Nagano July 2006

Sunday - Nagano July 2006


Sunday 30th July 2006

Had a lazy morning lolling around Junchan's house, then went out for lunch with Junchan's sister. We then spent the rest of the afternoon on another driving tour in the mountains. Stopped off a few times to take in the sights - including another waterfall, a giant outdoor escalator, Japan's highest bakery, and finally a volcano with a weird milky blue lake.

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10:53:22 This is in the morning in Junchan's house, where we'd stayed the night before. Here is Junchan's family's cat - called Ume (it means plum).

10:53:33 She very kindly looked at the camera for this shot.

10:55:59 Junchan's dad is a wood carver - and here are some of this Daruma (a kind of Japanese lucky charm).

10:58:32 Outside the front of Junchan's family home - quite high up in the mountains.

11:02:44 Junchan's Dad is a big snowmobile fan (the only practical way to get around in these parts during the winter).

11:05:45 He also has a modified golf cart which he uses as a sort of miniature fork lift truck (ish). He let us have a go on this and it was surprisingly fun!

11:06:23 Me having a go on the golf cart - as always a slightly less confident driver than Chie!

11:06:39 ...having trouble getting it into reverse gear here I think.

11:07:30 Junchan's Dad showing us how a pro does it!

11:07:32 Off he goes...

11:07:42 ...and back again.

11:16:36 The cat, meanwhile, looks singularly unimpressed.

11:16:49 She was looking with vague interest at something over on the other side of the yard, but we couldn't work out what. Apparently she's not really the sort of cat who goes chasing after mice or birds - it is somewhat beneath her.

11:17:02 Apparently it's also quite rare to see her outside - perhaps because it snows so much here, which makes the outdoors a somewhat frightening prospect for a nearly white cat.

12:19:31 For lunch we headed to the nearby town of Iiyama, where Junchan's sister (Midori-san) had a friends who ran a small French style restaurant.

12:19:52 The technically minded among you may recognise the name Iiyama - apparently the once famous computer display/monitor making company did in fact take its name from this town.

12:40:36 Here we are during dessert, which was particularly good.

14:01:42 The afternoon's grand driving tour had now began in earnest, and to mark this I have taken a picture which includes a monkey.

14:04:11 Our first stopping off point on the tour was another waterfall - like the first one we'd seen on the previous day, it was of the "scenic view from a distance" variety.

14:04:21 Still very nice nonetheless.

14:04:56 A lovely touristy picture with the girls in.

14:05:17 A nicely composed picture taken by Junchan with me and Chie in.

14:08:32 The car park for this waterfall viewing spot bizarrely had a charcoal making facility (I'm sure that has a proper name), and anyway, I rather liked this bizarre little shed like thing.

14:22:00 The next stop off - albeit a very brief one - was to see this vent for a nearby onsen (hot spring). It really, really stank here.

14:23:03 Here's the sign with the name of the Onsen - apparently it is called Hotaru (which Chie said meant fire fly).

14:23:21 Same again but straightened up. The smell of sulphur was becoming quite unbearable so we made a swift exit after this.

14:34:14 The next stopping off point was a scenic view point...

14:34:31 here's a couple of scenic views.

14:38:25 From here we could also go higher up the mountain, using this slightly bizarre giant outdoor escalator.

14:38:45 Looking back down the escalator thing from part of the way up.

14:40:21 Me on the escalator, pretending like it is all very normal.

14:40:27 It was, in retrospect, a somewhat surreal experience, being carried up the side of a mountain in this manner.

14:41:24 Escalators and panoramas are two things which, to my mind at least, are not generally connected.

14:41:34 It was pretty cloudy, but the views were still nice nonetheless.

14:43:02 Hopefully this gives a sense of how long the escalator was.

14:44:29 From the top of the escalator, our progress up the mountain continued in the slightly more conventional fashion of this ski lift.

14:44:59 Me and Chie on the chair lift / ski lift (seems odd to call it a ski lift when nobody was going skiing).

14:45:14 This is not the first time I've taken pictures on this kind of chair lift thing, and I always seem to go a bit overboard, only to find later on I'm stuck for comments...

14:46:14, errr, I'm not going to try all that hard to find interesting comments here...

14:46:28 Junchan, on the next seat up.

14:48:44 You can say the road snaking down below here. Lots of hairpin bends!

14:48:49 Erm.

14:49:25 At the top of the chair lift now.

14:56:20 Now, I know you're going to have a hard time containing your excitement when I tell you this, so take a deep breath. Yes, you are looking at a picture of the highest bakery in Japan.

15:02:46 A random picture of a map at the top. As the clouds had descended somewhat, there really wasn't much to see from the top...

15:05:08 after a few minutes we basically just got back on the chair lift and went back down again! Hopefully you can get an idea of the mist / clouds from this picture.

15:07:59 More chair lift pictures on the way back down...

15:09:09 ...and more.

15:11:29 At the bottom of the chair lift - for some reason there were a lot of garden gnomes around here.

15:16:48 back down the giant escalator. Looking back through these pictures it does all seem like a very surreal experience now!

15:17:01 There were a few wild flowers to be seen from the side of the escalator. Again, two things you don't really expect to be considering in the same sentence!

15:17:27 Still on the escalator then...

15:17:44 Hmmm...

15:18:59 Chie randomly decided to take a picture of her shoe, on the escalator.

15:44:35 Right, back to (relative) normality! The last venue on our tour of the mountains was to go and see a volcano - so here's a picture taken part of the way up the side of Mt. Shirane.

15:44:40 I think this is looking across to another mountain. The sparsely vegetated landscape here is likely that because, I believe, this volcano was still fairly active, and judging by the age of the trees must have erupted fairly recently. Hmmm.

15:46:07 So here we are at the top of Mt. Shirane, and to my surprise there was this weird milky blue lake.

15:46:32 The scenery looks kind of Martian or something, don't you think? A very alien landscape indeed.

15:47:03 Sadly there were no little green men on hand to pose for me, so I had to make do with the girls.

15:48:03 It was just... weird.

15:48:17 I think the impact of this weird landscape is evident in my facial expression here. I'm clearly not quite sure what to make of it!

15:50:19 A self timer picture of us in front of the name post. Unfortunately the nearest bench was some distance away!

15:50:44 A random picture of the girls looking at Junchan's camera.

15:51:09 There was a funny little island in the middle, too.

15:58:33 Back down at the bottom, near the car park, I randomly took a picture of this sign.

16:05:24 Oh and somebody appears to have lost a mildly cute keyring.

19:04:00 Well, all good things have to come to and end, and eventually we had to get back on the train to return to Tokyo. So here's a picture of me and Chie on the shinkansen, with Chie eating oyaki a regional speciality of Nagano.