Thursday, October 05, 2006
12th September 2006: Yokohama - Matsumoto
We got up relatively early in order to take the 0930 Shinkansen to Tokyo. We had a bit of time before our next train, so took advantage of this by going outside the station for a smoke. How shocked were we to see that Tokyo was having a cow parade? There had just been one in Edinburgh - and I began to think of my home as I took a draw on my fag.
Back inside the station and armed with my trusty camera, I sat on my suitcase, waiting patiently like a hunter in the grass, hoping to find some prey. It wasn't long until my first fashion victim came along. She was a mess, but a fabulous mess. I adored her.
Not long until we were on another Shinkansen, this time heading for Nagano, once host to the Winter Olympics. The Shinkansen is a fabulous experience. It's almost like being on an aeroplane. No bumps, no noise, no stopping. And, food can be eaten and drinks drunks without fear or spilling it! It wasn't long before we were tucking into our bento boxes. Rice! But no pea.
Mamonaku! Nagano... We were in the heart of the Japanese Alps! Time to change trains again - and time for another fag! J'adore Engrish. Though the above ashtray/cigarette bin doesn't really fall into that category, please click on the image and have a closer look at the enlarged version. I thought it was hilarious!
Still a while to go. Shall we chain?
From Nagano, we took a limited express train to Matsumoto. On leaving Matsumoto station, the heavens opened. Trudging along the streets with heavy cases, thinking your hotel is only a ten minute walk away when, in fact, it's almost half a hour is not fabulous. Staring at the ground to stop your spectacles getting splattered with rain drops is not a good thing to do if you're a tourist. You don't tend to see much. And you need to keep your eyes on the road! This is the land of contradictions, rememeber, dear reader. Although you're more than likely to find safety officers on every street corner, often unnecessarily, pavements in minor local roads are rare. Dodge cars and potholes at your own risk!
Our hotel was fabulous. It was more a suite than a room: Bathroom, dressing room, living room, bedroom, toilet... All we needed was a wee kitchen, and it would have been a flat! Everything was traditional Japanese: Futon beds, low-rise table with floor cushions, tatami mats, traditional Japanese bathroom (complete with wooden stool and bowl for throwing water over yourself!) - and a musical, bum-washing toilet.
After bathing, a cup of grren tea and a fag, we decided to go out and look for a restaurant. We ended up in a Yakitori bar. We got drunk on Sake and, amongst other things, ate grilled aubergine and chicken's hearts! The staff were as wonderful as their English language menu was ridiculous. It began:
We welcome in hearty you are a tavern and enjoy.
There was only one dessert on offer:
Gerard is in.
Very odd. But very fabulous.
I loved our first day in Matsumoto. It reminded me a lot of Inverness. Not necessarily amidst the mountains, but one certainly feels one is in a highland environment. I know it sounds crazy, but I felt closer to the sky. Plus the fact that they say, "Aye," here instead of, "Hai!" (for yes).
We felt right at home.