posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I had a slow start from Matsumoto due to the rain and indeed the forecast were very accurate! Due to the typhoon still affecting central Honshu I thought I better change my plans to climb up Norikura Skyline and rather aim straight to Takayama gaining half a day on my schedule. Despite the wet weather I had a very nice ride. Before going to Kamikochi I looked for the 'cave onsen' of Nakanoyu. As my Lonely Planet guide said a best kept secret unless you happen to have bought the guide and quite a few have! The tiny shop before the tunnel provided the keys and the shopkeeper escorted me to the wooden hut, being the entrance to the cave. This was the changing room and few steps down through another door lead to a pretty dark grotto where one can sit in oblivion in the pleasant hot natural water pool for 30 minutes, the time it normally takes for the next Lonely Planet tourist to turn up. Indeed mine was very punctual in the shape of an australian girl travelling on her own! After this unique experience I went up the hill to briefly visit Kamikochi the central resort for japanese hikers in the Alps. A very nice place kept unspoilt by limiting access to buses and taxis...and bicycles the mountains all around were somehow hiding in the clouds still hovering all around. I finally left Kamikochi to tackle the last climb of the day to Hirayu where it really started pouring down. Takayama was a long downhill ride along the most beautiful mountain scenery I had seen sofar. A wonderful display of little mountains covered to the top by lush green forests of sugi and pines. The low clouds gave a sense of mystery to the place and were a good photo opportunity. Reached Takayama the quaintest town seen sofar I looked and quickly found Tosho ji a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple that is also the town youth hostel. The very friendly priest showed me around this jewel of a little temple where one can get a hint of places otherwise normally not accessible.