Return to the Japan Alps May 2024

TPE lounge, this was the upstairs one in T2.
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Beef noodle soup.
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When I made the booking the flight to Narita was on a 330 iirc.
Later it was changed to this cutie.

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I was quite dead at that point as you can imagine....went straight to sleep so no pics until we arrived!

The Japanese ladies are very serious about make up and things...she was doing some last minute touch up!

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Damn I know I must look like xx_x, dgaf....🤣
 
Queued for about 40 mins(?) in immigration, ah but I was getting my JTTP card!
There's a designated counter at Narita T2 departure level (before securities, next to check in counter A), it took about 10 mins in total. Quick and easy!
Next trip I shall skip the lines 😎
 
Booked a hotel in Kaihin Makuhari mainly because I wanted to visit the Mont Bell store.
Damn I was so glad I did it - only 30 mins by bus from Narita! (I was ready to drop at any minute by this stage)
Plus at 8000 Yen it was 1/2 or even 1/3 of what hotels in Tokyo would cost.

Room was not big but adequate.
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View is the Mitsui outlet and train station to the right.

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Had Yakitori for dinner and called it an early night.
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End of Day 1.
 
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Day 2 is a major moving day! Kaihin Makuhari - Tokyo - Shinjuku - Matsumoto. Took me about 6 hours, I did plan some buffer inbetween though.

So I sent my suitcase to Matsumoto, even though I am going there myself and the case wouldn't arrive till the next day. Just didn't fancy carrying the thing around Tokyo/Shinjuku stations.

You can also take the Shinkansen to Nagano and transfer to Matsumoto, but I was going back that way so I thought a different route would be nice.

The limited express Azusa. Once per hour from Shinjuku to Matsumoto.
Going via Yamanashi.

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See the lights above?
Green means available, red means occupied. Yellow (not seen here) means someone has booked this seat and is coming soon.
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So the conductors only checked people who were in the green seats, once they paid the fare, it would become red.
The colour scheme threw me off a bit though...

While transferring in Tokyo Station, I noticed a sign saying the Sunrise Express sleeper train service would be suspended for that night due to strong wind in Shikoku, was a bit surprised...😮

At least when looking outside it was nice and sunny...
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In Shinjuku I saw the last available Kamameshi bento, just had to get it!
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* This is one of the most famous Ekibens, unfortunately the one I bought was the paper container version. I'd love a clay pot!

The actual food.
Not bad, but honestly I didn't get it?
Maybe without the clay pot it just doesn't taste the same? 🤣

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So many hotels to choose from in Matsumoto!
I've stayed at Dormy Inn twice before, the same group opened an Onyado Nono near JR Matsumoto Station as well....
Ended up booking Richmond Hotel because of the price, ha ha.

Deluxe double room, in Japan you'd call this palatial 🤣🤣
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According to the hotel website rooms were renovated during covid.
Sadly I don't think the renovation extended to bathrooms...
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Location was excellent, half way between JR station (5 mins walk) and Matsumoto Castle. Right next to the department store Parco.

I paid 23K Yen for two nights including breakfast. Single rooms would be even cheaper and from what I saw not bad size either.
 
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Sanzoku yaki is a type of fried chicken famous in this area.
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And of course local specialty is soba!
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Yeah, these are the two things you can't get away from in this part of the world...oh also Iwana Yaki, but we'll get to that later!

By this stage it was bitterly cold and windy outside, so I asked hotel to organise a massage therapist and that's the end of Day 2.
 
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Day 3
Narai Juku
During the Edo Period, Narai 奈良井 was a important post town between Kyoto and Edo(Tokyo) on the Nakasando Route. Other post towns on this route include Magome and Tsumago which seem to be more popular nowadays?
But Narai has been better preserved, the houses stretch much longer here. Also there's a train station right next to it so quite an easy place to visit transport-wise.

As mentioned above I've been to Matsumoto twice before, have visited most of the interesting places in town. So I decided a day trip to Narai Juku was in order.

Note: the limited express Shinano doesn't stop at Narai. From Matsumoto there's only two trains in the morning that go to Narai, obviously 7am was too early so I took the 10:20 one, arrived at about 11:15.

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200 Jizo (this is a graveyard)
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As far as I can tell, local specialty is lacquerware, called Kiso Lacquer.
I'd say 50% of shops here are selling them? 🤣
And 100% of the restaurants are making soba....

I didn't feel like soba again so decided to go back to Matsumoto for lunch.

Narai station building, very in keeping with the surroundings.
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Side note, for some reason this little town is very popular with western tourists - as compared to Asian tourists in most of Japan, no idea why ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 
Had a siesta and went out again about 5pm.
To the Aeon Mall!

Why?
Because I wanted to watch a movie...
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As it turned out, the conversation was waaaay too hard for me 🤣 TBF It was a crime story, can't even say I was surprised...
But I love the 名探偵コナン manga series! Even visited the museum in the middle of nowhere back in 2022...obviously I was not going to miss the movie.

On my way back to JR station area.
This was one of the main restored shopping streets.

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