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Foggy Flowering Morning at Utsukushigahara

There’s something about the morning that feels, looks and smells different. The air has a coolness and the sun a softness. A summer’s heat can be uncomfortable but morning rays are rarely a nuisance, and instead, they offer needed warmth and light.

wet path

wet path

My wife and I went up to the Utsukushigahara area just last Sunday and it really made me once again appreciate the joys of living in this area. At first, I was a little disappointed at the morning fog, but then as I walked more and more along the trail, I started to appreciate the mood that the fog was offering.

meadow fog flowers

There was something in the wind, and in the moist air and the morning softness. Beautiful red and orange blooming tsutsuji (つつじ) bushes were slowly revealed to us. I reached for my camera.

Here are a few images from that morning and its special mood.

The place is Omoide no oka” (思い出の岡) or Memory Hill, and to get there, come up the road from Lake Misuzu. Just as you get into the wide open views of the Skyline Drive, there’s a parking lot on your left. A short trail then leads to the top, to the views, to the flowers and the great natural scene around you.

Enjoy!

cows flowers

cows flowers

two roads orange drops

two roads orange drops

(almost) Live from Matsumoto … it’s the OFFCUE SHOW!!

It’s the unique OFFCUE SHOW, a new new new online video program that shows all the rough and smooth edges of our multidimensional, multicultural year-round wonderland, that we all affectionately call .. uh .. MATSUMOTO. Central Japan’s first (almost) live, local, rambunctious (look it up) video program.
The Offcue Show
It’s offcue and it’s for you! Check it out … and … hey, residents and visitors, please join us on-location for our next filming.
We are here!

WINTER HEAT at the Ice Fest!

Temperatures were droppin’ but my heart always gets thumpin’ when I think about the fun and excitement of the annual Ice Sculpture Festival. And this year was another good one. So good that I once again had to experience it both at night and the next day.
At midnight on Saturday night, it’s all business as the sculptors cut, chisel and mold their raw ice blocks into their final forms. I got their just before midnight and once again felt the buzz of excitement (and the chainsaws!). I got up close and personal with those sculptures-in-progress, and the sculptors themselves are pretty much oblivious to the onlookers. They are really concentrating on their craft as they work into the night, under the bright spotlights. Time’s ticking away, and all know that with the sunrise comes the completion of carving and time to display the finished works of art.
Ice Festival - at night, getting ready
The next morning, Sunday, it’s always a struggle to get out into the early crisp January morning but I never regret it. Before 10am, the setting is peaceful, quiet, just you and the finished ice art. This is the time to get those great photos, hopefully with the swans swimming nearby in the moat, and the Northern Alps and castle providing the scenic backdrop. All the night’s sweat and creativity has been turned into frozen figures and scenes, eagles and bears, angels, fish and fishermen, abstract and representational, real winter art.
Ice Sculptures
During the day, all the food stalls and kids entertainment come to life. Stroll around, meet the neighbors, have a crepe, some yakisoba, oden or or maybe a beer or cup of sake to take the chill from the air. They’re all there. Ice Fest 2008. Chilly, creative, exciting. Warms the heart.
Crowds at the Ice Fest

Get out the hiking boots!

Ready for fresh air, exercise (yeah, a little sweat) and a great time??
A hike to Mt. Chougatake (Japanese: 蝶ヶ岳) in the nearby Alps was just the perfect way to get “out there.” My wife and I recently went to Kamikochi and hiked from there up to the top of Chougatake. Wow! What a great place it is up there on the alpine ridge.
Beautiful scenery from Mt. Chougatake
It was certainly a bit of a sweat and a grunt for a few hours of climbing through the forest (about 5 or 6 hours). But hey patience, patience — the biggest reward is at the top. And, what a view from the top it is! The air was cool up there and the 360-degree view is SPECTACULAR. For a hiker, it is really one of the great places to be. We stayed the night at the Chougatake Mountain Lodge, and it offers meals and a comfy place to sleep. There’s a place to pitch a tent up there too.
The next day, we hiked down the other side of the range into Misato, just northwest of Matsumoto. There are also alternate trails back down to Kamikochi, along the ridge to Mt. Jonen and some other options too.
Sunrise on Mt. Chougatake
Now’s the time … to get up into the hills and mountains around Matsumoto. If you like your air and scenery COOL and FRESH, then a hike in the northern Alps is the thing for you. From now (August) until about mid-November, the hikes in this area of Japan are wonderful.
Get out there on the trail. Beat the heat, and see Japan from about 3,000 meters up!

This is really a great place to experience Japan!

Hey, I’ve been here three years now and I am really happy that I ended up in Matsumoto. Whether you’re into culture or outdoor activities, you don’t have to go very far to have a great experience in the Matsumoto area. Now, we have an English website to share all of the beauty, fun and culture of our area. Come and have a look. Breathe the fresh air, hike the trails, ski the slopes, walk around the castle moat, savor our soba. Friendly, welcoming and interesting. Hey, it’s Matsumoto!


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