ran to 7-11 to get enough to cover my bill and ran back. All checked in I head to my room, settled in just a few minutes and headed out to scope out the surroundings. One thing I was happy to see as I exited the station was Mos Burger which made my veggie heart so happy. As I hadn't eating anything all day, that was my first stop ordering their soy patty burger with onion rings which was recommended by Mari as her favorite. Once my order arrived, I gobbled it down with some orange juice and found that I was still hungry. Japanese sizes are nothing like our sizes, the burger was eaten in 3 bites and the onion rings were about 6 if that Still needing something else I headed to another of Mari's favorites and also located as you exit the station Vie De France and ordered an apple turn over (again very tiny) and sat and eat that. Feeling somewhat full (not really but will save that dinner), I continue to explore the area and thought I'd head to the castle. I went in the direction of the sign saying Matsumoto National Treasure which I assumed was the castle, but may have gotten off track somewhere because I didn't see the castle and ended up following a group, who I assume was heading in the castle direction but later realized they were coming from the castle because I didn't go far enough. Oh well, since it was getting late, I decided the castle can wait after all, I have 4 days to see it. I ended up wandering around Nakamachi-dori street and the many other side streets where most of the merchants were closing up for the evening, admiring the many canals/bridges that seems to run the length of the city even crossing over the other red-canal bridge. After all this wandering and with it getting late, I was again hungry (again I hadn't eaten anything before arriving) so headed back in the direction of the hotel along another street and I ventured upon a restaurant Curry House CoCo where the menu was advertising vegetable curry on rice, excited to see this, I went inside and was asked to take a seat. Once seated I asked if they had an English menu to which the waitress said yes and brought one over. I immediately saw that they had a combination of vegetable curry dishes so I ordered one consisting of yams, carrots and string beans. After placing my order it gave me a chance to really look at their menu and turns out there was a special insert advertising vegan/vegetarian options (another hallelujah). My food arrived and in my excitement I motioned by pointing to the gentlemen that brought out my food (not that he really understood what I was saying) that I was happy I can order without meat. At the mention of no meat he finally understood that I didn't want any meat and luckily too because the dish he brought out contained meat in the curry sauce. Apologizing he said he'll be back. Another few minutes and he arrived with a fresh plate of the curry vegetables with rice and boy was it good and worth it. Thoroughly satisfied and happy that I'd found two options for eating in the short time I was in Matsumoto, I head back to the hotel showered and it was lights out.

Coming up next, my amazing day at Kamikochi...
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Old May 21st, 2017, 02:55 AM
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Still following along. The places you are visiting sound beautiful and you do a good job painting the images. I've not traveled to the Japanese Alps and beyond so all the places you described are new to me.
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Old May 21st, 2017, 03:31 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
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Thank you for posting directions on finding Hotel Morschein - my houseguests here in Tokyo are taking the train to Matsumoto this morning and have reservations there. I'd forgot that it took me a couple of tries to locate it. So - very timely to find your post! It is supposed to be unseasonably hot in Matsumoto for the next few days (33C predicted today) so depending on when your Kamikochi account is posted, I might suggest they head there.
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Old May 21st, 2017, 04:23 PM
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@Boveney, glad that my directions are of help. Yes it's definitely not easy to spot Hotel Mor-Schein from the station or even walking along the street because I passed it when I eventually went in the right direction. Thanks to that kind Japanese gentleman, who I ran into a couple days later and we both said hello recognizing each other. Yes, it's is unbelievably hot here in Matsumoto. Even at 8:45 walking across the street to station I could tell it's going to be a scorcher today. I'm headed to Kyoto now where it appears to be just as warm. Heading to Kamikochi may offer some reprieve, although I couldn't have asked for better weather during my time there, which was perfect. Quite the contrary, I was at Norikura yesterday and it was even extremely warm.
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Old May 21st, 2017, 05:32 PM
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@tripplanner, thanks for continuing to follow along.

