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    • Day 14

      Martin and Lee's HoHo!

      July 28, 2015 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

      First evening in Japan was a really interesting one. Having seen off the Unit with their hosts our hosts Yoichi and Kyoko suggested a run up into the mountains where it would be cooler, reassuring us it was warm for them too. On the journey up Kyoko asked if Lee and I were up for a challenge. Like all good Scouters we answered yes before hearing the challenge; which turned out to be a visit to a traditional public bath house. No backing down now. We visited a charming waterfall. Where the air was cooler, even if the water was emerging from the rock at 11 degrees Celsius. (Sorry, boring geological details but appeals to the mineral surveyor in me). Then back in the very quiet and air conditioned people carrier, bliss! 15 minutes later we pulled up at this smart place looks like a golf club. We realised we were not going to play a round when Kyoko opens the boot and hands us a towel, flannel, disposal razor and toothbrush. Off we go for our first experience of a traditional Japanese bath house. Our blushes spared when we realised with relief it was segregated bathing but an experience not to be missed.

      This was followed by our first meal in proper Japanese restaurant at the spa. As the light faded we experienced our first real taste of Japan. After we journeyed on to our hosts home, very traditional and you can see the view of our hosts garden this morning that greeted me after a great night of full sleep.

      Day two of our Ho-Ho experience began early with breakfast. English breakfast with a Japanese twist. A side order of rice, soy sauce and miso soup. After breakfast, off to meet the mayor of Ueda for a special reception. All the Unit members in the Ueda area were there and it was great to hear that they had all had a great first night experience.

      Coincidence or good planning; I'll leave you decide? But the last time Welsh Scouts received Ho-Ho in Japan was after the 1991 World Jamboree in South Korea and they were hosted by Ueda. I even knew one of the leaders and have a present for him from an old Japanese friend.

      After that Lee and I were whisked away to meet Joichi, our hosts son. Joichi had been part of the Japanese contingent to the centenary world Jamboree in 2007. Off to lunch in an authentic Sushi Restaurant. For a man who likes his fish fried and battered, Lee battled on but we both agreed sea urchin is unlikely to catch on back home.

      With temperatures soaring to 37 degrees Joichi suggested a drive up into the mountains where it would be cooler! At a balmy 28 degrees Celsius Joichi took us on a 4 mile walk to a famous Shinto shrine. Only on the way back down did he tell us that this was black bear country. To prove the point on the way down he showed us a sign that stated, just 24 hours to he minute to the time we reached the shrine a black bear had been sighted and shooed off. He wasn't kidding but today no bears just Kyoko, his mother, waiting with a bamboo flavoured ice cream.
      Then off down the mountain and a visit to Japan's largest Buddhist temple, Zenjoki.

      Later we had time for dinner in Nagano city and a small tempura restaurant. Really different and all cooked to order. As we were experienced bathers now, Kyoko and Joichi had arranged a visit to a private natural Onsen at a swish hotel. You could instantly tell it was a natural spring by the water's sulphurous odour. Tired, but very clean, our short time in Ueda has come to a close having learnt much about Japanese culture and ways.

      We certainly think we hit the spirit of a number of programme zones today - spiritual and adventure - with our excursion into bear country!
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Tokiiri, 常入

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