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Lake Suwa Photo Galleries

Matsumoto's beautiful Black Castle, Nagano Prefecture
Black Castle -- Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture Kami-suwa's Famous Fireworks, Lake Suwa, Nagano Prefecture
Summer Fireworks -- Kami-Suwa, Nagano Prefecture Lake Suwa, Kami=suwa
Lake Suwa, Kami-Suwa, Nagano Prefecture

Tokyo Photo Galleries

Shinjuku street near Kabukicho
Shinjuku street aesthetics Disney Castle, Maihama
Disney Castle, Maihama Tokyo Tower, as seen from Roppongi Hills Tower
Tokyo Tower Viral Tubes, near Landmark Tower, Yokohama
Viral Tubes, Yokohama Yokohama View With Baseball Stadium
Yokohama View


The 70s Never Died, It Just Smells That Way
The 70s Never Died, It Just Smells That Way Terrorism in the 00s -- EgyptAir
EgyptAir America disintegrates in the sands of the Middle East -- Israel with it!

aug 14-16 2005 - chino japan
BACK AT THE TURN OF 2005 I BOUGHT A CHEAP TRAIN PASS WITH THE AIM OF TRAVELLING AROUND JAPAN, AND DESPITE A FEW DISTRACTIONS I DID MANAGE TO SEE SOME COOL STUFF, SUCH AS THE SNOW COUNTRY OF NIIGATA. I did fail however in one of my primary objectives, which was to visit Matsumoto in the heart of the Japanese Alps, home to one of the most famous castles in the land. Since that time a lot of water has gone under the proverbial bridge, and I have embarked on some pretty cool adventures, such as a trip to India and Malaysia, and I also managed to make it to Kyoto, which I believe is the coolest city in Japan. I haven't given even a passing thought to Matsumoto in all that time, and I wasn't expecting to make any return trips to that part of the world anytime soon. Fate, however, can surprise you, and I have found that throughout my life, the threads of the past are always revived, just when it seems they are dead -- miraculous ressurections always happen. I thought the thread of Matsumoto had petered out, and died. Recently however an opportunity came to take up where I left off back in the Lesbian Holidays, and push past Kofu and Nirasaki, into higher and completely new ground. In short, I finally get my chance to reach Matsumoto and other interesting nearby attractions, such as Lake Suwa and Chino City. This time the trip is all totally free -- my Japanese buddy Tanaka-san paid for the whole thing, including the train ticket. And at the same time, in a quirky sign of synchronicity, I have recently restored contact with my cousin K., the Lesbian who gave the Lesbian Holidays of the Turn of 2005 their name. Those holidays were marked by her absence from my life. Perhaps in the new Lesbian Holidays which are on the horizon, she will appear finally and defiantly in the flesh. I can only hope so!

Lake Suwa foreshores, KamiSuwa, Nagano Prefecture Anyway, forgetting the lesbian cousin because she is such a flake -- did I mention this holiday was free! In the Uncloned World tradition all travel is good but free travel feels best of all, just like the free candy tastes sweetest. But of course nothing is free in life and during this trip I did feel I was contributing something to the world, I was providing entertainment and emotional support to Mr Tanaka and his family, who literally killed me with kindness in return. In the whole time I was in Nagano Prefecture, the only things I had to pay for was a couple of vending machine beers at my hotel, and a 1000 yen card which enabled me to watch porn in the said hotel room (don't bother, Japanese porn sucks! Although it is cute in an innocent kind of way!) The most amazing thing about this journey is that it was so cheap, for me at least. The total cost, including four beers guzzled on the 8th floor of the Kami-Suwa Station Hotel, a porn card and the occasional bottle of chilled green tea, came to about 5000 yen. And I enjoyed some pretty luxurious experiences free of charge, such as traversing the Japanese countryside aboard the Azusa Express, which whipped me from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station to Chino in only two hours. This was my first impression of the train:

A planelike feeling inside, with the plush reclinable seats and the announcements in English and the drinks tables and so on -- the people walking through the carriage with trolleys selling stuff. It seems like they even have like a in-trip duty free shopping services, except you have to pay the duties. First stop is my old stomping ground at Hajiouji.

