Sort of our honeymoon! A three-week long trip, tiring but fulfilling.
Day 19 – Eating around Tokyo
A relaxed but busy day of… eating. We spent a lot of time building social bonds, not much to show in photos haha.
Day 18 – Back to Tokyo
It’s a long day of travel today, back to Nagano station, then from there to Tokyo.
Day 17 – Snow monkeys at Jigokudani Onsen
We have a bit of a trek today, and it is well and truly snowing now. After breakfast we take the bus to the base of the Jigokudani trail, then you have to make the remaining 1.6km on foot. It’s not that far but the snow slows you down a lot. The path is wide enough for about 1.5 people most of the time, thankfully there’s not too many tourists today.
Tonight we decided to try a different izakaya, we got word of a place a couple blocks away called Izakaya Chokkun, named after the owner I think. It’s much livelier and is clearly the hangout of choice for expats and the like. There’s lots of photos on the walls, and visitors have autographed pretty much every blank space on the walls, which is really cool.
The owner is a real larrikin and loves talking, it’s a very cosy and comfy little place. Like the place we tried last night, the whole billing this is pretty vague. Chokkun goes a step further and doesn’t bother having a menu either – he can make pretty much any usual izakaya food, and you can ask for something specific. But he’d really rather you didn’t, and just eat whatever he feels like making. 😂
By the time we were done we’d ordered a few beers, some fried chicken, and some sake, and that was 2500 yen for the whole lot. I like this place.
Day 16 – Yudanaka
We’re on the way to Yudanaka, an onsen town not that far from Nagano. Nagano was the venue for the 1998 Winter Olympics, so we know the snow will be nice at this time of year. Yudanaka is also famous for its snow monkeys, which love to hang around and bath in the natural onsen pools. We arrive a bit before it starts getting dark, and settle in to our room at the ryokan.
Adrian and I went out to see what the nightlife is like after dinner. It’s a small town but we heard there’s a couple of izakaya nearby that serve people. We’re used to eating dinner a bit later, so we were still hungry before it was time to go to sleep.
We couldn’t be bothered to rug up so we went for the closer option, a little place just down the hill. I think there was only one or two other people there, but it was cosy and we could get a beer, so that was enough for us. For all the times I’ve been to Japan before, I don’t think I’ve had this “proper” izakaya experience before. It’s not so much that you run up a bill while you’re there buying food and drinks, it’s more that you’re paying for your time there.
We stayed there for maybe an hour or an hour and a half, had a couple drinks, and some chips that the oba-san prepared from scratch for us. We made small talk and it was nice, I forget how much it was but I think we paid a couple thousand yen each or something.
Which is a lot, objectively speaking, but that’s not really the point. I think you’re meant to go there with a bunch of friends, have a good time, and while away the hours eating and drinking. At the end of the night you all pay some amount that vaguely represents how much you consumed, and everyone’s happy. You can think of it as rewarding a big night, because you know they can afford to give you a volume-discount on liquor…
Day 15 – Ine
We’ve visiting the village of Ine today, in the far north of Kyoto prefecture. Its main claim to fame is the houses built right onto the waterfront, called Funaya. It’s like living right on top of your boathouse, which makes sense because Ine is an old fishing town.
The population has been shrinking steadily over time, probably owing to its remoteness and lack of accessibility – we had to drive here because there’s no trains, and the nearest stations are at least 10km away.
Day 14 – Arashiyama bamboo forest
Arashiyama is one of the places that you visit for that Old Japan vibe, and you’ve surely seen its bamboo pathway in pictures before. Arashiyama is a very touristy area, which is fine by us because we want to do touristy things today.
The first of which is kimono rental. There’s quite a few places offering it, no surprise, so we picked one that seems good. The store is tiny and didn’t have room for anyone extra to go in and gawk, but their wares are good. You pay a bit more for the nicer options but it’s definitely worth it – the material quality is nicer, and the designs are more elegant.
I finished off the Delta 3200 yesterday, so I loaded up Fuji PRO 400H today for Arashiyama. It’s a nice film that shoots well, and the colours are perfect for this sort of portraiture. A bit muted but nothing you can’t adjust to your tastes later on.
This coin laundry is right on the corner next to the Airbnb house we’re staying at. It’s kind of a novelty to me because these practically don’t exist for me back home. I went and dropped in a small load of washing so it could be done by the time we’re done with dinner.
Day 13 – New Years Day in Kyoto
We all have a well-deserved sleep in and go out for traditional new year activities. Shimogamo shrine is a bit of a trek north, but we want to go there because it’s the major shrine for this sort of thing, being close to the old imperial castle. As expected there’s a lot of visitors, but it’s not crowded which is nice.