Sheryl, Madeleine and I are up in the Japanese Alps now in the city of Matsumoto and environs. Matsumoto is famous for one of the great enduring samurai castles known as the Crow Castle for its black walls. The place seemed familiar to me as the location from some Kurosawa movie or other, possibly Ran, but I could be mistaken.
The interior was quite worth visiting with the usual compliment of bizarre torture weapons. An entire floor was hidden from outside view and had no windows. In this photo Sheryl and Madeleine are in the samurai arcade, which was built wide to accomodate their armor.
In the afternoon we took a train out to the suburban town of Hotaka to visit a wasabi farm – definitely heaven for your basic California sushi maven. Tasting the genuine article at the source (most wasabi in domestic sushi bars is not even wasabi, but dyed horseradish) was great fun. They make everything out of wasabi at this farm — chocolate wasabi (didn’t try), wasabi ice cream (Madeleine loved) and pickled wasabi (sensational). The wasabi root is grown in heavily irrigated, almost muddy, land with water maintained at 13 degrees centigrade year round. Wasabi is obviously delicate suff.
The farm is a well-known attraction up here and there were a couple of hundred Japanese tourists wandering around, drinking wasabi beer, etc. Absolutely no Caucasians but us. Westerners just don’t seem to travel around rural Japan in any numbers. They are missing a fabulous experience. The people are very friendly and the country, of course, well organized with superb public transportation. All you need is a phrase book and a little patience if you mix up stations like Oyama and Omiya, get off at the wrong stop and miss your bullet train connection. [You did that?-ed? Nah, it’s just a rumor.]