Japan: Volume I
After the long flight, we hit the ground running. We always comment on how much nicer every other airport is compared to LAX. LAX, while shaping up to be a decent airport, will always be stained with having the rudest, most unhelpful staff on the planet.
It did not take us long to figure out that trains rule Japan as they had a full blown train station underneath the airport. We just had to drop a few floors and there we were. Of course, Tiana found Starbucks. Really big in Japan, as well as plenty of other coffee spots. One thing we did notice was that Starbucks/McDonald's was EVERYWHERE. I stopped taking pictures of the ones I found thinking they would be a novelty. Everywhere we went, McDonald's/Starbucks. While most of the menu was the same, Tiana first hand found out that they don't make everything the same...
We were told that we were leaning towards the end of the blossoming season, so we found a public tourist guide to help point us in the right direction. Matsumoto would be at full bloom, so we got train tickets to Matusmoto. Three separate trains, one being a bullet train. Sweet! Two hours and we'll be eyeballs deep in cherry blossoms. With Tiana being a florist, this is kind of a big deal. We hop on the train after Starbucks and away we go!
Something must have gotten lost in translation since the first train took 2 hours. The second took an hour and a half. The last train was 45 minutes. Did we miss something? Whatever it was, we were 5 hours deep and just getting to Matsumoto. It was dark. We opted to walk to our hotel which was a couple miles away with our backpacks and luggage. It seemed a little dead, but we wanted to drop our stuff off before we ate.
After sleeping on beds that could have passed as rocks, we took to the city early. Matsumoto Castle was about 5 blocks from our hotel. It didn't take long to get caught up in the beauty of the cherry blossoms.
We started to get hungry while walking around, so we ran back to the castle entrance and hit up a convenience store. Oh the delight in sheer confusion.
A quick snack and we decide to play tourist. Six bucks gets you into the castle tour. To think about how long this structure has been up and what it was actually used for blew my mind. The history of Japan is very well documented and the citizens that have preserved it show how much respect they have while sharing it with the tourists.
Not going to hide it, but I kind of lost it in the castle. There were a lot of people in there and a LOT stairs. My backpack wasn't getting any lighter as the stairs in the castle just kept getting steeper and wider. This while I have other tourists pushing and shoving while I was on the steps. This irked me beyond relief. Good thing we were almost done with the tour.
We spent the rest of the time at the castle taking pictures with the cherry blossoms and pseudo-stalking a wedding/engagement shoot.
After leaving the castle, we decided on walking through a few of the little shop areas and ran into a restaurant that had somewhat familiar looking food for Tiana. Biggest surprise at this point was when they asked us if we wanted smoking or non-smoking...
One of the healthiest, longest living cultures in the world still rock smoking sections in their restaurants?!
The Italian food in Japan...Tiana did not enjoy. Consistencies and textures just aren't the same some times. At least the french fries were delicious. Matsumoto was a great host, but some sleep was needed as the jet lag hit HARD. We head back to the room to recharge for the next episode.