Yuki-chan in the back eating her 9th Melon-pan.
If you are driving up North, you will need chains on the tyres depending on the season - we went in April and got by without.
Love the Japanese countryside.
Approaching Shinshu Ueda.
Yuki-chan is always very quiet when sitting in the back.
Arrival at the Ueda Castle [上田城[うえだじょう]] - or what remains of it. What was once a grand castle many moons ago has now been made into a public park.
We visited on a Monday so the place was quiet. The park is packed however during the hanami season as the place is covered with sakura trees.
To get to the castle, get off at Ueda station [上田駅] in Nagano and pick up a tourist map from the station - or just follow the maps dotted around. The castle is located in the map below.
Parking and entrance to the castle is free.
The 6 circles is an emblem that represents Sanadashi [真田氏] - a family of Shinanonokuni [信濃国[しなののくに]]. It would take be ages to explain the history so I'll save it for a rainy day. Understanding some of Japan's history, will help you further enjoy historical themes in anime and games. How many of you are history buffs?
Sanada Shrine in the park precinct.
Not sure what these were but one could go inside them.
A slice of the past over looking the modern.
Water at the entrance of a shrine or temple is for purification purposes - use it to wash your hands before entering.
Unfortunately, there is not much of the castle left over from the years.
Heading down the castle hill - very steep stairs.
Map of the Shinshu Ueda town region.
Yuki comes out of the car for some fresh air.
A quick snack before moving on to the next location - this stuff tastes gorgeous! Its called Copan - its like crisp bread dipped in honey and orange.
Near the castle is Yanagimachi [柳町] - a short street filled with traditional shops, restaurants and lodging.
I just love traditional Japanese architecture.
I think I was laughing at my June - December schedule. Am certainly biting off more than I can chew but its make or break this year.
Exploring another shrine in the area. These rolled up bits of paper are fortunes which say something like "you shall be haunted by a one eyed farting baboon for the rest of your life" - understandably, most folks dont want this to come true so they tie them up like this.
I often get shrines and temples mixed up. If you see a pair of guardian komainu dogs then it *usually* means that its a shrine although lately there are places which have a mix shrine and temple.
One Komainu will have its mouth open and is said to bring in good fortune. The other Komainu will have its mouth closed and is said to ward off calamity. Komainu are very similar to Shisa which can be found in Okinawa.
This probably sounds scary but since I was a kid, I can see faces at whatever natural pattern I look at - rocks, road, sky. I can see at least 7 faces here which mostly look like beasts. Am I the only one? ^^;;;
Another sign of a shrine is the torii gate.
Back at Yanagimachi heading to the car.
Next stop is Tokyo - 156km South. Estimated time of arrival 2 hrs 20 mins from now.
When all cars suddenly move from the fast lane over to the slow lane, it usually means that the boys in blue (or in Japan's case black and white) are nearby.
Many folks have some sort of radar detector - something which I've always wondered about but when in shops, I would see packaging for what seems to be a radar detector with very vague wording - presumably so that the device can be sold legally?
As for speeding - I was caught once when driving from Vancouver to Seattle - I was influenced by the evening sunset, clear roads and Ridge Racer music ^^;
Below - probably still the best game music I've clapped my ears on - Ridge Racer R4 released back in 1988. I was still living in London at the time.
Japanese highways are just so well maintained and smooth.
Stopping off at a service area for some food. Service areas in Japan are beconing big business. One recently opened where they have a Gundam shop that sells goodies exclusive to that service area.
Still quite cold at night at this time of the year so we go to see whats inside to eat.
Vege ramen - looks good to me!
Tastes good too! Recently found out there was the same ramen branch in my neck of the woods.
Kinako Mochi for dessert.
Picking up some renkon to take back home.
Who is your fave IS girl?
When ordering coffee - ask for it to be extra hot or you will get something thats kinda luke warm.
Arrival back in Tokyo.
Unpacking from the trip ready to catch up on work.
And earlier that day we were up at Tateshina - photos here.
More places to visit in Japan listed up below.