We woke up in the morning and immediately got on the bus. Every time we were put on the bus, we had no idea how long we'd be on it. Even if they told us (15 min, 1 hour, 2-3 hours), it was never right. So I'm really not sure how long it actually took to get there, but our first stop was Shirakawa Go Village. It's located in the Gifu Prefecture near Takayama, if you want to look it up on a map and tell me about how long it took to get there. If not, thank you. The village was filled with houses with straw roofs and old, traditional looking buildings. In the village, we got to watch and participate in the making of mochi. Mochi is made from a slightly sweeter rice. It's pound will a huge wooden mallet until it has kind of the consistency of gum and then they eat it. After that description, I'm not sure why you'd even want to eat it and that about sums up my feelings about mochi. It's actually prepared for and mainly associated with the Japanese New Year every year. The Japanese New Year is the equivalent of Christmas in America when it comes to the size and importance of the holiday. What's interesting about it, though, is that even though it is a religious holiday, everyone practices mostly the same way no matter what religion they are. Back to mochi though, it's pretty gross. A lot of people love it. After that, we had some time to explore the village a little, where we climbed a baby mountain from which we could see a lot of the village. Once again, it was such a beautiful place filled with rice fields and mountains - it reminded me of home a litte, which was comforting.
|The little white ball is mochi.....yummm......|
After leaving Shirakawa Go, we got on the bus and drove through the mountains to our next destination, Takayama City. The drive over was quite humorous because our huge tour bus was squeezing through small tunnels with other huge tour buses coming in the other direction. At one point it took us about 5 minutes to pass one bus. That's not something I'd trust myself to do.
Takayama City was filled with small, old souvenir shops. We spent a little time there, then headed back to a new ryokan for the night.
We woke up early for our last day and drove about 2 hours to our new destination, Nagano Prefecture. The first place we visited was a miso factory. Miso is just about as common as rice is here in Japan. With every meal, you get a side of rice and a side of miso soup. Usually it has small green onions or tofu in it as well. The factory described how they make miso, then age it either for 1 or 3 years. They also told us it cures cancer and makes you healthy if you smoke (joking, sort of). It's worth a shot, America. The taste is generally salty and it's very good. I'm sure you've had it some time in a Japanese restaurant whether or not you've known it.
At the factory, they made us lunch from the miso they produce. It was a kind of stew with vegetables and beef and reminded me so much of what would be the equivalent of my mom's homemade chicken noodle soup. AKA so delicious! We even got to try miso ice cream after the meal. It had a very interesting taste, kind of like butterscotch. I enjoyed it a lot.
From there, we headed to Matsumoto Castle. When you google Japan and you see the beautiful red bridge by a large castle, this is what you see. Unfortunately, we couldn't go on the bridge because it was closed. We did get to climb (mostly) to the top of the main tower, though. This was another building that had disguised the number of floors it actually held. It was a beautiful place. The inside was incredibly boring and they make you take your shoes off to climb the really steep staircases making it also incredibly dangerous. Beautiful place, though!
Overall, it was a really great time to get away. I was just getting into the mood where I was itching for something new. I loved being able to see a side of Japan that I hadn't seen up until this point. We had fairly good weather which really added to the beauty of the sights we saw. Now, two weeks after we first left, I want to go away again, please!