The Japanese Alps (Matsumoto)

After our marathon day over Mt. Tateyama we had a relaxing day chilling out in our new Airbnb in Matsumoto.  The town is located in a valley running north and south between a range of mountains on each side, lots of beautiful view and a huge flat valley in between.  On our first day in town Maddy went out with Caroline on a run in the morning and explored a park nearby; they motivated me to take my own run and even though the park was straight up a huge hill.  After lunch we went to Matsumoto Castle, the oldest existing original castle in Japan.  It had a distinctly different feel to it including very steep steps and low ceilings, you could get a better understanding of conditions in the 15th and 16th centuries from the castle.

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Afterwards, Maddy and Caroline walked around town looking for flip flops (Caroline broke hers) while the twins and I went home.  One of the drawbacks of Matsumoto was that there were not many cars nor any car hire apps available, we wished that we had rented a car at this point instead of getting a JR pass.

Our place in Matsumoto had a patio over looking the valley which was unusual for us to have outdoor spaces at our lodging especially without anyone else sharing the space.  We enjoyed the space tremendously especially when the girls needed some air and some running around time outside.

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View from our house

The next day we hopped on a train and headed to Nagano a few miles north and where the Olympics were held in 1998.  We had lunch and wandered up to the Zenko-ji Temple.  The temple is where the Olympics were opened with the ringing of a very famous bell.  We were able to catch the daily chime, which was quite ear splitting when you are up close.

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A newly married couple walking up to the temple

The temple is also famous for the door to heaven, a purity ceremony that lets you touch your hand on the door to heaven.  Within the main Buddhist temple you walk down a flight of stairs into total darkness and are told to keep your hand on the wall as you walk through a corridor, eventually you come to a cold metal door handle which signifies the door to heaven.  It was an assault on the senses and makes you mentally push past fears and doubts.  The kids made it through and actually Mimi and Julie wanted to go around again, Caroline had no such interest.  On our way home we stopped in a store and tasted some wine, apparently the valley is one of the most productive wine producing areas in Japan.

The next day we visited the Alps park in Matsumoto which was only a mile away from our house but it was a mile hike up a steep trail, the kids whined so much we decided it was better to walk a mile down hill to the train station to get a taxi up to the park and then hike the mile back down to our house.  The lengths we go to avoid whining.  The park was fun, lots of play structures for the kids, they had a natural history museum with a tower and great views of the valley.  They even had a summer luge track for the kids, they loved it and even had a fun hike back to the house, the kids looking at every bug along the way.  The views were very nice too.

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Our last day in the Matsumoto we spent going to an Onsen one of the many hot springs bath houses.  This one called Sakae-no-yu Asama Onsen was a traditional bath house.  The men and women are separate and there are no clothes allowed, you must go totally naked, you must bathe before going in the tubs and be quiet and respectful.  I had a great time; I got a break from the kids and enjoyed a warm bath.  Actually the kids were well behaved and enjoyed their time with mom.  We had some snacks and headed home.  That night I watched some World Cup Football with the kids, it left me wishing Uncle Sam’s Army was in Russia for the Cup.  Alas we did get the hosting job in 2026.  On to Mt. Fuji and Father’s Day.


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