Why is it so damn cold? (Nagano)

morning view from our room

We arrived in Nagano yesterday and it’s pretty bloody cold. On the way out of Kyoto, we passed fields and rooves lightly coated with snow, so you can imagine what an inland, mountainous area must be like this time of year. Last night, it was -6 degrees Celsius. Above is the view from our room.

pulling into Nagano by train

There’s mountains in every direction. I love it. It’s just as wondersome and awe-inspiring as when we awoke that first morning in Queenstown to the sunrise view of the Remarkables. I’m enjoying looking down every street and seeing a mountain at the end, peering over the horizon like a stalker. May have gone a bit mountain crazy with the camera. I can’t help it; they make me a bit emotional.

more mountains on the way to Nagano station

mountains and clouds over the horizon, view from shinkansen

from the train to afar, it's a barrier, rooftops for miles, mountain, clouds and beautiful gradient sky

down the city street, a mountain watches from afar

i think that mountain is following us

ceiling mountain watches you masturbate

mountain rage in the distance

another mountain up the street too

We’re staying at Shimizuya Ryokan, about 20 minutes on foot from Nagano station. It’s a tall, meandering wood-and-render ninja house with a maze of multiple-access staircases and very nice hot bath facilities. It’s run by an energetic old couple with whom we cross paths often in the communal foyer. A well-mannered mix of business and family. I like it. I understand why it wouldn’t work back home, but I wish anyway there was more of it.

entrance to Shimizuya Ryokan

futon beds with triple layer blanket

little table and tea set

tea table

bedroom annexe with view

Two things I wish I had photos of, but don’t -

One is the bathroom. It’s a shared shower and bath area, fully tiled except for the ceiling. There are three shower heads and a below-ground bath ‘tub’ with rock wall waterfall. I feel weird taking a camera to a communal bathroom, so have a look on their website instead – the photo labelled ‘the bathroom’ is the women’s shower exactly.

And, this morning, we got up early for a traditional Japanese breakfast. So filling, but you can’t tell when you look at the many tiny dishes of tiny things that it’s a damn lot of food. The dishes I remember:

Lots of pickles. It was very good. We ate in the communal dining room, but I didn’t have my phone or camera with me, and didn’t want to go back to the room to get it because it was so warm in the dining room, and so cold in the stairwell.

early afternoon at Zenkoji Temple

We tried to visit Zenkoji Temple in the afternoon, but it was damn crowded. Apparently people go temple crazy early in the new year, getting their fortunes, praying to gods and ancestors, and making wishes. So we went for a stroll around town instead.

Buddhist temple nestled between shops

We found a little Buddhist temple nestled between shop buildings.

main hall of temple

torii gate and temple history sign

fortunes tied to a frame

These are fortunes tied to a frame. They get tied to trees too. When you get a fortune, good or bad, you tie it somewhere where gods and spirits can check them out. It’s believed to make the good fortunes come true, and keep the bad fortunes at bay. I would like a fortune, but by the time I figure out what it says, the year will be over and it’d be time for a new one.

kanji on wood

front of main temple

The rest of the city – or at least the street we walked on – was pretty plain and cheerful. The vibe reminds me a lot of Queenstown, and maybe a little of Margaret River. Messier, but no less charming. I’m liking Nagano best so far, out of the three cities we’ve visited.

a peaceful street, mid-afternoon

the other way up the quiet street

plants in a pot, surviving the cold

buildings and people in the main part of town

someone HAD to jump on a chunk of snow

Someone found snow. :)

mixed seafood entree

Dinner was pork and miso hot broth with a mixed seafood entree. I’m not sure what all the bits were – black beans, omelette-ish thing, a prawn, some silky tofu thing which they refer to as a type of sashimi, something that chewed like a sea cucumber, and a couple other things.

pork and miso hot broth with a million tofu

pickled veg

We did make it to Zenkoji Temple as the sun went down. Still a ton of wish-makers there, but it was clear enough that we could move around a bit. There were a few quieter spots too, which gave us a chance to soak in the beauty of temple grounds. Photos another time. Tea, snacks and DS games now.