Day 12: December 7
Last day of 7-day JR pass
We checked out of our Nagano hotel in the morning and left our luggage with the hotel. We stayed in Nagano not to see the city, but as it is a major city and transportation hub from where it would be easier to travel to Yamanouchi (yesterday) and Matsumoto. I choose to settle in these kind of cities because access to food and hotels is better and cheaper, and we can easily just leave our luggage and go on a day trip without lugging it around to a different city every night. Of course, given the opportunity I would have loved to see Nagano itself, but there are only so many days available for travelling…
We headed to Matsumoto for the afternoon because I wanted to see Matsumoto Castle, one of the most highly regarded original castles in Japan. I eventually want to see every single castle in Japan. From Nagano station, we took a limited express train to Matsumoto station. Limited express trains take just under an hour but regular trains will take over an hour. From Matsumoto station, it takes about 10-15 minutes to walk to Matsumoto Castle. The city streets are nice to walk through on the way to the castle.
The castle grounds of Matsumoto castle are really pretty and incredibly peaceful to walk around. Matsumoto castle is indeed beautiful, with its large moat and bright red bridge.
We also went inside the castle. As with all castles, the floor is very cold in winter. The ceilings are low and the stairs are very steep and narrow. I really hate climbing up and down those stairs.
After spending some time at Matsumoto Castle, it was time to head back to Nagano. We returned to the hotel, retrieved our luggage and headed on to Tokyo, the home stretch of our trip! Of course this was timed so all our longer distance journeys would fit in the 7-day JR pass. From Nagano station, we took a shinkansen to Oomiya station (Saitama), and transferred to a train for Shinjuku station. During the shinkansen ride, we experienced an earthquake. The shinkansen actually stopped (and we were profusely apologised to for the delay) and for the first time I witnessed Japanese passengers talking on their phones on public transport. The whole situation was very calm and I never felt very worried, though (different story for my mum). I know these things happen in Japan. I’m told that earthquakes need to be pretty serious for the shinkansen to stop. I don’t think there was severe damage or injury where the earthquake originated from (quite far away).
At Shinjuku station, we had some difficulty finding the appropriate exit to get to our hotel… as always. No surprises. I am used to this by now. We stayed at Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku. Luckily this is quite a major hotel and most train staff or officers on the roads would know it. It is about five minutes walk from Shinjuku station (if you exit from the correct side!). It is a large, modern hotel, with a lot of tourists. Hence it is quite English and Western-friendly in their service and amenities. We stayed in a simple and small room, which was clean but showed some times of age. I actually chose to return to this hotel during my most recent trip to Japan, so I think that says a lot about it. I find it the perfect hotel for Tokyo since I prefer to stay in Shinjuku, and the location, rooms (and amenities) and prices are exactly what I’m after. Because it is such a major hotel, airport shuttle buses will also stop here.
It was getting late so we walked down the street and decided to eat at a sushi train place. It was one of those fast and cheap sushi train places. My mum doesn’t really like this kind of sushi (like the actual Japanese kind, haha), but I enjoyed myself.