We woke up before the alarm clock, set for a late 9am. I was feeling quite fresh and enthusiastic about not cycling today and eager to walk around. We quickly agreed that I would buy us breakfast while Guilherme would try to figure how to use the washing machine to give all of our clothing a fresh scent. We had breakfast in a table, a luxury by our standards, and Guilherme pulled out his laptop to plan our day. Well, if you’ve been following our blog, you already know what happened next since you might have seen our previous post. To sum up, the laptop was no longer usable. Surprisingly we were not that affected by the news. In some way it provided a nice liberation from the constantly unfulfilled duty of keeping everyone posted and we turned back to good old note taking on a travel notebook. Besides, I was feeling increasingly selfish with this trip. It had been, so far, grander and had had a greater effect on me than I had expected and I just wanted to absorb as much as I could from the experience.
We set out with two simple goals for the day: visit Matsumoto’s castle and spend sometime in Asama Onsen (hot springs). On our stroll down to the castle we stopped at the most beautiful bakery I have ever seen – if I lived nearby I would definitely go there every day – and bought some delicious bread. We just had a huge amount of calories with our typical convenience store breakfast but this bread was glorious.
Soon we were at the castle and we behaved like proper tourists for the first time since Tokyo. Matsumoto’s castle is a masterpiece. It does not have the grandeur of european medieval castles and, to be fair, it would hardly be called a castle in Europe. However, there is a sense of practicality in beauty and beauty in practicality; at the same time hiding his aggression and belligerence within its beautiful shapes and being imposing and inexpugnable due to exactly the same beauty. The moon-viewing pavilion, in particular, had quite deep effect on me and I believe I understand Japan a bit more after being there. I confess: I let my childish imagination run further than Forrest and for a couple of minutes I was dressed in armour, running up and down the wooden stairs, strategising in the hidden floor, and drinking tea in the moon-viewing pavilion in a mild spring night; by my side, a beautiful woman in a light coloured kimono making the air around her smell of plums and reality taken away from me by the cicadas deafening chant.
I came back from daydreaming to find Guilherme’s unshaven face smiling like a little kid in a candy shop (I know, this post already has too many clichés). We left the castle feeling light and headed north towards Asama onsen. We went by elementary schools where karate was being practised, met some young baseball players and crossed quiet residential areas. It is strange how so many things were so familiar due to watching Doraemon as a kid. I could see Shizuka, Suneo, Nobita and Giant everywhere and so could Guilherme. It was in high spirits, and now feeling muscles in our bodies that we have not felt for days as we relearned how to walk, that we found an onsen with a rotenburo (outdoors pool). It’s hard to explain how great the onsen experience was but we definitely believe that our previous 11 days on this trip definitely helped to make it feel even more extraordinary. Time flew by and when we left it was already getting dark. We went back into the city center to take some photographs of the castle at night and to feel the vibe around the station.
We went to sleep that night after some discussion of the route for tomorrow. We decided to tackle a beautiful scenic route that would leave us at the bottom of Mount Fuji, right on the lake from where the most iconic pictures are made. However, there was a price to pay…