So the Japan Alps were great. Actually, I`d say that the national park was one of the highlights of the trip so far - really spectacular. Although, I`m easily impressed by mountains, having lived in Adelaide for 6 years.
From Kumamoto, we spent most of Monday travelling to Takeyama, which is in the highlands, but weirdly doesn`t feel like it at all. It`s very flat, and was very hot. Everyone kept talking about what harsh winters they have, but somehow it just didn`t seem true... Takeyama is quite a nice little city, but we were staying in a less nice area on the outskirts (NOT 600m from the station, as claimed by the LP - very annoyed about that)
. We saw the Hida open-air museum, which has lots of traditional Japanese houses on display, which was interesting, until about the 10th house, where it starts to feel about the same as the last one. Also went to the museum where they keep the big floats that they use in the twice-yearly festival. They were pretty impressive - very big, very detailed, mostly very old, and very very expensive (one would cost something insane like US$3 billion to remake). Then we went to the most pointless museum in the universe: a huge 1:10 scale model of the entire temple complex at Nikko (where we`ve already been). Why? Why does it exist? Why is there a special computer-controlled lighting system to imitate sunrise and sunset? Why are the Japanese (and Bill) obsessed with models? We shall never know. At least it was free.
The next day we rented a car and drove out to the Shokawa Valley region. It was a pretty nothing day, just driving and strolling around villages, but very nice and relaxing. We did a lovely little walk around a village called Ainokura and saw 5 snakes! One was dead, but it still counts. Other tourists have told us they aren`t really poisonous, but we`re not so sure...
Thursday we took a bus out to the Japan Alps National Park and stayed in a campground (in a hut, not a tent, since they don`t rent tents until August - what??) in Kamikochi. It was really beautiful. So perfectly pictureseque with the river and the trees and the mountains...
. ahhh. There were thousands of tourists walking around the river, but when we went for a hike up a mountain (Mt Yakedake) we only saw 2 other hikers, plus a British couple we`d met the night before. Apparently the Japanese generally won`t hike outside of the designated `hiking season`. Okay then..... It was a great hike, but we wish we`d brought boots, since our sneakers were soaked with snow within the first hour. Actually, we were lost for the first hour, but after that it was all good. But sadly, because of that lost time, we didn`t make it to the summit. We were pretty close, but worried about it getting dark (which happens around 6:30pm) before we got all the way to the bottom, because it was a pretty rough track. And I got to have a wonderfully relaxing (but communal) bath when we got back to the campsite, but Bill had to wash under a cold tap because men`s bathtime was 5-6pm. Ha ha! Speaking of stupid time rules, our curfew tonight is 9pm! Yes, by 9pm we have to be back at our hostel! Not impressed. You can`t do anything before 9pm! Sigh. It`s 8:30 right now, so I guess we`d better get moving. Don`t want to be naughty.
Oh, I forgot to say that we went to Matsumoto today. Which was nice, but would have been better if it wasn`t raining. They have a nice castle that you can see the mountains from, when it`s not raining.
Later: I forgot to mention some of the coolest things: we saw a BEAR and FIVE monkeys. Just chilling out. They weren`t too fussed about us being there. But the bear ran away and I didn`t get a photo. It was pretty exciting.
Beck: Hello from the Olympic city! It`s raining. And it`s been raining all day. Grrr. We were planning to go for a lovely little hike this morning, but who wants to walking the rain? ANd we couldn`t see the mountains anyway, so we slept in. Nice. Until 7am.