Nagano, Norikura, Kyoto

Here’s the map for this stretch– Again, the Norikura section is not right (see previous post)

Nagano is my favorite city so far– we stayed at this amazing hostel/ guesthouse right in front of the main attraction of the Nagano town – the Zenkoji Temple. The guesthouse has been managed by the same family for six generation. In front of the hotel is actually a statue marking where the plaza of the Zenkoji temple was a hundred years ago before it was moved further uphill because of the fire.

thumb_IMG_7561_1024The front of the Matsuya Zenkoji Ryokan– the statue was erected to memorialize where the old plaza used to be.

thumb_IMG_7528_1024Entering the front gate of the Zenkoji Temple

thumb_IMG_7532_1024The street where the Ryokan (Japanese style guesthouse) was. So nice and quaint, with lots of tourists (good people watching!)

thumb_IMG_7534_1024The front of the temple. People threw bundles of incense into the urn thing and rub the smoke all over their heads/bodies.

thumb_IMG_7539_1024The front gate at night– creepy.

thumb_IMG_7537_1024It’s a cool neighborhood. The houses around the area was old style Japan. I stumbled into this alley and there were a few temples and no tourists. It was quiet, calm and charming.

thumb_IMG_7540_1024Dried gourd at dinner place.

thumb_IMG_7555_1024Fantastic breakfast served at the Ryokan. So worth the 10 bucks. There were 3 different types of mushroom dishes. It’s mushroom season here, so the markets are teemed with so many different types of mushroom. We have tried most of them and they are fantastic

thumb_IMG_7566_1024Side temple next to the Zenkoji the following morning. It was so nice to be able to take a five minute stroll outside of our guesthouse to check out the temple again the following day- it looks quite different in the morning.

thumb_IMG_7558_1024Wonderfully red autumny tree

thumb_IMG_7565_1024Camped next to Matsumoto the next day- here’s Brady, cooking some mushroom. He’s been doing so well cooking one-pot-meals. This time, I spilled all the cooked udon into the stream when I was draining the pot…… 😦

 

The next day, we climbed Norikura Kogen- the highest road in Japan at 2700m. We started at 600m with a bit of ups and downs at the beginning for a total of 2400m ascend that day. To preserve our knees, we sent our camping gears into Takayama and only brought whatever was necessary for a hotel stay that night. It was nice!

thumb_IMG_7570_1024Before a long tunnel– I sent my back panniers off and kept both of my front ones. It was so much more stable going uphill because of the even-load distribution. Brady was back heavy the whole entire time.

thumb_IMG_7572_1024Beautiful torii on the way up the Norikura Kogen. It was a Sunday. and cars were allowed up to halfway point (1600m or so), after which only buses, taxis and bicycles are allowed. It was awesome!

thumb_IMG_7612_1024Gorgeous autumn colors.

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thumb_IMG_7576_1024It was really amazing the whole way up. I was cruisin’.

thumb_IMG_7581_1024Brady, back-heavy, huffin’ and puffin’ on the way up.

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thumb_IMG_7594_1024Finally, the top, 4 hours later. There were a few other cyclists who have driven with their cars to the halfway point (where cars were not allowed to go up anymore) and topped up. They were cheering us on.

thumb_IMG_7599_1024We were in the midst of what they call the Japan Alps–

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thumb_IMG_7597_1024And then the wonderful descent began– we didn’t have to pedal at all for 25~km or so. It was glorious. I had everything I own (down jacket, wind breaker, rain pants, mountaineering gloves) on. It was freezing cold up top and got really hot as we got to the lowlands.

thumb_IMG_7604_1024I love this picture

thumb_IMG_7608_1024Endless mountains

 

We arrived to Takayama almost in the dark. We were starving!

thumb_IMG_7610_1024The only burger joint in town– we had 4 burgers between the two of us– AND~~

thumb_IMG_7628_1024They had lagunitas! I WAS IN HEAVEN~ So satisfied.

Takayama was the first day off since we got to Honshu 14 days before.

thumb_IMG_7618_1024Surprisingly, there were lots of tourists, which was surprising since I have never heard of Takayama before and was not expecting any sort of tourism/ attractions! The town is famous for the authentic Japanese style buildings that have survived since before the WWs.

thumb_IMG_7617_1024At one of the morning markets.

thumb_IMG_7616_1024They even had one of this!

thumb_IMG_7624_1024The place is famous for its Hida beef also– this is raw pieces of meat, seared for 2 seconds with a torch. Melt-in-your-mouth.

We also went sake tasting at two places– it was aight. They all taste the same to me.

thumb_IMG_7664_1024Updating the blog in our Ryokan. Our yukatas hanging in the background.

thumb_IMG_7638_1024Refreshed after a rest day, we began our 3 day riding towards Kyoto. Brady’s been obsessing about Natto (see previous post)– his favorite breakfast now is Natto roll from 7-11

thumb_IMG_7637_1024And my new favorite- fried rice and noodles mixed together, topped with curry sauce and wrapped with a semblance of egg sheet. YUM– for $1 from any convenience store.

thumb_IMG_7653_1024The last of autumn sceneries. We are approaching low-lands- it’s warmer and the harvest barely begun here. The trees have yet to turn colors.

thumb_IMG_7640_1024Giant waterwheels on the way.

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thumb_IMG_7654_1024The perfect autumn tree.

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thumb_IMG_7660_1024Today was crappy- busy roads with lots of trucks and not a lot of sceneries.

thumb_IMG_7657_1024‘wild’ camping last night–

thumb_IMG_7666_1024Scary as heck.

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We are now 40km from Kyoto– where we will be staying for Friday night. From Kyoto – Osaka there’s a designated bike paths all the way through. I’m quite through with biking on busy busy highways with lots of truck traffics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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