We had a lazy day yesterday, while we were suppose to get up at 7am to head to a Volcano park in the southern island. It just didn't happen - we didn't realise how tired we actually were, so the alarm went on snooze and we didn't get up for another 2 hours.
So it was back on the Shinkansen, passed Hiroshima, Osaka and Kyoto and onto another city called Nagoya. Here we changed to the local line which headed to Nagano. Our next stop however was a little town called Matsumuto, just south of the Japanese Alps and famous for its castle. We arrived just before dark (Dave got the giggles at the station as they announced Matsumoto, Matsumotooooooooooooooooooo) and were picked up by our host. We decided to take advantage of a good deal online and stay at a Ryokan for the evening. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn, mostly made from wood - a must, Japanese experience. Our room was exactly what we wanted with Tatami-mats for sleeping on (a kindof futon), a tea table with mats to kneel on and of course the komono dressing gowns (of which Dave never took off). This Ryokan also had communal bathing areas - like an inside Onson (hot pool) which was a fun experience - and so so hot! Megan couldn't even get into it - it was that hot. The owners were so lovely as well, we met the family and got to talk about the house and the traditions etc... It was a unique experience, much better than the accomodation we had been staying in previously (although the Lugians and Kyoto were good). It's that little bit extra that made us feel at home - mainly that we were actually staying with a Japanese family in their house.
After a good sleep - we were up and out. Taking advantage of the Ryokans free bikes, we headed into the town to see the castle. It really does deserve its good reputation as its the original building built in 1504 - not many places can say that in Japan (a lot are reconstructions). It really is a beautiful castle. As we were cycling we also came across a cute little street which was lined with little trading stalls and also completely decorated with frogs (aptly we called it frog street). They were everywhere, little stone statues hiding all over the street - very quirky. The scenery around Matsumoto is spectacular as it is nestled just outside the Alps so the mountains are visable from all sides - exactly what you want to see while cycling around - good fun.