I spent another night in Nagano after seeing the snow monkeys. Helpfully the ryokan owner in Yudanaka helped me book it over the phone. I was greeted in an empty youth hostel by someone the same age as my mother, but probably fitter than me. She sat me down for some tea and gave me some cakes, and a home made banana cake (fantastic!). Despite being happy to wander around and get some food she pointed me in the direction of a cheap chinese noodle place half way back towards the station. Before I got my shoes on, she was leaving too. I quickly realised this was to show me the way, despite me knowing where she was sending me. I was almost jogging down the street, speeding up my relaxed holiday walking pace, to keep up with her.
Food ordered, and off she went, me slurping some soba noodles, and spending more time pondering the Lonely Planet, JR timetables, and generally not deciding where to go.
The next morning I took the bus to the Soba museum to get my hands dirty. After spending twenty minutes gawping at the snow covered alpine peaks in teh distance, I arrived and explained using pictures that I wanted to make some soba noodles. Ushered through the doors, I then spent a very entertaining hour getting a cooking lesson from a Japanese menu card using motioning hands, and speaking in different tongues.
I did end up making soba noodles though. Started with the flour, water, and a big bowl with chopsticks to mix it up, then a large rolling pin to roll it out in the correct manner. The best part was cutting my own noodles with a large sharp chefs knife, from a folded up 70cm piece of paper thin dough.
Sixty minutes later I was sitting down eating my own noodles after they got cooked for a couple of minutes.
The best part? It’s not in the Lonely Planet, and it only cost 1000 Yen (around 4 quid). About the same, if not less, than it would to order your own in a restaurant.
Mind you if you got sucked into a buying a bowl to knead the flour in it would’ve set you back a cool $200 USD.
I then took the bus and went for a wee hike around a few shrines, but ran out of time to tackle the bloody steep forest track up to Mt Togakushi at 1911 metres. It was too hot and hazy anyway – when I arrived back in Nagano at 5.45pm yesterday is was 26c.
Before catching the bus back to get the train to Matsumuto I popped along the road while chatting to a Japanese woman, and went to the wood carving ‘factory’ where an old guy shaves bits of wood and makes them into amazingly cheap intertwined ornament. Unfortunately I saw something that was really funky, that would probably cost 35 quid upwards back home, and it was only about 6 quid I think. I ended up carrying this thing, the size of a football, away with me. God knows if it will make it to Bangkok with me, never mind Scotland.
I think that with my main rucksack, and my ‘hand luggage’ bag of camera gear, laptops and chargers I must be lugging around 35+ kilos around. Luckily I finished a book today………………..!?!? Now there’s a weight saving.
Oh I can’t wait until I hit Kyoto and dump some stuff in left luggage. Dave, if you read this, Darren’s little rucksack, which he gave me in exchange for my computer before I left, is providing me with a handy little day bag at the moment so pass that on. It’s also ‘done’ New Zealand, and the Abel Tasman walk (although that bit was not with me).