Monday, 23 July 2012

Nagano, Manza onsens and Outlet stores.

22-23rd July.

 

In the vein of visiting onsens (hot springs) and the like, parts of the family met up and off we went to the wonderful place of Nagano to visit the Manza Prince Hotel which is generally a ski-resort.  During the summer, you can generally stay at ski resorts for a cheap visit and they also often have onsens.  Wheee! off we go!

 

 

For us, that means a trip on the Shinkasen or bullet train as they are known in English.  An early start without breakfast or my morning cup of tea…  Breakky on the train and Take-away coffee instead!   Ratchet and Lego-Light came along for the ride as well.

 

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Becks take away coffee!  What type?  Blend coffee of course!  This is on the inside of the shinkansen.  So much more spacious than an aeroplane.

 

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Ratchet and his Shinkansen ticket to Karuizawa station.  Which when we arrived totally blew me away.  It isn’t that big, but is in a mountainous area and was engulfed in clouds!!  AMAZING!

 

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No rain, drizzle or other precipitation.  That’s all cloud!  You could see it swirling in the wind as you walked.  Incredible!  There isn’t much at Karuizawa aside from a bunch of ‘outlet’ stores and a tourist street, which I will admit was long and pretty interesting.  Since we had time, we hit the tourist street.

 

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There was actually quite a few interesting little shops here.  I managed to buy myself some Earl Grey tea jam (Woot!) and some Darjeeling tea bags as well as laughing at a random bag in a shop thatt had a map of some European place and a picture of a Kangaroo on it.  I think they were implying the map was Australia… somewhere.  The names looked kind of German to me…

 

 

Anyway as fun as that was, after quite a bit of walking, we got hungry and so hit a cafe for lunch.  A little bit early it would seem, as there were no others in the place, but hey, I didn’t care.

 

Hamburger for me, om-rice for the better half.  Om-rice is an omelette over a pile of rice.  Usually quite nice.

 

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And the food was pretty good too I must add.

 

And so as we wandered through the street I cam across some place that sold Darjeeling Tea bags and thusly bought some.  Unlike  Australia Darjeeling seems to be in abundance at the moment.  Odd really.  Or not.

 

We di come across a rather cool little drink dispenser, that dispenses, wait for it…

 

Bottles of cold Milk!!

 

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Hells to the yeah!

 

And blueberry icecream and shakes. Mmmm Yummy!  And so after a bit of happy consuming, we hopped on the bus to the Prince Manza hotel.  Which was an hour long trip or so which was supplied with some nice looking forest to look at on the way.

 

And then as we hit the general area of the hotel, I spotted a bit of this.

 

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Looked a bit like it had fallen prey to a landslide but had opened up the earth a little bit to provide some very nice colours.

 

Once inside the hotel, which I just realised I had forgotten to take a photo of… I was greeted by some happy staff and a load of people.  Just two nights before we were due to come, this hotel was featured on one of the (many) travel shows on Japanese TV and so all the old folks (and there are a LOT in japan) had obviously made some bookings and filled the place up.  Sheesh, and here was me thinking I’d get the onsen all to myself again.

 

Anyway, in the lobby was a retro surprise, which I had a little check out of since checking IN seemed to be taking a while.

 

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Metal Slug 2 Arcade cabinet! GOLD there baby!

 

Then we ventured to our rooms.  It was still cloudy and the view from the room looked like this for the whole day.

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There is a reasonable bit of hill and valley out there somewhere…

 

That was pretty much it for the say, dinner consisted of eating from the Chinese menu they had and it was pretty good, and copious bathing in the onsen (no pictures of this one though.  Sorry.  Although no-one would want to see me bathing anyway…)  Good night.

 

The next day was a mixed bag of cloud and sun.  I snapped this shot from the room as we got ready for some more bathing.  The rotenburo’s view would have been something in THIS weather!

 

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I told you there were hills in there somewhere.  So with that view fresh in my mind, I hastily prepared for a trip to the rotenburo.  Excited at the opportunity to finally have something to  look at ( aside from naked old men…) whilst I soaked in the alkaline goodness.

