Thursday, October 26, 2006

13th September 2006 – Matsumoto

Our only period of bad weather (unless you call hot and humid bad) was in Matsumoto, from the moment we arrived until well into the next day. Let’s call it a blip amidst an otherwise unspoiled meteorological landscape. The rain was heavy and without a break.

We had a Japanese style breakfast in the hotel that morning. It didn’t seem to go down that well. A barely cooked and cold poached egg (to be eaten with chopsticks, no less), bony salmon, and steamed wasabi leaves seemed simply wrong at 8am. Breakfast should be a jolly affair, not an interesting or enlightening one. 08:00 is far too early in the day to begin broadening one’s horizons. Something sweet and/or familiar was in order. We’d endeavour to correct our faux pas the next day.

After breakfast, we made our way to Matsumoto Castle. Whilst there, I surreptitiously took the photograph on the left. Japanese fashions often blow my tiny mind! The castle was a lovely place, despite the weather. Sadly, it was quite empty, just a shell. The odd information stand, yes, but next to no exhibits or signs of (former) life. After leaving the castle, still on the grounds, we were offered a free English language guided tour. Oops. Too late. Our ticket had already been torn and in any case, we were eager to see and do other things. Like have a cup of coffee and a cake.

I always scoff at tourists who complain about the local food and seek familiarity. Sadly, I did this on more than once occasion on our trip to Japan. I simply don’t know what got into me. I think my need for coffeee wasn’t a response to the Japanese obsession with tea (green or otherwise) but namely because I’ve become addicted to it over the past year. I’d never considered myself to be an addict before my operation last October, but since then, that it what I’ve become. Hello, my name is Minge and I’m a coffeeholic. I haven’t had a coffee in two hours.

I’m not a breakfast fan at the best of times. I dislike raw milk. Cereals leave me cold. I have to have toast hot and fresh from the grill. No-one can prepare any breakfast to my liking. Unless it’s a mountain of custard doughnuts and/or all manner of things sweet. In that word lies my saviour.

On leaving the castle, we found Sweet – a fabulous bakery and coffee house, not a stones throw from our hotel, serving the most delicious pastries, sandwiches (including jam!) and coffees. It was so unbelievably fabulous that we decided there and then to return the next morning for our breakfast.

After recharging our batteries with a rest, some caffeine, sugar, fat and nicotine, we returned to the area of the city from which we’d just left, visiting the castle, to visit the Matsumoto museum. It was very absorbing and infinitely better than any other museum I’d ever visited before due to its lack of pots, broken or otherwise. Museums’ obsession with old pieces of pottery really breaks my heart. One can usually make a corner in a museum and find a display case with yet more pots after having previously seen another five hundred. What is that all about?

To add to my joy, not only was this museum disinterested in pots, but they were mad about cocks! There were pictures of them, replicas of them, models of them; cocks made out of wood, cocks made out of stone, cocks drawn on paper… It was almost too much for wee Minge and I was teetering on the edge of a panic attack!

We were still quite full from Sweet, so skipped lunch. Naughty, I know.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent buying and looking for souvenirs. The town is well known for paper dolls and balls (nothing to do with the cocks) around which are wound threads in geometric patterns. We bought a ball, as you do, but not a dolly, considering the dollies in the museum quite expensive. Sadly, our search for a dolly was fruitless. Not because they were no cheaper elsewhere, simply because we couldn’t actually find one! It’s like going to Italy and not being able to find a pizza.

Looking back through my journal, it really does appear that we’re obsessed with food. I seem to devote at least half my entries (and so does Ian) to what we ate, when we ate it and if it was good or bad. Metaphors are food based and comparisons always seem to have something to do with food.

We’d heard that Matsumoto is famous for its Soba noodles, so tried looking for a Soba restaurant. We went along to the tourist information office in the hope of finding some timetable information about a train trip into the mountains the next day and decided to ask the lady there for her Soba restaurant recommendation. She gave us directions and off we went. I think we found the place we suggested. I don’t know for sure, though, because it was closed and everything suggesting what might be sold there was in Japanese. Alas, ne’er mind. On we went, deciding, now that we were ravenous, to go into the first good place that we found. This is an easy task as all eating establishments are good in Japan. No, really. It’s true. We ended up in a ramen noodle bar. Cheap as chips and really tasty. About ¥700 each, for a giant bowl full of deliciousness, including some really good sake!

Only slightly drunk, we returned to the hotel to find our beds had been laid out on the floor. We had a bath, Japanese style, of course, and took an early night. We’d need to be completely rested before our expedition into the mountains the next day.

To sleep, perchance to dream... Do you think that the dead dream, dear reader? Or do you suppose they even sleep? I'd love to know.

When I die, if I get to heaven, I'll sleep all the time. That's my idea of heaven, lounging around in my pyjamas, under a big feather duvet, nice and warm, watching old films on the telly.


Anonymous said...

Was there an explanation to the pics with the kids and the penises???


Minge said...

Yes, if you look at the photograph of the glass case full of knobs, you'll see the picture again. Once a year, all the children of Matsumoto (and perhaps other places) make giant dicks, decorate them and give them to one another as a fertility symbol. It's a bit like us giving a horse shoe to a bride, I suppose, with a touch of Hallowe'en thrown in.

Anonymous said...

My mother would be fine with a horseshoe but I have a feeling she'd drop dead if handed a giant penis.

Me? It would depend who did the handing over I'd suppose. A creepy boy would get a clonk on the'.