November 2 Takada
Nagano; North to the Sea (almost)
In the morning, after a great Japanese
breakfast (miso soup, several pieces
of pickled somethings, a couple chunks of
freshly cooked sushi-style slabs of
a packet of several 3 by 9cm sheets
of nori seaweed, bowl of
rice, a hunk of grilled salmon, and tea)
I went out to explore the village.
In order to make the early train (the
next one wasn't for hours) I had to
hurry, and a lot of the little shops
weren't quite open when I left;
on the other hand I figure I got out
just in time because the members of an
Australian group hiking the Nakesendo
(which sounds like fun) were starting
to emerge from their lodgings, and when
I got to the station a couple big buses
of native tourists were just arriving - in
short, this village was about to be
overrun, and its illusion
of antiquity spoiled.
Rode the local back to Matsumoto, where I
could've stayed on; but I wanted to get maximum
value out of my railpass so after just a few
minutes there I boarded the next
express back to Nagano, thinking vaguely
that I might catch a train to the
coast - perhaps catch a glimpse of the
Japan Sea. The next train north, to
Naoetsu, didn't leave for a while so I
walked around exploring the station's immediate
environs. Some fruit merchants had some
stands set up outside, saw Fuji apples
for sale the size of grapefruit - why aren't
these jumbo specimens exported?
Rode north through apple orchards on an empty
express train heading towards the Japan Sea.
Far off, misty mountains were visible, closer
ridges showed the beginnings of the autumn
color changes. On a whim I got off at a town
named Takada, a couple stops shy of the coast;
afternoon was getting on and I doubted that I'd
be able to see the ocean once I reached it. A
pictorial map on the wall outside the station
showed a castle with a moat in the center of
town, I decided to check it out but increased
rain and gloom made a business hotel I walked
past seem extremely inviting; I inquired as to
vacancy at the Town Hotel Joetsu counter
and was soon upstairs in another little
room, shaking out my umbrella and changing
into dry clothes. The room's television
wasn't free, had one of those annoying meters
which demand coins for operation, so instead
I watched nothing and just read in the evening.
Had some fun walking around, though - this
town has permanent awnings protecting pedestrian
traffic along the main boulevards - I hear they
get a lot of snow around here in the winter.
Although only its green neon sign is visible,
faintly; my hotel rises up in the middle
background of this image.
One store which seemed particularly exotic
sold those little alters called butsudan
which the natives keep in their living rooms,
where mementos of ancestors and passed-away
loved ones are stored. I don't think the
little figures are for sale; rather, merely
come-ons to lure potential customers inside.
* I'm wondering if I
got a cooked egg because I wasn't a native. If
an egg is served with the Japanese breakfast it's
often raw - the user breaks it into the bowl and
either slurps it up or pours it over the rice,
hopefully it's hot so the egg cooks a little.
Occassionally the egg's boiled - I always give
it the spin test to check, before cracking or
passing on it. (Raw fish, fine, great; but raw
egg? Please. Ain't they heard of Salmonella?