Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 16 – Nagano)

Sunday, Nov 06 2022 (Day 16)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hanno
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukicho
ට  Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022 – Shinjuku Loft
ට  Day 14 – Friday, Nov 04 2022 – Shinjuku, Hanazono/Asakusa Tori no Ichi, Sensō-ji
ට  Day 15 – Saturday, Nov 05 2022 – Nagano, Zenkōji
ට  Day 16 – Sunday, Nov 06 2022 – Ueda Sanada Matsuri, Ueda City, Nagano (You are here)

My main aim for today, and the reason I came to Nagano (the prefecture) at all, was to attend the Ueda Sanada Matsuri 2022 in Ueda City, a neighbour city of Nagano (the city) where I was staying. I expected this to be a whole day trip, so I booked a ticket from Nagano to Ueda at around 9:30 am, and a ticket back at around 6:30 pm.

Some points of upkeep before I dive into the blog.

Firstly, I withdrew 50,000 yen in 10,000 yen notes from a 7-11 ABM the night before, which cost me $483.35. That should hopefully keep me going for the rest of the trip for the stuff that I can’t charge to a card. Maybe. The transaction fee for this was 0 from the Canadian (Scotiabank) side, and 220 yen from the Japan side — the machine said that withdrawing 10,000 yen would have cost 110 yen, and 20,000 yen and up would have cost 220 yen. Not sure what would have happened if I withdrew anything in between, though. In hindsight maybe I should have withdrawn a little more just in case, but 220 yen isn’t much at all. I had read that 7-11 ABMs were one of the best machines to withdraw yen using foreign bank accounts, and that seemed to work out fine for me.

Secondly, I figured out why my room wasn’t heating up very well, that enormous bath/shower room was basically a cold ice box. Once I shut the door on that bathroom, the rest of my hotel room was able to sustain heat and my second night was nice and toasty, perhaps a little too toasty.

Thirdly, my pictures from this day are a bit more rearranged than usual because I did a lot of backtracking and walking back and forth, and there’s no point having four different tiny galleries for the same thing. So while the pictures are largely chronological within each section, they are not necessarily chronological within the overall context of the blog.

And lastly, despite spending most of the day in Ueda City, this blog post is subtitled Nagano because that’s the city where I spent the night.

Journey to Ueda City

The morning was frigid, something like 3-4 degrees Celsius at around 6:00 am, though it was 8 degrees by the time I left the building around 9:00, and more or less rapidly rising. From the glorious Hotel Unicorn, I walked back south to the dilapidated shopping street, then east from there, and found an entrance to the local subway system. This local train system was not affiliated with JR, so my JR Pass wouldn’t work, and in fact I was told that even my Suica fare card wouldn’t work here, I had to buy a little ticket from the ticket machine for 170 yen.

The train station reminded me of a Left 4 Dead 2 map or some other game where I’d be running from zombies through those tunnels and stopping on either side to look for loot.

The inside of the train looked like this:

The most interesting part of this ride came at the ticket gates of the end station, Nagano. There were ticket officers holding baskets and waiting to take the little tickets from us as we went through the gate, so I didn’t even get to keep it as a souvenir.

Oh well. There was a big selection of vending machines at that Nagano Station too.

And that concludes my brief encounter with the Nagano Electric Railway Line, or Nagaden, as that was the only time in the Nagano lag of my trip that I used it. Especially since getting out of the station and to the shinkansen travel point took several minutes of walking and figuring out and eventually made me miss my shinkansen train by two minutes. That was fine though, because with the JR Pass, my booking and rebooking was free anyway (this is NOT the case if I had missed the train after booking it, but I wouldn’t have booked it early if I didn’t have a JR Pass, I would have booked it after arriving on the day itself). I couldn’t actually book a ride on the next train myself because it somehow mystifyingly “overlapped” with the train that I was supposed to be on though, so I had to go to the office for it, but a nice lady there took my JR pass and the ticket that I had just missed and took care of it without much of an issue.

