Japan Alps

Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Flag of Japan  , Chubu,
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We spent 4 days travelling East to West across the Japanese Alps.  We started in Matsumoto which was a small town with a very impressive wooden castle.  It is also famous for its buckwheat noodles.  We went into one well-established restaurant where people were treating them with reverence.  They were served cold, to be dipped into a bowl of soy sauce and then slurped as loudly as you could manage.  We struggled with the slurping, and were rather put off by the flamboyant example the locals set.  The flavours were really too subtle for our jaded pallettes, but it was an excellent experience.
From Matsumoto it was a scenic bus trip to Kamikochi, little more than a camp site and a few hotels in the middle of the national park.  Here the scenery was superb and the autumn colours magnificent.  We did a long climb to a mountain hut and back.  There were lots of Japanese hikers wearing fantastic outdoor kit.  All the manufacturers have special Japanese ranges in luminous colours and shiny finishes.  A particular favourite of ours were the down-insulated hiking skirts.  Just as we finished our walk, it started to pour with rain.  We were staying in a cabin in the camp site with a little gas stove in it.  It was absolutely freezing cold; we had bedding for 5 people and used all of it and passed a very cosy night listening to the rain on the roof.
From Kamikochi we went to Takayama, which still has lots of buildings from the 18th and 19th century.  The area gets a lot of snow, and you can see from the picture the sloping thatched roof that is about 3 feet thick.  Takayama is known for its beef, supposedly nearly as highly graded as Kobe's.  It was terrific, so soft and almost creamy.  It was served on a burner at the table for you to cook yourself, or at snack stalls in a delicious bun.  It was also decidedly here, a few degrees above zero but also damp and windy.  We discovered the joys of hot sake at dinner on the first evening and immediately regretted having spent a full week in Japan before trying it.
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