May 19th

Today I decided I'll head to Kamikochi for the day. Upon arrival at the train station I'd read that tickets for the Kamikochi Line train can be purchased from the two machines to the left of the station. At the machine, the keys which are in Japanese, I'm trying to figure out how to purchase my ticket when the kind attendant came over and asked where I was going and when I said Kamikochi he asked if I wanted a one way or round trip and I said round trip. I'd read and had a brochure with me that one could also purchase a 2 day pass so I showed him and he said not here only one way or round trip. He then pressed the English but and hit the button for the Kamikochi round trip ticket which is ¥4500 and told me cash only no credit card. I inserted my money and out pops two tickets, I then proceeded to the gate where another attendant stamped the Matsumoto-Kamikochi ticket and told me track 7 where the train was scheduled to leave at 8:41. At the platform I noticed a lot of young people were also waiting for the train but they were not dressed in uniform like all Japanese kids I'd seen so far, but turns out the train makes a stop at Katani which is also the stop for Matsumoto University. The train leaves Matsumoto to the last stop Shin-Shimashima making stops along the way. The total time is 30 mins.

We arrived at Shin-Shimashima (forgive me as I've already discarded my brochures with the train/bus schedules so don't have the exact times other than the time the train leaves Matsumoto) station and transfers to the waiting bus for Kamikochi. There's quite a number of us all heading to Kamikochi but I was lucky to snag a window seat on the left side opposite the driver which I felt offered some amazing views going up the mountains. The trains and buses at Shin-Shimashima (like trains/buses in Japan) run on a coordinated schedule so the buses are waiting when the trains arrives with sometimes just a few minutes to spare for wondering or to use the restroom. At the appointed time, the bus takes off. There's many stops along the way some stops are designated stops where passengers can get on from either hiking or when parking at the various car lots (Kamikochi is car free and thankfully so). I loved when the bus starts its climb up the mountains on what to me are the narrowest and windiest (can't be a word) roads I've ever driven on. Winding and climbing our way up the mountains I'm both terrified and excitedly-exhilarated, terrified because sitting at the window that hugs the jaw-dropping-gut-wrenching cliffs below with only a hair of space between the bus and the guardrail that you hope can do a good of a job in stopping the bus should it ever have to take a plunge down the rock-infested-fast-flowing streams below and of course, excitedly-exhilarated to be witnessing some of the most amazing views your eyes can behold. My camera was working overtime and I was texting my friends back home with the pics of how exciting it was and they too were excited. By this time, as we continue our climb and as the roads narrows even more and the turns get even more hair-raising, I was lucky that I didn't have much in way of breakfast because I was beginning to get a little lighthearted and nauseous due to the altitude but it sure didn't stop my excitement. At one point the bus came to a stop for quite a few minutes and I'm wondering what's going on, but turns out that we were about to cross over a tiny bridge area that could only accommodate one vehicle at a time. Apparently the buses communicate with each or maybe there's a sign that I didn't see letting the drivers know when there's traffic already on the bridge-pass.

We arrived at Taisho Pond and it seems like the entire but emptied out at this viewing stop. I didn't because I wanted to go to the bus terminal at Kamikochi to get my numbered ticket for the return bus. This is highly recommended and sometimes it's so busy that without the numbered ticket (which you get on the bus with by your number) you may not get on a bus if it's full. No standing on the buses for obvious reasons. Once at Kamikochi with hundreds of others who appeared to have come on tour buses, I went to the ticket window and got my number for the return bus, explored some of the souvenir shops and headed in the direction of the famous Kappa-dashi bridge.

More to come...
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Old May 21st, 2017, 06:14 PM
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Great description of what sounds like a great drive! Sorry I missed it.
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Old May 24th, 2017, 05:16 AM
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Kamikochi, con't

This place literally took my breath away. Even with the thousands that had also descended on this beautiful piece of nature, it still caused me to pause to inhale the fresh scent of the pristine clean mountain air. Spring was definitely in the air. I beamed at the still snow-capped Japanese Alps high about, watched in awe and wonder at the Kappa-dashi Bridge suspended over the Azusa River and even marveled at those that were clamming to take pics on, over, around and under this bridge. I too waited my turn to snap and snap away at every angle I could get. I really like that the area is car free which I believe has helped maintain the tranquil and serene setting her. After making my fill of all the pics one could take, I took the nature trail that leads to the Myojin Pond which is a winding, part gravel, mostly dirt with a few wooden man-made walk ways, some like mini-bridges and some are wooden steps (which are steep in some areas so one needs to watch ones step) sprinkled in between. During my walk which took most longer to reach Myojin Pond because we're also still mesmerized by the many scenic views we stumbled upon, especially Takezawa Marsh, where we found a man painting this beautiful area.

