Why is it so damn cold? (Nagano)
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Small chunk of salmon with some tiny pickled veg
- Japanese omelette cubes, a few pieces of seasoned dried anchovies, less than a teaspoon of pickled whitebait
- Small bowl of tiny steamed things. Yam, little meatball… I forget now, but there were about 5 little things in there, each no bigger than a thumb.
- Small bowl of mixed pickled vegetable
- Small bowl of pickled greens
- Dried nori
- Soy sauce
- Bowl of rice
- White miso soup with tofu chunks
- Ocha green tea
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.
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.
We found a little Buddhist temple nestled between shop buildings.
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.
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.
Someone found snow. :)
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.
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.