In the still intense heat of early Autumnal sun, we ventured by train from historic Kyoto to Matsumoto. We travelled around Japan with great ease making use of our pre-purchased travel passes (only available to non-residents). Nowhere else in the world have we ever experienced train divers saluting to platform staff and passengers as they swiftly depart from the railway station, nor conductors bowing to all as they wend their way through the spotlessly clean carriages.
Armed with our delightful bento-box feast purchased from one of the many outlets, alongside delicious Asahi from, of course a vending machine (of which there are more per capita than in any other country in the world) we were soon drenched in the exquisite scenery of the Matsumoto alpine villages.
Following a delicious breakfast, for which there is a receptacle for everything on your tray, we meandered to Matsumoto Castle, a hugely impressive 16th Century spectacle. Again we observe the protocols as we deftly remove our shoes – the floors are highly polished though, not easy to negotiate in your stocking feet as you clamber up and down the steep stairways. There is then the thunderous roar of several huge parties of schoolchildren to be heard as they excitedly make short work of the steep inclines. We stood to one side before resuming our own clamber – being approached by delightful locals, ever keen to show friendship and warmth – even though much ‘conversation’ consisted of mutual gesticulation, given neither party has sufficiently engaged in learning the other’s language.
We trundled our ‘four-wheel drive luggage’ across the busy Matsumoto station crossing and soon arrived at the quiet Dormy Inn on nearby Nagano Street, where for the princely sum of around £90 per night, we received accommodation, delicious breakfast, freshly cooked ramen in the evenings and of course gracious hospitality. We also accessed the rooftop natural hot spring pools to sooth our heated bodies from the relentless sunshine – no swimming suit required as they are simply not allowed (no opportunity for being reserved here!!) – strict (written) protocols must be observed – but cast aside modesty and all will be well!
At last we descend from this beautiful building, only to realise there are still the beautiful gardens to explore. We take refuge under a sweet pea trellis and partake in cooling ice-cream – from (of course) another vending machine.
Back at the Matsumoto railway station later, we venture into one of the many restaurants that thoughtfully place plastic versions of their delights in their windows – no matter that language consists of gestures and smiles – simply point to what takes your fancy and take your chance. You certainly will not be overcharged – nor will you tip – it just doesn’t happen here, you mutually cherish your experience of meeting the other, and simply enjoy being – longing to return before you leave.
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