Day 6 – 6/17/08 – Matsumoto and Nagano

We got up early that day, because our plan was to go to Matsumoto to see the castle, then off to Nagano to see the Zenko-ji temple and the infamous swimming snow monkeys.

With it being about a 3 1/2 hour train ride to Matsumoto, we got there around 11am or so. Matsumoto is pretty near the Japanese Alps, so we got to see some cool snow covered mountains. Our main priority however was to see Matsumoto castle.

We spent a little time walking through town on our way there and came across a frog street. Everything there was frog related. Not live frogs, but statues and art related to frogs.

24 - Matsumoto - Frog Street - 20080617 27 - Matsumoto - Frog Street - 20080617

28 - Matsumoto - Frog Street - 20080617

Finally we got to Matsumoto castle. The castle is pretty cool, and if you have the time, definitely worth seeing. It does however involve climbing lots of (have I mentioned these yet?) steep stairs. You also have to take your shoes off, so there’s lots of warning signs. Socks and nicely waxed wood floors don’t make for a good combination.

163 - Matsumoto Castle - 20080617

After the castle, it was off to Nagano to see the Zenko-ji temple, which involved a 40 minute train ride to Nagano, followed by a short bus ride to the temple, followed by another long walk to the temple. At least this temple didn’t involve stairs.

The temple was pretty cool. No pictures were allowed inside unfortunately. The highlight was a dark tunnel you go through. Apparently the tunnel contains the first Buddhist image to arrive in Japan. It is only accessible to visitors once every seven years(a copy if the image, not the tunnel or temple) creating a large pilgrimage to the temple, and apparently 37 generations of Emperors have not seen it. Anyways, besides that once every seven years, the closest you will come to the image is in the tunnel, which is shaped in such a way as to not allow light into the center of it. Even after your eyes adjust, it is PITCH black in there and you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face. You have to navigate completely by touch. Then you feel along the walls looking for a large movable metallic object, which is supposed to be the key to salvation. Interesting experience.

195 - Nagano - Zenko-ji Temple - 20080617 217 - Nagano - Zenko-ji Temple - 20080617 234 - Nagano - Zenko-ji Temple - 20080617 233 - Nagano - Zenko-ji Temple - 20080617

On our way out, we passed by a small temple(still part of the main temple). In front of it there was a stone wheel with a sign next to it that said: “Rotating the stone may save you from pain and suffering”. Umm, yeah, sure. The moment I tried to rotate it, my finger slipped, and got jammed between the wheel and the column holding it. It CAUSED me pain and suffering instead!

244 - Nagano - Zenko-ji Temple - 20080617 246 - Nagano - Zenko-ji Temple - 20080617

After finishing up this temple, we realized we had miscalculated, and there was no way to make it to the snow monkeys in time. We may have gotten there about 20 minutes before the preserve closed, so it was back to Tokyo, about a 2 hour train ride. While we had ridden fast trains before, this would be our first time riding the actual Shinkansen (bullet train). That thing is screaming fast, and when you go through a tunnel, it sounds like you’re on a jet plane. Outside the tunnels though, it’s perfectly quiet. Once back in Tokyo, another 1/2 hour metro ride, so we didn’t get back to our hotel till 9 or 10 pm. This would seem to become the norm.

Full set of pictures for this day on flickr.


~ by chriggy on July 23, 2008.

One Response to “Day 6 – 6/17/08 – Matsumoto and Nagano”

  1. That tunnel sounds weird. Liability? heh

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