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Published: April 1st 2010
In the morning I went to Matsumto jo ready for opening. I think it’s stunning from the outside so I had high hopes for the interior but these were dashed within minutes. I can truthfully say I was in and out having done a lap of the castle interior within 15 minutes. The building is empty. All the contents were in the museum next door or in other museums. I was disappointed by this and I’m glad I didn’t have to pay the full entry fee. The hotel offered me a 50% discount ticket (which I took gladly) when I mentioned at reception that was where I was heading. In retrospect it was a nice hotel, the Onsen charge alone would probably have been about 1000 Yen which was approx £8 and now id saved a bit more. After collecting my gear from reception I set off for the bus station where I was 40 minutes early for the next bus. The two hour bus trip was very pleasant through the mountains, it passed much quicker than I expected. I spent half of it conversing with a Japanese climber on his way to the alps which we would pass through. He gave me some pointers on food and dining well at a reasonable budget during my time here look less of a Gaijin. Takayama was like stepping back 200 years, the Hida folk town has been preserved, it contains the houses that local farmers and their families lived in and in the town centre the merchants shops fill some of the side streets =, these make for a pleasant walk. After passing through the alps it stopped snowing but just my luck when we were only 5 minutes from the station it started to rain and in the 20 minutes it took me to get to Hida it was snowing. After strolling through the folk village I headed back into the centre and on the bus the only other passengers were a middle aged American couple. I said “Hello”’! And from there Rik, Helen and I spent the next 4 hours together. They were staying in the town so showed me the highlights of what I wanted to see and then we went for coffee. I decided to head off for Kanazawa around 6pm. I was on the right train to begin with, which I thought was direct but the stops weren’t visible through the snow and the announcements were all in Japanese. , thanks to patience, the phrasebook, two schoolgirls and their teacher I found out I had to change 3 times before finishing in Takayama. At the second change I stopped at a station which had a prefix Shin, which I found out later meant small. I was trying to ask if the next stop was the one in needed to take, clearly communication breakdown because they nodded etc so when I got off at the next stop only to find out I was 1 stop early and this meant waiting for the next train to come by 30 minutes later and I knew I had one more train to get but unfortunately I got off one stop too early which meant standing about in a pitch dark train station in the snow freezing my nuts off, nearly shitting myself thinking I’m going to miss the last train and be out here all night which not only means Id be worried about my kit and health but would also get charged by my hostel for being a no show - thank god for mp3 players, kept me sane. The next train arrived spot on time, the next station was my connection to the Shinkansen for Takayama. When I got there the information desk was shut and none of the staff knew where the hostel was. I asked a few people for directions but all they did was study the map for what seemed like an eternity. By this time id been travelling and walking for 16 hours solid without a break to eat or relax. ‘I saw a man in his 20s and I was going to ask for help but I thought what’s the point he’ll only study it too, he obviously read my expression and came to my assistance, he didn’t have a clue where it was but helped me to the police box outside the station where I was then given directions. 15 minutes through the city and down the alleyways before spotting a small sign for the hostel, it was a vision believe me. There was someone outside smoking and all I could make out was a silhouette and the burning red embers of the cigarette and I thought to myself because id carried my gear for so long and had blisters the size of ice cubes I must looked like an arthritic Quasimodo with club foot to beat. We stood outside and made small talk me making a fool of myself. The girls name was Patricia, a Spaniard who was travelling herself through Japan and meeting her boyfriend for a month or so to see Vietnam and Laos before he heads back home. ‘we headed inside and I checked in and asked about food as all id had to eat in the last 26 hours was 100g of cornflakes, 3 bottles of coke and 2 gallons of water, it’s easy to ignore hunger or just plain forget to eat when you’re on the road, realizing this I promised myself to be stop every few hours for something to eat. Hearing this she went and got me a cup noodle, like pot noodle but with Asian twist and more flavor. We talked while I ate and decided that we should join forces for the next day and go to Kenrouken gardens, the geisha and the samurai districts. Due to fact our plans were much the same so we should take advantage of each other’s company here but also if the opportunity should arise further down the road in oz or Thailand for example so we swapped contact details too. The hostel was similar to a traditional Ryokan in some aspects, it had the basic elements Tatami mats, sliding doors but with a modern ikeaesque furnishing, to be honest I couldn’t have cared less what it looked like I just wanted to lie down. Exhausted I crawled into bed and as a treat due to the events of the day before we arranged to meet at 10.
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