You can't fight the moonlight.
No problems with breakfast on our final day in Matsumoto. Sweet was open for (sticky) business. We had a selection of cakes, pastries and doughnuts, coffee and a fag. Oh, and I had a jam piece!
We checked out of our hotel and made our way to the bus station. Took the 09:30 to Kamikochi. As ever, the passengers formed an orderly queue and the bus left exactly on time. To the second.
The journey was spectacular with busy roads, tunnels and precipitous drops drops beneath the road. The approach to Kamikochi was through an amazingly long tunnel. Before entering it, although we were deep in the mountains, we could see other mountains on the horizon. Once on the other side, although we'd continued to climb, we seemed to be surrounded by peaks with no view of the horizon. Slightly claustrophobic. And very disorientating. I actually wondered if the tunnel was a wormhole. Before entering, the day was grey and misty. On the other side, the peaks of the mountains were clearly visible, the sky was blue and the full sun shone down on us.
We were very keen to leave the bus. Kamikochi seemed like another planet. Very beautiful. Almost Swiss in its appearance. Pine cabins, clean and bright. The fresh mountain air added to the atmosphere.
Sadly, there was one thing which detracted - and isn't there, always, dear reader? We put our suitcases into left luggage and popped into a shop to buy some lunch; sushi of some description, chilled green tea and water. I was careful, on entering, to avoid a giant spider web stretching from the eaves of the shop to the ground. Phew. Sadly, like the idiot that I am, I was not so lucky on the way out. I removed my spectacles to celan them as I walked. Christ! I walked right through the giant web! Awful, spitting, screaming, stamping...! Thankfully, the spider itself was not on me. And no money spider was this beast. A web that large must surely be built by something uge. And it was. Black and about the size of a child's outstretched hand.
Calm. Calm. Calm.
Time to start our hike. I like to say hike because it makes me sound like some muscle-bound exercise freak, fit, strong and powerful. If the truth be known, it was a walk.
From muscle-bound, we soon found camp in the form of a fabulous example of Engrish. For a camp reception office. I suppose a visitor would find an office full of fey queens talking about Abba, disco music, frocks and cocks.
We made our way past and over various bridges, some dedicated to Kappa. Their presence was felt, reminded by signs, pictures and hearing the word in the conversation of the Japanese.
The scenery was beautiful with glimpses of the nearby mountains through the sunny canopies.
We paid extra to walk around a beautifully managed pond on our way back to the bus stop. The largest of the mountains reflected in the still water, broken only by playing carp and the odd duck. The Japanese among us gasped in awe at the beauty of their surroundings. They are obsessed with nature, have a true reverence for it and appreciate it greatly. One would never find a group of teenagers taking a walk like this in the UK - unless under duress. We saw many.
Not long after our pond detour, we were joined by an elderly Japanese gentleman, Yuzo Koyama and a younger man. Was he his relative, employee, friend or boyfreind? We couldn't decide. Yuzo spoke excellent English and we discussed everything from monarchy (very rare for Japanese to touch upon such a subject), Shakespeare and haggis to languages! He invted us to stay with him at his house in Kobe. Although very kind, this was a curious invitation as we'd only known the man for around an hour.
However, he was very kind, very interesting and made our daytrip a memorable one.
His friend/lover/assistant, whatever he was, jumped to action on command, going into a souvenir shop to buy a pen in order for Yuzo to give us his telephone number.
"You can call me, any time, day or night," he said. "Wherever I am in the world, I can be contacted. In less than an hour."
He walked with us all the way to the bus which we caught with seconds to spare, Yuzo kindly helping us out with a bus employee who evidently could speak no English, knew we could not understand what he was saying and simply gave up on us. Stoopid tourists.
The bus took us to Takayama and our ryokan - Tanabe.
The ryokan was beyond our wildest or greatest expectations. The Madame spoke reasonable English and was so welcoming and friendly.
Before our evening meal we had an onsen, on site. It was fabulous. Really hot water, clean and inviting. We had the place all to ourselves. If only I'd brought the damned camera...!
The meal itself was extensive, varied, delicious and fabulously brilliant!
The staff member serving our meal, in our room, was quite the joker. She reminded me of a Dick Emery character. I kept expecting her to say, "Ooh, you are awful. But I like you!" Madame soon joined us again and was amazed to learn that I even knew what Haiku was, let alone wrote any. I should have told her about Haiku Saturday, but doubted she would have understood the intricacies of my conversation and instruction.
On their departure, we removed the deep fried turtles from out table, wrapped them in toilet paper and placed them in a bag. I just couldn't bring myself to touch a turtle, let alone eat one.
After eating, we took an evening stoll about the town. We dubbed Madame's assistant Mrs Perm (due, obviously to her afro hairstyle) and decided that travel is merely a byword for exploration. If we were exploring, what were we looking for, dear reader?