Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

Soukou: Leaves turn yellow and fall/ snakes hide away (3 of 5)

November 1st, 2008

Soukou 8 of 15We are lucky chaps. On the first weekend of November, we were invited to Karuizawa, in Nagano prefecture, by Ito-san, a member of the English club, to stay at her ‘cottage’. Sassaya-san, another lady from the club was also invited, and we spent 2 days touring around the region.

Nagano prefecture is a popular holiday destination. It is mountainous, boasting its own active volcano – Asama-san (Mount Asama). The landscape is magnificent with valleys, flowing waters and amazing engineering works. There are many activities to be had all year round: cherry blossom viewing in Spring when the hills are pink, hiking in Summer when the land is green, autumn leaves appreciation in Autumn when everything is red, and skiing in winter when the mountains are white. Because of the volcano, there are numerous onsen (hot-springs). Because there are numerous onsen, there are many resorts and holiday stays. Because there are so many resorts, there are a great number of holiday-makers – or is it the other way around(?)

Shinkansen (bullet train) services make it convenient to travel within Japan but are quite pricey. Urged on by the falling Australian dollar and reassured by our friend, Fukushima-san, we opted for the local train serivce (which costs one third of the Shinkansen tickets but takes twice as long). It is hard to refuse the sense of adventure too. Enjoying a thermos of coffee, snacks and fruits, while sitting by the window we gazed at the passing scenery as it changed from the familiar suburban with the ocassional vege-patches, to the developing suburbs with larger vegetable gardens, to large market-size gardens and more sparse housing and buildings, to the rural landscape dominated by farms and rice fields.

Our host picked us up from Yokokawa station (which is the closest station to Karuizawa that has the local train service to and from Takasaki) and drove us around beautiful Karuizawa. We visited: Karuizawa-yacho-no-mori (Wild bird wood), Yukagawa – a river in pristine condition, and Shiraito Falls, where rainfall on Mt Asama-san comes out after 6 years underground. Being an Autumn long weekend, the roads, the scenic spots, and the restaurants are naturally full of cars, families, and sight-seers.

Higher up in latitude, the ambient temperature in Karuizawa was only 9 degrees. The opportunity to eat seasonally is, of course, capitalised upon with charcoaled riverfish, barbecued sweet-corn, and fried food-on-skewers on offer at all the popular tourist stops. Stands were also set up to sell the newly harvested apples, grapes, and assorted vegetables.

Our day ended with: a visit to an onsen, a wonderful meal prepared by Ito-san (including Japanese beef stew, cabbage rolls, chirashi, and a sashimi salad), viewing of Mr Ito’s water-colour paintings, enjoyment of his choice of Sake (very smooth), and amusing Japanese-English conversations.

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