I finally made my way to Myojin Pond after about 1 1/2 and paid the ¥300 to enter. This too is a lovely scenic area and after taking some more pics, I headed over to Myojin Bridge and just as I'm getting to the bridge what do I see crossing the way but a snow monkey of this area the ones with the pink face. In my amazement I tried to get a pic of him, but it appear that they are very shy retreating into the nearby brushes instead. I followed from a distance trying to get more pics and a few more crossed over. I did manage to get some good shots of them before crossing over the bridge and taking some more pics. By this time, I realized I won't have time to make it to Taisho Pond as it was getting late and I didn't want to miss the bus, so I decided I would come back early the next day and get off at Taisho Pond this time.

Walking back was faster as while I was still enjoying the views, I was on a timed-mission so didn't want to stop for fear of missing the bus. Back at the bus terminal, the bus arrived and we headed back down the mountains. I think it's safe to say that everyone was dead tired because most were sleeping even quite a few snoring. I didn't sleep though because again going down was just as hard as going up and again, I was lucky I didn't eat much all day. This time instead of getting off at Shin-Shimashima, I took the bus directly into Matsumoto getting off at the bus terminal there. Since I didn't have lunch I decided to grab dinner. While I was on the bus, I was texting with Mari and had mentioned to her how hungry I was so she looked up an Italian place named Trattoria Girasole in the same building as Mos Burger where she thought I might want to try and said they also served pizza. Once I arrived at the place and looked at the menu, nothing appealed to me so I ordered a simple salad and simple it was. I ate it just to satisfied my hungry stomach but was still hungry so I went downstairs to Mos Burger and ordered another soy bean burger and then went over to Vie De France and had my usual apple turnover. Now fully satisfied I headed back to the hotel and stopped at the front desk to ask if I could forward my luggage to Kyoto and was told that I needed to have it downstairs by 5pm the next day. As I had planned on going to Kamikochi again, I quickly decide against that because I didn't want to take the chance of not getting back by 5 so I decided that I would spend the day visiting the castle. So I headed upstairs showered and hit the sheets.

Next morning I woke up bright and early hoping to get an early start and visit the castle and then head to Wasabi Farms. Although, I now knew where the castle is located, I headed in the direction of the Matsumoto City Musemu of Arts. Once I arrived it is clear that it was not open as yet (opened at 10) because other than myself there was a group who appear to had arranged for a tour. So I took that opportunity to take lots of pics without having to dodge others from getting in my shots.

I then headed to the castle and when I entered the entrance I was awe struck by the beauty of Matsumoto Castle. It was like something that drifted out of a fairy tale novel. I stood there for a while just marveling at its beauty and then started taking pics from every possible angle. When you're traveling alone it's always difficult getting pics of oneself and even though I'm armed with my iPad and it has a timer, it's not easy to find something to put it on to set it to take pics. Today I was lucky that a gentlemen also traveling alone approached and asked if I wanted him to take pics of me and I happily said please. Once he'd taking some nice shots, we introduced ourselves. He's from Belgium and had been traveling for a couple weeks where he was in Osaka and showed me a lovely pic of Osaka's white Castle which he said I should definitely visit, Miyajima where he taught was too crowded and didn't quit enjoy for that reason, he also enjoyed Kanazawa same as I and when I told him I was headed to Kyoto next, he said I would enjoy that too (which is where I am now and am enjoying it). I told him I was heading to Wasabi Farms after the castle and he said that I could miss it because he was not impressed with it. That really surprised me but said I could go and see for myself. I then told him that I'd visited Kamikochi and really loved it as that's where he wanted to go but wasn't sure he could since he needed to get back to Tokyo for his flight on Tuesday morning. I showed him the train/bus scheduled where the first train leaves at 5:45 and if he caught that train he would probably have the place all to himself before the throngs of visited arrived (later I did ran into him at the station purchasing his tickets). Before heading off, he asked if could take a pic of me and I said yes as he was kind and all. We said our goodbyes (ran into each other several times after that and agreed that Matsumoto is a small place.