 

Sadly for me, by the time I made it to the bath, it had turned cloudy again.  I couldn’t believe it!  It took me less than 3 minutes to get there and I ended up in the bath looking at a thick wall of grey.  Darnit.  Oh well, I just soaked in the goodness and avoided eye contact.

 

So after the final bath for that onsen (this time was a bit of a record, so far each onsen has allowed me timing for 3 baths.  One after arriving, one after dinner and one in the morning.) we met up for breakfast, which was a buffet style, offering both Japanese and western foods.  Hmm, mini sausages!  Tummies full we zipped off to our flower viewing tour up in the hills.

 

I didn’t really think Japan had much in the way of flowers, after all my previous trip around WA revealed an abundance of natural colour and having been in Japan a number of times now, I had never really seen what there was available.  As it turns out, there is an admirable selection and really I was a fool to think otherwise.

 

We had a guide from the hotel take us around to spots of rare flowers and plants.  I thought it would be a bit of hiking, but it was a little car trip which lasted about an hour or so.  I am glad there was a car available, despite my initial misgivings (I like a good walk) as the area is very hilly and most of them would have required quite a bit of effort to climb.  There were a few as well. 

 

Luckily the cloud cleared occasionally to allow us to see the beauty of the region. 

 

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Well, sometimes the cloud cleared…

 

Some of these plants only grew in one or two places in the whole area.  Oh and by ‘whole area’ I mean National Park.  The air was so clean it was lovely

 

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There was also a natural spring halfway up that ran constantly and is well known and we were thusly prepared with some bottles to capture said water within.  Man it was delightful!  Rock filtered, it was so fresh and clean, I have never tasted water such as that!

 

Final stops on the tour and the cloud dissipated for us.

 

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That was the end of our stay at Manza Prince hotel.  Shame really as we only stayed for one night, but another would have been quite lovely.  So we headed back to Karuizawa and the ‘Outlet town’ for some cheap shopping.                                                       ?

 

We ended up with about 4 hours to kill at Karuizawa before the shinkansen home, as it was, I was a tad disappointed.  I thought outlet shops were where ‘seconds’ essentially went, allowing for some good deals.  Well they had the same theme as most outlet stores.   Clothes. 

 

But that was about it.  Most of the clothing was outdoors-y or sports wear and to be completely honest I was a bit shocked at the pricing.  To me, it looked the same as every other store.  Very strange.  It was a huge are, but fairly plain.  The slight highlight for me was a ‘Jump’ hop, which seemed to focus on goods related to Shonen Jump comics, so they had a lot of Bleach and One Piece goods, but since I don’t follow/like either it wasn’t terribly exciting for me.

 

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Just one part of the outlet are.  The place is huge altogether, with north, south east and west wings.  We picked up a map and I am glad we did!  It was a pleasant enough walk though I will admit.  Lunch time gets a bit busy (of course) and we ended up having some nice Bibinba from a Korean food place that was not busy as it was off the main street.  Tasted pretty good.

 

Oh and if you do go to Karuizawa, they don’t have many coin lockers at the station, there is a counter that can store bags, but they charge 500 yen per bag.  There are plenty of lockers in the outlet are scattered about the place, so save yourself the hassle of paying some douche at the station 500 yen per bag (way too expensive) and plonk them in one of the lockers in the outlet mall.

 

One of surprise I had though was a Massive corker and deserves a post by itself.  Here is a teaser image!!

 

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So with time running out we made our way back to the shinkansen and train station for our ride back home.  Shinkansens are amazing trains and I think that anyone who goes to Japan should ride on one at least once.   They are very fast, cheaper than an airplane ticket and comfier too.

 

I ended up with a few extra goodies as well.

 

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Just watch out for the old ladies on the train.  And the toilet actually, they sometimes roam into the men’s room when the ladies is full. 

 

I kid you not!

 

Video of train will go here eventually.

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