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Friday, April 12, 2013

MUGA Day#18: Matsumoto Castle--Pearl's Ashes #17

Well, I left Hiroshima and spent the next couple of days mostly on various trains.  My Shinkansen lunch to Tokyo was typical of most of the meals I ate this week:


Everything you see here cost me around $10, because the blue sake was free from the hotel.  I again had spectacular views of Mount Fuji:


The next morning, my Tokyo Westin Japanese breakfast:


I decided to train to Matsumoto because on 19April2012 I went there, but screwed up and never saw the castle, plus, the concierge indicated that today was the peak date for cherry blossoms.  First a shinkansen to Nagano, then a connection to Matsumoto.  Simple, yes, but only if you understand Japanese.  Apparently a track change was announced and I missed it.  So, I had to get another ticket, which was not a big deal because the schedule is hourly.  However, I had 50 minutes, so I asked the tourist desk if there was any worthy Sakura site.  Yes, a simple 20 minute walk to Zenkoji Temple.  So, off I went, except it was all uphill, it took me 25 minutes, and I was close to a heart attack.  Two shots:


Having now 23 minutes to return to the station, I noticed a bus, so I asked.  Surely enough, for about $1.60, I got back to the track of my departure, so I had 15 minutes to spare.  There was a train there, but it is important not to get on the previous one, so I waited until a minute before my departure time, and finally asked a staff member if this was my train.  Turned out it was, so I had frozen (the temperature was 48 F) all those minutes when I could have relaxed in comfort.  I could have easily missed it, so I'm not complaining.

Finally, I arrived in Matsumoto, with an hour to get to the castle and back, a supposedly easy 15 minute walk each way.  But, as you must know by now, these types of attractions tend to be placed on a hill.  My previous search for the castle was a disaster, as I thought this dinky temple was it, and had my personal hanami (cherry blossom picnic) at this site:


There was a babbling brook, and I sat on a large rock to enjoy my bento, with people taking my picture.   I was unimpressed by the Matsumoto Castle because I never got there.  If I had walked up 5 minutes more, I would have seen the below.  Thus, I just had to succeed this time.  I did:


This castle was originally built in 1504, and over time in different forms, involved historic figures like Tokugawa Ieyasu (he was the first of the Tokugawa shoguns--interesting that this reign began in 1603, and continues today in the form of Tokugawa Tsunenari, and we were born in the same year) and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  It's a National Treasure.

On the way out, I noticed one yellow carp, so I thought, how perfect.  I had a gel cap of Pearl's ashes, so I tossed it into the water, and, I think this one ate it:


Thus, if you ever get to the moat of the Matsumoto Castle, look for this yellow carp, for it has Pearl's DNA.  Here is a close-up:


Here in Japan the numbering system for Pearl's Ashes is getting complicated, for there is the chronological series (where Kyoto and Nagasaki could well be #17), and my current reportage linking the list to this global adventure.  I'll sort this out later when I put together the e-book.

My seat from Matsumoto to Nagano was front row, with the following view:


I got back in the dark, but stopped by Mitsukoshi and Robuchon's to create the following dinner in my room with a free bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon provided by the hotel:


Foie gras pate, Castello blue cheese, endive, potato chips, sourdough bread, onions and red wine.  It occurred to me as I was enjoying my meal with some classical background music and mesmerizing view (Mount Fuji is in this direction) that, save for the Kahala dinner in Osaka, I had finally exceeded a TOTAL of $100 for my entire week of eating in Japan, mostly because that foie gras was $16 and cheese $11.  Friends have been picking up the tab, plus my breakfasts are all free and the Starwood Executive Clubs provide all I need for dinner.  Tomorrow?  Jindaiji (the botanical park with Pearl's statue) and who knows what else.  I have one more day of my Japan Rail Pass, then I leave for Seoul on Sunday.  

My hotel asked United Airlines if there would be a penalty if I skipped South Korea, and the answer was there would be no penalty for this emergency crisis except I might need to pay $125 for the change.  How's that for contradiction and ambivalence?  Also tomorrow, do I consume the rest of what I had tonight, satisfy myself with the Executive Club....or go to Robuchon's, which is just to the right across the street from the photo above.

I should mention that the Dow Jones Industrials hit another all time high yesterday, reaching 14,865.14, and dropped today to 14,865.06.

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