After having my fill of the castle (hours), I decided to head back and grab some lunch before going back to the hotel to get my luggage together. Walking back I ran into another Italian restaurant, this one had an English menu outside advertising vegetables with linguine pasta that sounded right up my alley, but when I went in turned out it also had shrimp and when I told the waiter I was vegetarian and if they could just make it with the vegetables he said in the best English he could that he would. After a few minutes my food arrived and it looked so good. I took a quick pic and sunk my fork in and into my mouth to the most delicious pasta primavera I've ever eaten. It was so good that I took out my goole translator and translated "I can't thank you guys enough. It was so delicious" and showed it to the waiter and the chef and they all smiled and looked very pleased. Back at the hotel, I packed up my luggage and took it down to the front desk for forwarding to Kyoto. Afterwards I headed over to the station to see if it was too late to head to the Wasabi Farms and was told by the tourist office that it was. She said I could go the next day, but I had plans on going back to Kamikochi and she suggested that since I've been to Kamikochi I should try Norikura. I was hesitant telling her that I really enjoyed Kamikochi and wanted to see Taisho Pond, but she said Norikura is also nice and added that there was a festival in Norikura that I might enjoy. So I decided I'll go to Norikura instead. She give me a map of the area and how to get there, which is just like going to Kamikochi, but at a certain point head in a different direction.

By now it's dinner time and I decided to head back to Curry House Coco and enjoyed another fine meal of curry with rice and vegetables, afterwards I headed to Vie De France for my apple turnover fix.

Thanks for following along, up next Norikura...
jdc26 is offline  
Old May 24th, 2017, 06:51 AM
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Still enjoying. Great detail of a really interesting and varied trip.
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Old May 24th, 2017, 09:06 AM
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I'm on the edge of my seat: will you get to Taisho pond?

In my experience, it's safe to get off there and take the walk into the center--it takes only an hour or so and you'll arrive in plenty of time to make the bus reservation for your return.

I enjoyed your description of the journey between Shin-Shimashima and Kamikochi! It certainly is exciting and scenic and the serious white-gloved bus driver makes it seem safer than comparable journeys elsewhere.
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Old May 24th, 2017, 05:56 PM
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What a fun trip report !
Taking notes
Thanks for taking the time to post
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Old May 27th, 2017, 06:12 AM
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The bus ride to Norikura is in the same direction as Kamikochi driving up the mountains along winding, narrow roads, but to get to Norikura the bus takes a left turn instead of going right to Kamikochi at a certain location. There wasn't much of us on the bus, so I was right up front and after we made the left heading to Norikura, while there were some scenic views, it wasn't as spectacular as Kamikochi. I got off at the Norikura Kogen stop and wanted to see both the Sanbondaki and Zengoro Waterfalls but decided that I'd head to the park where the annual Sumomo Festival was being held and then worked my way back to the waterfalls. I followed a couple who appear to be going in the same direction since I'd overheard them ask the tourist information desk for directions. The three of us headed left from the bus stop and walked a long a nice route that is used for hiking and biking trails and walked for about 30 mins before arriving at the location. When we arrived, folks were already arriving to enjoy the festival and vendors were setting up. I stopped and bought a couple pastries and was thankful there was an English speaking woman helping who was able to let me know what the pastries I was buying had in them. I was told that even though the event don't start until 10am, folks were arriving early to secure their tickets for the free homemade soba noodles and tempura made from a variety of wild plants (called 'sansai') picked from the mountains. Some of the booths were also selling some of the fresh sansai.

With pastries in hand, I then headed over to the area where most of the crowds were congregating which was close by a stream lines with plum trees and that's because it was very hot and sitting close to the stream which is crystal clear and in a shaded area and offers a bit of relief from the heat. Although there was a breeze now and them, it was extremely hot with zero clouds in the sky. A clear sunny day. I sat there for a while taking pics of the surroundings of the snow peaks of Mt. Norikura and then decided to venture a bit further to explore the area. One thing I noticed in Norikura is just about everything is in Japanese so it was somewhat difficult trying to figure out where you were. But thankfully I had an English map which I got from the tourist office to help navigate my way around. I followed a path along with many other that led us to the Azami Pond. It's not anywhere as pictureque as the ponds found in Kamikochi especially that none of the native animals like mallard or spotbill duck were to be seen. Maybe they were on their way back from flying south for the winter. After walking around the pond area, I continued along the walking trail which is mostly paved. I followed trail until the end which I think was Megoya Grove where you can see the Asia skunk cabbage, which you do see some along the way while you walk.