Hajioji (with its many universities and student bars) came and went with a flurry of concrete, and some impressive views of futuristic Tokyo highrise. The train rolled on, through endless suburbs, and before too long we were shooting through Takao where my friend Chris lives, and then the beautiful mountains which commence their rise there. I found time to enter another entry in my diary (ie, my keitai cellphone) an impression of the everchanging scene outside:

I just passed Outsuki, and entered country I have only ever before seen in winter. How different it seems and looks in summer! Whereas the dominant hue of winter is brown, summer has transformed the rugged spine of Japan into a verdant green. Tropical fields of rice lie under thickly wooded hills. More distant ranges appear dim through the steamy mist. I have lost count of how many tunnels we have plunged into. As we emerge from another dive, coming around the corner... what is that valley opening up before me. I believe it is the prefectural capital of Kofu.

On my last trip through this region during the Lesbian Holidays I had got off the train and looked about in Kofu for an hour or so, but to be honest, there ain't that much to see there. This time I was bound to a far more interesting part of Japan -- Lake Suwa! Interestingly, I had never heard of this place before Mr Tanaka invited me to spend Obon there with him and his kin. If you look closely at a map of Japan, you will see Lake Suwa as a small hole in the very center of the island chain. According to the geologists:

Lake Suwa is a tectonic lake located on the central highland of Honshu at an altitude of about 760m above sea level. A single stream, Tenryu River, drains the lake water into the Pacific Ocean. The lake surface remains frozen for 2-3 months during winter. Long straight rows of ice ridge locally called "Omiwatari" sometimes traverse the frozen lake surface in the winter morning after a cold night.
The lake has been filled with sediments transported by rivers from its relatively wide drainage basin to become a typical eutrophic lake with an average depth of about 5m. Nearly 30% of the drainage basin are covered by forest vegetation, while the greater part of the population is concentrated in a few cities near the lake shore. The spectacular growth of industrial activity around the lake since the 1960's caused a very rapid hypertrophication of the lake as indicated by heavy blooms of Microcystis (blue-green algae) that take place every summer.

On my keitai diary I wrote a more simpler, elegant description of Lake Suwa's beauty:

Suwa is cool... it is like an inland sea paradise complete with two of the most Japanese of Japanese attractions: fireworks, and onsens. Plenty of them.

Fireworks and onsen baths. They were to feature heavily in the days that followed. That and sake rice wine. And soba buckwheat noodles...

When it was all over and reality had been experienced, and then transformed to sweet memory, I sent my folks an email. It read thus:

I got back yesterday from my trip to the Japanese Alps, and even though I was only there for a few days, it seemed longer because I did so many things there. They killed me with kindness while I was there. It is a bit hard to summarise all that happened in one go. But while I was there, I got to see the fireworks on Lake Suwa. It is apparantly the largest fireworks display in the world, and there were 400,000 people there watching it. Luckily I wasn't standing in the middle of the crowds down on the lake shore, but in a house up in the hills where we had a barbeque and drank beer, sake, and so on. They gave me a vegetable (called shishitou) to eat which was so spicy, as soon as I swallowed it I started vomiting. I couldn't eat anything for about an hour afterwards, and there were tears streaming down my face for a long time afterwards. I will be careful the next time I have a chance to eat this food!
At the party there was Kuniaki Tanaka (the one who likes Australian country music), his cousin Setsuko, her son Yuutaro who is 8-years-old, another kid and some bloke who was working the barbeque and who enjoyed drinking (I think his name is Miyasaka, the same name as a popular brand of local sake, made by the Masumi Sake Company.) After I had my bad experience with the shishitou vegetable they were rubbing it in about how I can't handle spicy food, which is not true. But anyway, that is the reputation I have now.
After the fireworks were over Setsuko and Yuutaro tried to go home by train, but there were about 50,000 people waiting at the station, so it was impossible to leave. We males ended up going to a hot bath just down the road at the bottom of the hill, which was good fun. Setsuko's husband drove over from the next town to pick them up, but he was stuck in traffic for three hours (even though it should only be a 15-minute drive).
When I got home last night I noticed that some things in my room had fallen over. It turns out that while I had been away there had been yet another earthquake, this time a real biggie (7.2 on the Richter scale). That's the third earthquake in the past month. But it says something for Japanese engineering that more people don't get killed by earthaukes here. If a 7.2 magnitude earthquake happened in Iran or India, thousands of people would die. But here nobody was killed, just a few people were injured. Then again, maybe we were lucky this time.

Thus passed my third and greatest yet visit to Nagano Prefecture. For more detailed depictions of the place I saw (with photos) click at the names beneath: