After leaving Mount Fuji, we got the bus and train to Matsumoto, in the shadow of the Japanese Alps. Before leaving there was just enough time to play a tune on the Kalliope in the bus station.
Luckily I carry a two-pfennig piece around with me at all times just in case. Money well spent. Buchanan St. eat your heart out.
We arrived in Matsumoto mid-afternoon which gave us just enough time to borrow some bikes and visit Matsumoto castle.
The castle was fantastic, perfectly preserved and just reeking with history. Getting up and down some of the precipitous stairs inside was fun, considering we had to take our shoes off before we were allowed in. Polished wood and socks do not mix!
In the castle grounds we met a crazy, old, and possibly drunk Japanese man on a bike.
He greeted us by shouting, "Herro, herro! You big nose!" and laughing maniacally. He then tried repeatedly to hug and kiss Karen (with alarming success). Somehow it all came across as faintly charming. I couldn't help imagining how the reverse situation in Glasgow would pan out. Our crazy old men are less charming. Cue international incident.
A day trip from Matsumoto is the beautiful Kamikochi. It's right up in the foothills. There weren't any snow monkeys but there were some other monkeys. There's photos of them if you click on the link on the right. Here's a shot of the scenery for tasters.
Magome and Tsumago
After leaving Matsumoto we stopped for one night in Magome and walked to the next village, Tsumago, always mindful of the local bear population.
Both villages are stunningly picturesque. All modern trappings have been carefully hidden and the houses lovingly restored to how they would have looked centuries ago.
The food we were served up in the guesthouse that night was some of the best I've eaten anywhere (more on that in a future post).
Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail
After a few days in Kyoto (covered in an earlier post), we finished our visit with three days walking part of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. This area is seen as the 'heart' of Japan and I can believe it. The scenery is immense and the sense of history palpable. We walked past numerous 1000 year old shrines, through mile after mile of tranquil, ancient forest and caught some stunning views. I'm not particularly religious but there is definitely a spiritual feel to the Kumano Kodo. It was almost enough to make want to shave my head. And at the end of the trail there was the promise of a bath in the hot springs that pepper the area. Perfect!
I'll leave you with some photos.