After reaching the end, I sat for a while in the cool shade to catch my breath and to cool off and ate my pastries before heading back. The walk back was not as difficult because you're going downhill and I soon arrived back at the festival which appeared to have been in full swing while I was gone. When I arrived the line was very long for those that had secured their tickets for the free food, but what cause my eyes was a traditional sumomo dance that was being performed by women dressed beautifully in kimonos of different colors and at that point they were asking anyone to join in the dance even if you didn't know you could follow along, which a lot of the crowds including children got up to join. It was so much fun watching everyone having such a good time that I started recording it. After the dance was don't and the dancers were standing on the side, I went over and asked if I could have a picture with them and they were also so happy to. After the dance performance then came some kind of live calligraphy which was being performed by a Calligraphy Girls Club from Matsumoto Arigasaki High School which was so beautifully done. The girls while singing, dancing and cheering creates a huge calligraphy artwork using giant brushes which is being coordinated to the music. It was truly spectacular to watch. After they were done, I decided that if I wanted to see the waterfalls, I better head back, so I walked back the way I'd come and end back at the tourist office bone tired from the heat. So I asked the lady at the desk if there was a hot springs close by and directed me to one across the street and also give me a coupon for a discount.

I then headed to the hot springs and after soaking for about 30 mins which was so relaxing, I headed to the restaurant and ordered a bowl of soba noodles with vegetables which was delicious. By now, after the soak in the hot springs, my body just wanted a bed and as I headed back to the tourist office, I asked when was the next bus and was told it would be there in the next 10 mins., and right there I decided that I had not more energy left to walk another hour to see the waterfalls and waited for the bus to arrive. Once on the bus, my body could take it no more so I drifted in and out of sleep until arriving at Shin-Shimashima station. Since the train back to Matsumoto had not yet arrived, we were asked to wait in the waiting room. While waiting I must have dosed off again because I vaguely remembered hearing the announcement that the train had arrived and to line up to start board, so I was shocked when I opened my eyes to an empty room. I rushed outside thinking I'd missed the train, but I was lucky that they had not yet started boarding since the train was only now pulling into the station. Once all the passengers had de-board we started boarding for the ride back to Matsumoto.

Back in Matsumoto, feeling a bit refreshed and with it being my last night in Matsumoto, I headed to the hotel briefly to refresh and decided I would go see Matsumoto Castle when it's illuminated. After refreshing I walked to the Castle and arrived right at twilight and was able to capture some beautiful images of the Castle before heading back in search of something to eat. On the way back, I stopped at the Matsumoto Parco shopping mall and wondered around while looking for something to eat and ended up at 5Horn Cafe where I ordered a really nice salad with sautéed mixed vegetables that was so divine and the pièce de résistance to celebrate my last night in Matsumoto, a slice of chocolate cake that was so good, I would go back to Matsumoto just for that. It was so good, in a place that make the best of everything, I haven't been able to find anything that taste that good.

Feeling good from my head to my toes and now my stomach, I went back to the hotel for my last night. Next morning I got up, checked out and headed to the train station for the train that would take me from Matsumoto to Nagano and from Nagano to Kyoto, where I've been enjoying my time here immensely.

Up next Kyoto, Kyoto...

Thanks for continuing to follow along.

@someotherguy, sadly, I didn't make it back to Taisho Pond, but have many reasons to get back to Kamikochi.
jdc26 is offline  
Old May 28th, 2017, 05:53 AM
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Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 1,086
Kyoto May 22nd to June 1st

I left Matsumoto on Shinano 10 with a transfer at Nagoya and from Nagoya on Hiraki 471 to Kyoto. As always in Japan, all trains were on time, thus arriving at Kyoto Station on schedule. The temperature when I arrived was similar to what I'd left in Matsumoto, hot and hot, but at least it wasn't raining or cold.

The owner of the apartment had given me instructions to either catch a taxi from Kyoto Station and to call me from the taxi so he could give the driver directions to his house or take the City Bus 100 and get off at the Gojozaka stop. So on arrival at Kyoto Station and since I'd sent my luggage ahead, I decided to be adventurous and take the bus. I located the information counter and inquired where the bus stop was for Bus 100. She told me that Bus 100 will be departing from D1 and cost ¥230 (base cost for all City Bus for adults and ¥120 for children). She also told me that I could also take Bus 206, 207 and a few others which also stop at the Gojozaka stop. So off I went in search of bus stop D1 which I located right away because it's just directly in front of you as you exist the Central Exit at the station to the right. Luckily as I arrived the bus was just pulling up so I got on to standing room only, which would be the norm when taking this bus and many of the other buses, but as luck would have it, it's also the bus stop for Kiyomizudera Temple (lucky me).

