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Late Friday evening Kenji and I decided to try our first motorcycle road trip, and chose a nice, fun-looking road through Gunma’s famous Kusatsu onsen on to Nagano City and back. It was an experiment of sorts; neither of us had ever been on the bike that long and didn’t know what to expect. In the end, we learned a lot and had a ton of fun… though both of us had very sore shoulders this week!

First thing Saturday morning we took the highway to Shibukawa to the start of the road. We were using our trusty navi, who didn’t quite understand which road we wanted, so we had a little trouble with directions, but figured it out in the end. This seemed to be a common theme to the trip, so planning out routes ahead of time and not relying only on the navi was our first lesson. Anyway, the road to Kusatsu used to be a small, winding, crowded road, but several years ago they started construction of a dam up-river and therefore built a new road much higher up the mountain. It took us awhile to realize we were on the new road, so we detoured to a bridge to take some pictures and get us back on the old road.


But first! A quick 7/11 run to buy neck warmers we had forgotten


And a breakfast at a family restaurant before getting on the road


Looking back toward Shibukawa, the upper road, train track, and lower road following the river on that detour bridge


Looking toward Kusatsu, no roads to be seen at all!


We didn’t want to take our helmets off…


Parked in Kusatsu


The famous Kusatsu onsen Yubatake!


Sights around town


Of course we had to get our onsen manju fix!


And on to Sai-no-Kawara park to see the fall colors… not fully developed, as this year isn’t a good year for them, but still nice!




A bunch of pictures from around Sai-no-Kawara


On the way back to the bike we bought some of the onsen manju for later, and got some yummy senbei for a snack at one of my favorite food places in Kusatsu!

Our next stop was further up the road, at one of the highest points, Shirane mountain and the famous creamy-blue colored Lake Shirane in a crater at the top. We climbed the mountain (ugh it was windy and cold!), took our pics, then went back down to the base to have a late lunch before heading onward!


Slowly snaking their way up the mountain, a steady stream of people


The colors, again not spectacular, but still nice!


Lake Shirane


Hi!


Lunch time


Continuing down the mountain, we stopped several times for pictures. However the clouds started coming in and it was getting cooler, so we tried to go pretty quickly after a point to Shibu Onsen.

The last stop for the night, of which none of my pics came out, was Shibu Onsen in Nagano, where we had a quick back, then found a hotel (after some stressing) in nearby Nagano City, about 30 minutes away by highway. By that point, we were cold and tired (note: need more clothes than you think you do!) and both our backs were hurting (note: buy a better backpack for more support!), and taking the highway was difficult because of the constant wind in your face (note: highways suck on a motorcycle!), so by the time we got there we were exhausted.

We still needed to eat, though, so we headed out of the hotel for a bite, came back, had another warm bath, then collapsed into bed.

The next morning we woke up a little later than we intended because both of us were sore, but after some meds and yet another hot bath, we headed to a family restaurant for breakfast again, and I also went to the post office for my Prefecture post cards. In Japan starting in 2009, the post office has made special post cards for each prefecture, and every year they come out with a new one. So now there are 4 to collect for each prefecture. Usually we go to Nagano for snowboarding, so it is hard to find a post office and buy them. So I have missed the last 4 years worth. I was really determined to get some this trip! While waiting for our food I ran to Nagano’s central post office (luckily just around the block from the restaurant!) to get the post cards. They only had three on display, so I grabbed those and as I was paying, I asked the lady about the fourth. “We are out of that one… oh wait!” she said, “we might have one more!” and she comes back with the LAST 2009 post card! Ahhh, lucky! Then as I was about to leave, she calls me again, and hands me the 4 mini-cards they have started to make as a bonus! Usually you have to buy 4 big cards to get one mini version, but she gave me all 4. I was so happy!


Nagano’s cards

Next on the agenda was going to see Nagano City’s main temple, Zenkouji. I got my shuuin (calligraphy) done, and took pictures of the many cute kids in kimono there celebrating Shichi-go-san, a children’s festival for girls 7 and 3, and 5 year old boys. Also a lot of newborns get blessed at this festival too!


Zenkouji


My Shuuin


Blessing the kids and their parents


So many cute kids!


Statues and buildings


Making Daruma

Finally after seeing the temple, we started for home. It was a long trip back, but we stopped to rest a few times and to get some pictures, the first place being a cool waterfall, and later at a big outlet mall in famous Karuizawa for dinner. After that we went strait home, tired but happy!


the waterfall

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One of Kenji’s gorgeous pictures, big because its too pretty to be a thumbnail!


Us again


Dinner in Karuizawa


Karuizawa


Annaka’s famous Megane-bashi, a bridge of brick supporting a train track


And us at Megane-bashi

Whew!

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