We made it to Japan! After a 1 hour 45 minure flight from Heathrow to Frankfurt, just over an hours wait then onto Tokyo with Japan Airlines adding another 10 hours 45 minutes. However, they did provide probably the best food we’ve had above 10000m.
On leaving the airport we got our bags and through to the train station in no time at all – such organisation! Our first challenge was to figure out the train system. We’d bought our JRPass beforehand – this pass allowed us to go on any train for the next 14 days. Again this process was simple and we were soon on our way on the Shinkansen (the bullet train!), next stop Matsumoto. These trains were much comfier than any trains we’ve been on in the UK, cheaper, easier to use (even with the language barrier), and efficient (we read that the last 20 years there has only been an average of 18 seconds delay!)
It was on final train to Matsumoto that we started to understand that our destination was going to be cold…lots of warm jackets, hats, gloves and even skis kept appearing. It was cold, and snow was starting to appear outside as Matsumoto is actually at the base to the Japanese alps.
During this trip, I insisted we go for a short morning run to explore each area. The reason we had come to Matsumoto was to see the Matsumoto castle – the oldest castle in Japan built in 1509! We got to the castle at 6:30am just before sunrise.
After, we made our way back to our hotel stopping at a local cafe to have breakfast, green tea and fruit pastries. Once back at the hotel we got showered and ready to go out and explore Matsumoto properly, we also packed our bags and checked out. The hotel happily kept our bags safe (saving us 600 yen each bag instead of leaving at the train station).
With the early start we were already out again just after 8am, with it being so early most places were still closed, so we decided to go over and explore the grounds and inside of Matsumoto Castle and it’s Museum.
We then wandered around the local shops and markets trying many different local delicacies. A really interesting shop we came across was full of old maps, books and newspaper cuttings, we chatted with the owner (his father opened the shop over 70 years ago) who gave us a gift each of prints of Matsumoto castle, so we gifted him a Polaroid photo of me (Grant) and him together.
Whilst trying different foods, we spent time talking with locals learning words in Japanese for cheers (Kanpai) and tired (Tsukareta) due to drinking too much sake. The longer we are in Japan we are finding out how friendly and accommodating the Japanese people are.
With our early start we opted for the earlier train at 14:53 to Takayama taking 4 hours 24 minutes. We enquired about a bus which would have taken us directly to Takayama in 2 hours 30minutes . However this would have been another expense not covered by the JR pass. In no rush we took the trains, see our route below.
Blue is the DIRECT bus route, red is the route we had to take.
After our long journey we were hungry and wanted to try some local cuisine. We ended up going for a lovely meal at “Tenaga Ashinaga” trying the local “Hida” beef said to rival Kobe beef, also great Ramen noodles!
As with the day before we started the day with a morning run to the “Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine”. This was a beautiful and peaceful place and the route encompassed what Takayama had to offer and we were able to see some beautiful views over the town.
After checking out we explored the morning market which had some lovely hand made items and food to try. We spent a couple of hours looking in all the shops and by this point it had started to snow!
We decided to start our journey to Kyoto just after lunch. Taking 3 hour 9min on the Shinkansen and 1 change. It was lovely to explore these two very different towns but were excited to explore Kyoto!
Takayama Old Town
Takayama Old Town