Wasabi and a castle

That wasabi in a tube at home probably isn’t wasabi, but European horseradish and green colouring. How disappointing! I have had the real stuff before, grated at the table, but I never realised how hard it is to grow.

Sadly, none of this knowledge was gained by visiting the Daio Wasabi Farm at Hotaka due to a distinct lack of English information. We still had an interesting time.

The farm is a few hours away from Shinjuku via the Chuo Line. We had to get up early but then face the fact that it was raining. Yesterday would have been nicer! Plus it meant that we wouldn’t see Mount Fuji out of the window of the train.

As it was, we barely made the train with B needing to hurry back to get jumpers. No breakfast either, so we were reliant on snacks purchased from the trolley. Still some gorgeous mountain scenery out of the window though.

At Matsumoto we had to quickly change trains to the Resort Furusato, a luxurious two car diesel electric hybrid with ceiling screens showing video from the front of the train. Pity it was only an 18 minute ride to Hotaka station!

We caught a taxi from the station to the farm for 1,300 Yen, though perhaps we should have cycled.

The first task was to have lunch. Wasabi flavoured soba noodles, then wasabi croquettes and wasabi buns for Alex. Warm banana and strawberry milks from a vending machine, that’s different!

Hunger sated, it was time for a long stroll around the farm.

Wasabi grows in cold flowing water at cool temperatures and prefers shade. On the farm the wasabi plants sat in fields of stone with swift flowing clear streams of water running around them. Black shade cloth was mounted above.

Shrines and bridges were positioned around the grounds, which would have been very pretty when the cherry trees flowered.

We walked past paddies with a golden matured rice crop, allowing us to inspect up close what we had seen so often out of the windows of the train.

The opposite corner of the grounds was bordered by a fast clear stream filled with waving water grasses while wooden water wheels churned in their wake. It was so serene, so beautiful.

A last try of real wasabi, in the form of a soft serve ice cream (not so good) and we were off in another taxi back to the station.

As we had some time before the next train we wandered along Hotaka’s main street. Alex bought a chocolate cake from Fujiya, a patisserie and sweets chain that looks rather dated and tame compared to the wonders of French-Japanese sweets. But I felt a sense of fondness towards it, like a memory of a past that I’d never had except in my imagination.

In the Serie 100 Yen store, which we initially mistook for a supermarket I found my treasured Gokuri grapefruit drink. Mission accomplished again!

The local train back to Matsuyama was full of schoolkids who had also returned from the wasabi farm. We caught a bus from the station to Matsuyama castle, though we should have walked.

It’s one of Japan’s finest preserved castles, with a beautiful situation of a moat and mountain backdrop and a wooden interior. The climb up to the very top can be rather steep in places, but we made it again. It was Alex’s first time to Matsumoto-jo, our second.

Train timetables dictacted that we had limited time to explore the castle surrounds, though it could not compete with our previous visit during cherry blossom season.

Another long train ride home on an Asuza Express. It was long dark by the time we entered the surrounds of Tokyo. Seeing the local streets and arcades, some lively, some very quiet, again triggered a longing inside me. A feeling that I should escape the tourist ridden frenzy of Shinjuku and experience another side of Japan.

I dream of a run down hotel in a lonely part of town where the night’s activities consist of dinner and watching a movie. A tiny local restaurant run by an aging couple or maybe the kind of family diner chain we no longer have in Australia. To wander near silent streets under bright light and many shadows.

We had dinner of grilled seafood and fried chicken in a quieter part of West Shinjuku. Relatively quieter.

I’ve been seeing photos of Sydney’s Vivid festival posted by friends back home. It’s Vivid every night in Shinjuku.

It’s hard to know what I want except that I do not want to go.

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