Sunday, June 21, 2009

A trip to Matsumoto & Hakuba Day 2

Day 2 in Nagano was an early start with the Tan Tans visiting the famous ski jump competition ground during the Winter Olympics in 1998 before breakfast was served at 0730hrs. It was quite a nice place other than there was no snow since it’s summer already…   ;(

IMG_2588jpgIMG_2574jpgIMG_2587IMG_2583jpg IMG_2573jpgIMG_2597jpgIMG_2591jpg Measurements for the landing zone. All the pros landed beyond 120 metres.

After the breakfast, the Tan Tans took a stroll around the area near the Minshuku that they were staying in and discovered a shrine as well as a small playground. It was just a great lazy morning

 IMG_2599jpg IMG_2600jpg Saw tons of daisy.

IMG_2603jpgNice shrine with a huge sacred tree.

 IMG_2606jpg IMG_2608jpg Swing!! Tan Tans loved it!

IMG_2615jpg Departing from the minishuku that the Tan Tans stayed in. The Tan Tans were also told that for the wild plants cuisine, one have to book it one week in advance.


Our second stop for the day is a popular ski resort in winter but was turned into a natural park in summer (or spring in Nagano area). Tsugaike Natural Park

 IMG_2618jpg Before taking the cable car ride the Tan Tans chanced upon this race that took place. Cycling upslope to a height of 1,860m was no joke. Hats off to all of them.


IMG_2631jpgIMG_2634jpg The Tan Tans were overjoyed with the sight of snow though Mr Tan Tan was not really geared for this.

IMG_2638jpg However, Mr Tan Tan could not resist the wonderful wild strawberries soft-serve that was waving to him and calling out “eat me. . . eat me”

IMG_2640jpg Entrance to the natural park… love the snow alps behind though it would be even more fabulous if the sky were clear.


This was the mizu basho or skunk cabbage that we were there for. From what we learned, it’s impossible to plant this and hence, can only be found in the wild.


IMG_2672IMG_2675jpg IMG_2665jpg IMG_2667jpg The Tan Tans had to hike through dirty melting snow which ain’t easy with the stupid shoes that they were wearing.

After the tough hike, the Tan Tans had the best soba in Japan. Shinshu Soba. It was served on a traditional bamboo tray and Mr Tan Tan version came in 3 dipping sauces. From left to right. First sauce is daikon (radish) juice and it’s meant to be mixed with the miso paste, spring onion and bonito flakes (white tray just above it), second sauce was the traditional Japanese dip for soba which consist of soy sauce with dashi (stock made with bonito flakes and kombu {seaweed}) and it’s meant to be mixed in with the wasabi, spring onion and grated daikon (tray on top). Lastly, the final dip was the most interesting and it was made with Kurome or walnut. Extremely great dipping the noodles between the 3 sauces and the sauces were not wasted as a pot of water (from boiling the soba) was brought to the table and it was to be added to the sauces becoming sort of a soup.



The next stop was the last stop before the Tan Tans had to make their way back to Owase. It was a famous Wasabi farm in Nagano area and one of the main producer of Wasabi in Japan.


And the first thing that Mr Tan Tan did upon arrival? Have a nice cool Wasabi soft-serve, what else do you expect?IMG_2716


  • Left: Watermill channelling the cool and clear river water in the farm
  • Right: Wasabi plants. The Tan Tans were told that wasabi can only grow in places where there are constant flow of clean and cold water. A shortage of any of the factors and you cannot grow any wasabi. Maybe that explain for the not so cheap prices of fresh wasabi.


IMG_2738 IMG_2739jpgIMG_2752jpg

 IMG_2734jpg Saw this river fish in the water, that explained how clean the water is. A further 10mins walk led the Tan Tans to a small shop selling grilled river fish.. hmmmm


The wasabi with the “special promotion of 3 for 1,000yen ($14) as well as the more expensive 1 for $2,500 yen. ($32) The Tan Tans wondered what was the difference.

With the wasabi nuts that the Tan Tans purchased, they made their way back to Owase and bid farewell to Nagano.



IMG_2766Sunset along the way back.

IMG_2773jpg Nagoya bridge. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

A trip to Matsumoto & Hakuba Day 1

Last weekend, the Tan Tans were kindly invited to join an elderly couple from their English conversation class to Nagano. As it coincided with the Tan Tans’ 1st Wedding Anniversary, it was a great opportunity for a celebration in Nagano. It was like a anniversary present that fell from the sky.

The Tan Tans first stop. Matsumoto castle. It was one of the most beautiful original castle in Japan out of the 12 original castles and was built on a plain instead of on top of a mountain or hill. Also known as crow castle, Matsumoto jo was built in 1592 and has a beautiful distinct black roof.

  IMG_2417jpg IMG_2420jpgIMG_2423jpgIMG_2462jpg IMG_2471jpg 


Inside the castle, there are some display of firearms that were used in the 16th century.



Belief had it that there was this guard who saw a gorgeous gal on the 16th night in the premises of the castle who handed a bag over to the guard and told him that if they enshrined the bag with 2,600 kilograms of rice every month on the 16th, she will protect the castle from fire and enemy attacks. I believed that was carried out as this castle was protected from fires which had engulfed so many other castles in Japan.

 IMG_2450jpgIMG_2451jpg Shrine of the 16th Night Goddess.


Next stop from Matsumoto Castle, The Tan Tans were brought to the former Kaichi primary school which was the first elementary school built in Japan. (It was interesting that they named this school “primary” whereas the others were called “elementary” schools)


IMG_2474jpg Drain cover featuring traditional matsumoto handball along the way to Kaichi Primary School.

IMG_2483jpgIMG_2492jpgIMG_2490jpg Former Kaichi Primary School.


One of the exhibition rooms featuring the old classroom as well as some of the games played during lessons.

IMG_2494jpgIMG_2495jpgIMG_2496jpg And being the “good” student in class, Mr Tan Tan could not resist but attended lesson.

IMG_2507jpg The old ski boots. . wondered how they could moved around with ski boots that heavy.


Next stop. Art Museum as one of the elderly is a painter and loves art and it was a good idea for the Tan Tans as they did not really visit any museum in Japan.



IMG_2542jpgIMG_2543jpgTan Tans taking a rest on this wonderfully comfortable bench after an exhausting time.

 IMG_2557jpgFinally, after 6hrs (not including our stoppages at Matsumoto) of driving on the road going at 130-140km/hr for our kind uncle who is almost 70 years old we reached Hakuba!!

 IMG_2558jpg IMG_2561jpg  IMG_2564jpg IMG_2565jpgIMG_2566jpgIMG_2562jpg

After the wonderful Sanzai Ryori, it’s time for a wonderful soak of the Hakuba Onsen and thereafter bedtime!