Hiroshima & area
It took us about 6 hours to travel to Nagano by train. We found a reasonably
priced Japanese style room near the hotel (with only 4 beds - oh well,
Sarah & I are used to sharing one futon now),
and ate at the local department store.
The next morning, we set off on a day trip for Obuse and had one of our most
enjoyable days in Japan. It was hot. Obuse is a rich agricultural area.
It has a vineyard (did I mention it was hot?), as well as peaches, grapes,
and Japanese pears. It is also Japan's leading Chestnut producer.
It has a lot of culture for a small town - the Hokusai Museum houses
some very famous wood block prints, and there is also a Bonsai museum
with some trees that are apparently 1000 years old.
We had lunch and dinner at the same restaurant in Obuse - the "Mont Blanc
Teahouse" where the English speaking proprietress and her dog
Ricky kept us all entertained. We mentioned to her that we liked the
peach iced tea she served... and she gave us her last bag of powder that
she used to make it. Between lunch and dinner, we had a bath
in the local 'Onsen' (hot spring). It was fun to have a relatively
slow day surrounded by greenery rather than buildings for a change.
The second day in Nagano started with Sarah doing a marathon laundry,
while the kids & I ate doughnuts in our room. When she finally got back, we read a
brochure on Nagano to help us decide what to do next. We spotted a
picture of Japanese Macaque monkeys sitting in a hot spring - this piqued the kids
interest. The local tourist office gave us directions, and off we went.
After a one hour train ride followed by a short bus ride, we struck off
for a pleasant 30 minute hike along a forest trail near Shiga Kogen (the Olympic snow board
park). We came to a park entrance (Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Park) where we paid
to see the monkeys. There was a couple of cute babies, and sure enough, a
bunch of monkeys were sitting in the hot spring. One was actually
swimming underwater. It turned out that the park ranger would throw food
into the spring any time someone with a camera walked by... but I assume
in the winter the monkeys actually do go in of their own accord.
It is hard to believe that two weeks have passed, but on
August 30th we headed to Narita airport. We managed to stop in
Tokyo at the Tokyo National Museum for a couple of hours before leaving
for Beijing, China.
We have enjoyed Japan. The people are terrific, and it was a great
country in which to start our holiday - a different culture that was not
too unfamiliar to the kids.