Chūbu tour by car - Part 6:

Hokuriku coastline, Nagano, Matsumoto

14-15 May 2009

We went up north from Kanazawa to return via Nagano and Matsumoto with one more stopover around Nagano.

On the highway we suddenly found out that fuel was starting to run out and we happened to be more or less in the middle of nowhere around the coast. We decided to try some local road and asked the man at the highway toll gates for the closest pump. We were getting a bit nervous, but luckily we made it without any trouble.

After we tanked we stopped at a nearby sea-side park for lunch (we got bread and some other stuff from Kanazawa). We walked along the beach and got refreshed by the strong wind.


I had tried to book the Kanaguya [JP] onsen ryokan, which is one of the bath houses that Miyazaki Hayao from the Ghibli studios used as inspiration for the world famous animation movie Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi ("Spirited Away"). Normally it is pretty expensive to stay there, but there is a special relatively cheap offer for weekdays for one room which has no private toilet and where you can't get meals served in your room. However, it was already fully booked...
Close by is Ryokan Sekiya [JP] where I stayed before when we went to see the the "snow monkeys" that enter the hot spring bath during winter (Photo Post 19 [pt.2] and [pt.3]). They had really great food there and a massage chair in the room, but it is also a bit expensive.
My alternative was Taki no Yu [JP], which is just one valley further, has a great outdoor hot spring bath, and is reasonably priced. The rooms and kitchen are not extremely clean, but it's ok. In the kitchen we warmed up some food we bought in a super on the way and had dinner that way.

Baths of "Taki no Yu". Additionally there were small wooden hot spring baths (men/women separated) at the lodge building.

We enjoyed the bath and breakfast and went to Obuse for the Hokusai museum [JP]. Hokusai was Japan's most famous master of woodblack printing and lived in Obuse quite some time.

Then we went on to the Zenkōji temple in Nagano. Once in 7 years the temple's "holy grail" is displayed there for a few months and that happened to be now. Surely this means lots and lots of people lining up for this remarkable event!

Actually, the fuss is all about a copy of the "holy grail" being displayed... Rrrright... Of course you cannot touch the thing, so what the thought up was the following: they put a huge wooden pillar in front of the temple and connect the pillar, by gold wire, with the (copy of the) "holy grail". Thus, if you touch the pillar, you touch the grail. Rrrright...
That was 30min to the pillar, then again about half an hour to the altar inside (which is surely not worth it, nothing to see there, at least not more than if you don't enter the line but check it out from the side), and then over half an hour for the tunnel underneath the altar (which you can always go through and is quite a fun experience, but it's normally not that crowded).

After that experience of seeing how mad Japanese people go for some supposedly important religious event, we went to the Daio Wasabi farm [JP] close to Matsumoto. The grounds are always open so it was no problem that it was getting late. The shops and restaurant of course close, and we were just in time to still buy some souvenirs and a wasabi icecream. (Wasabi = Japanese horseradish, a very sharp green root which is ground to a paste which is used to spice sushi and other Japanese dishes)

[HDR] These watermills are also on the grounds of the wasabi farm. Parts of Akira Kurosawa's movie Yume ("Dreams") were shot here.


Except for the highway back to Tokyo, that was it for the Chūbu trip.

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