Day 16 - Sat 17 Apr 2004
If I'm going to spend some extra time in Washington, I need to find out what flights I can take. Use the free Internet connection at the Royoken to do some checking. Yes, there are three fights that I can use, on either Thr, Fri or Sat. I guess the Sat on is a good bet, that will get me in LHR on Sunday, I can get the bus to my pals, and then I can get her to drive me to my place. The most important part is that I get 5 days in Washington - okay I'll be working for three of them - but I've got the evenings..
I'm on the shinkansen again, it's amazing how quickly these things travel! I got off at Nagoya, and had a quick look at the castle. Back to the station by 12:30, and caught the 13:03 to Takayama. Ended up in a non-reserved smoking carriage, But the conductor allowed me to move into a reserved non-smoking one.
I should start to see some hills soon. I wonder how Phil is getting on? ohh I can see some hills in the distance. We seem to be climbing up a river valley now, with tree lined hills either side. In the towns there are clumps of (planted?) bamboo 6-10 metres tall, blowing in the wind.
We're really in he hills now - but there are still golf courses, and I even saw any automatic kaddie track!
Okay, not a good start to my stay in Takayama, got the scale of the Lonely Planet map all wrong, and walked for a half hour looking for my hotel. It was 5 minutes from the station.
While checking in I was filmed for a Japanese TV channel. I kid you not. I then hit the streets, the centre of the town is tiny and it has a river running through it. There are about five bridges that span the river. Back to the Hotel for wash, and then out to get something to eat. I found a French restaurant that knocked me up some veggy pasta and a beer for 1550 Yen.
As I was eating, the western couple that I kept seeing in the town in the afternoon came in. It seems they used to live here and are back for a re-union party upstairs. This all makes sense now, because when I first arrived at the restaurant the staff tried to send me upstairs. Gatecrashing a party in Japan - just my style. To top it all the lady from my hotel turned up at the party as well!
After that I took a walk down to the river - it's beautiful, the trees are floodlit, and I saw bats sweeping the river for food! The whole place is rather empty, I've got it to myself. Take a turn off the main streets, and you are in small deserted streets with small shops and workshops, all made of wood, and everything of a very human scale -no skyscrapers here!
The Rickshaw Inn is booked out, so I'm going to have to stay the extra two nights in Matsumoto, and try to do some day trips from there. Shame really as the Rickshaw is a very nice place, and the guest lounge is great.