Since I was still skeptical whether I was on the right bus and not familiar with Kyoto's bus system, I asked a young man standing next to me by pointing to my map if I was on the correct bus and in perfect English yes you and I'll tell you when we reach the stop, but also pointed to the monitor above the driver which he says list the upcoming stops along with an announcement. Feeling confident, I finally relaxed. After driving along for a few minutes, I looked up at the monitor and also heard the announcement that Gojozaka was the next stop and the young man also tapping me on my shoulder, I started moving towards the front of the bus (enter at back of buses and exit and pay through the front) and when the bus stopped I put in my ¥230 and got off. I then called the owner who arrived less than 2 minutes and I'm like, wow that close. Btw, while waiting for the owner, right beside me is an Indian restaurant (yayyy).

We walked to the apartment that would be my house for the next 10 days and once inside he showed me around to his lovely Japanese style 2 bedroom apartment. One of the room is setup tatami style and the other western style. I chose the the western style room because it has an extra bed and more room. The apartment is equipped with everything that I'll need for my stay and he even showed me that his wife had went out and bought a few groceries for my stay bread, coffee, cream, bananas, etc. He then proceeded to draw me a map of the area and pointed out some of his favorite restaurants where I could get vegetarian food. After he left, I settled in a bit and then headed out to explore the area.

As mentioned above, the apartment is within walking distance to Kiyomizudera Temple, so that was going to be my very first stop. I left the apartment and walked back the way the owner had walked (remembering landmarks) back to the bus stop, which is now as crowded as ever and a huge crowd is also across the street all either coming from or heading to Kiyomizudera. I crossed the street and started walking but not in the direction the crowd was coming from as it was just to many people, so I walked to my right and ended up at the Omani Hombyo Mausoleum and spent about an hour walking through the grounds as I'm now walking through the back enjoying seeing the many thousands of mausoleums and the fantastic view over Kyoto, low and behold, I saw an arrow pointing to Kiyomizudera Temple and I'm like walk. So I continued to walk while still enjoying the views and the mausoleums finally arriving at Kiyomizudera. It was so beautiful even with the throngs of crowds that were still there. I was mesmerized just being there. I also enjoyed seeing all the women dressed up in their kimonos which added even more to the scenery. I stayed there for about 2 hours and when it was finally got dark and started to look for something to eat and headed to the Indian restaurant where I enjoyed vegetable pakoras and vegetable biryani, returned to the apartment and settled in for the day.

Tomorrow (Japan's tomorrow) will mark 1 week since I've been here and during that time, I will now list what I've done rather than giving day to day detail, but if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask.

Day 2, visited Fushimi-inari and Sanjusangendo Temple
Day 3, Nijo Castle (loved it here and was lucky to see a bride in groom in their traditional wedding attire taking photos) and Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavillion) (blew me away)
Day 4, Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillon), Philosopher Path, Nishiki Market, Gion, Geishas sighting 3 back to back. (they truly are so beautiful), Yasaka Shrine illuminated at night
Day 5, all day in Arashiyama (loved it so much I'm going back before leaving Kyoto)
Day 6, all day Nara with a lovely guide (loved it so much went back again)
Day 7, few hours Nara and then Uji (really loved)

As it turns out, I can actually walk to/from Kyoto Station from the apartment if I really wanted to. Have not done it as yet, but have taken the bus to as far as the Sanjusangendo Temple stop and walk to the apartment from there, especially after having cake after

The apartment is also a quick 15-20 mins walk to Gion. I've walked from Yasaka Shrine which is the bus stop for Gion back to the apartment.

I can also walk to the Keihan Subway line from the apartment and have done so when I visited Fushimi-inari, Sanjusangendo Temple and Niji Castle when I was still feeling my way around area, but since then and trying to utilize my JR pass (which I can't use on that line) being going to Kyoto station instead (love hanging out at Kyoto Station anyway. It fascinates me). For the buses, I've been using my Suica card which is more convenient than having to find ¥230 each time.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Himeji Castle (again utilizing my JR Pass) and then the owner of the apartment is taking me on an excursion so I need to be back by 3pm. I'll definitely post about those two adventures.
jdc26 is offline  
Old May 28th, 2017, 06:25 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,729
Sounds like you've been busy!
thursdaysd is offline  
Old May 28th, 2017, 03:24 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 834
Hi jdc26,

Is the apartment you are staying in the one above the potters studio? I have been looking at that and hope to stay there in the future if I can get bookings. I would love to hear what you think about staying there.

I am enjoying your report - only trouble is I keep thinking "that sounds good and how can I add it to my plans". Matsumoto has just joined rejoined my list.
MaryW is offline  

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