Nagano (Aug 27 - 30, 2001)

Hiroshima & area

New Zealand

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.

Bonsai Tree

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.

Baby monkey

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.