It’s also worth noting here that in some stations like Nagano and Shinjuku and probably Tokyo, there are two JR ticket stations, a normal one and a “JR East Travel Service Center” (I assume there’s a similar one on the JR West side of the country too). The normal one usually has a long line of Japanese people, but foreigners with the JR Pass are not really supposed to use that one — the JR East Travel Service Center generally does not have a line and is where we are supposed to go to make changes if the green booking machines do not suffice. In Ueda City, however, there is no JR East Travel Service Center, and I had to go to the regular JR ticket center to make my desired changes, later on in the day.

Anyway, changing the ticket meant I had extra time to kill before catching my train. That meant shopping for an ekiben! I picked this Makunouchi Bento up from a convenience store named Shinanoki for 1200 yen:

And had it in the waiting room in the station, since the journey from Nagano to Ueda was only going to be 12 minutes or so.

A few blinks of the eye later, and i was in Ueda Station!

Ueda leans into the samurai part of its history and this can be seen everywhere — not only that stand in Ueda Station but all around town in shops, this visitor information center display below, themed merchandise, etc.

And all the people dressed up as samurai. Oh wait, that was due to today’s event.

Ueda City Streets

Ueda City was pretty much as gorgeous scenery-wise as Nagano was. It was pretty cold when I reached there, especially since I had decided not to bring along either a jacket or my long slacks and thus was walking around with bare arms and legs. Although it warmed up during the day, I made an interesting observation that the parts of the sidewalk that the sun shone on were comfortable to walk around in even early on when I arrived and when the temperature was still below 10°C, whereas the parts of the sidewalk that were shaded by buildings, trees, etc were noticeably colder. I felt very much like a cat as i tried to walk around in the warm sunbeams, the exact opposite of what one usually tries to do in hotter climates like Singapore where people try to follow the shade and avoid the sun. Even in Edmonton, I’ve never noticed or felt the need to do this.

Anyway, my walk down from Ueda Station to the nearby Ueda Castle Ruins area where the main festival was taking place was uneventful, although it was fairly obvious where it was as there were policemen everywhere directing vehicular and foot traffic. However, not all the events were taking place in the Castle Ruins area. There were dance processions down the main road leading away from it when I first arrived:

And later on in the early afternoon, there was a stage play being held a couple of streets away:

There were definitely other things going on at various times too, but I couldn’t really find them since I wasn’t familiar with the city streets and the map they gave out wasn’t very useful. That’s okay though, since I just wandered around and found other things to do. I also went into the tourist information center for the city and found a couple of stamps which I’ll showcase a little later on. Here are various miscellaneous pictures of the city streets:

Ueda Sanada Matsuri festival grounds

The main festival grounds area, located in an empty space just in front of a bridge leading to the Ueda Castle Ruins, wasn’t very large, but it nonetheless drew many people, and was in such a central area that I left and reentered the area at least five times during the course of the afternoon. The first time in, I had to complete a short Google Forms survey (asking for name, phone number, and whether one was from Ueda/Nagano Prefecture or not), and was then given a wristband to wear that gave me reentry privileges for the rest of the afternoon.

There were basically two short rows of stalls surrounding an eating area in the middle, a stage at the far end (that I never saw used), and two entrances/exits from the area, one pointing toward the outer road and the rest of the town, while the other pointed inwards, toward Ueda Castle Ruins and Sanada Shrine.

I bought two pieces of festival food here, one a local thing called Oidare Yakitori for 800 yen:

This was nice but not 800 yen nice. The other was an oyaki for 150 yen. It was kiriboshi flavoured, which in this context probably meant daikon strips.

Lastly, there was the tiniest of areas where people could leave messages on, so I obviously took a picture of that for preservation’s sake:

Ueda Castle Ruins

The Ueda Castle Ruins area was basically a park with several walking paths winding its way around it, with several notable landmarks around it, like a bridge leading to an old gate, which was a popular congregation spot for all sorts of colourful characters:

Past that gate was a small turret tower that one could pay 300 yen or something for the privilege to climb, which I didn’t, and a shrine named Sanada Shrine.

There was also a little photo area there:

Tigey wanted in on this, much to the amusement of two foreign female tourists who swooned over Tigey as I took a picture of him:

I also picked up a souvenir at the shrine that I will talk about a bit further down.

Outside of this gate and shrine area, there was also an Ueda City Museum there, but they charged 500 yen or so for admission and I was still feeling cheap, so I didn’t bite on it. There was also a ninja training area set up where people were being given a chance to shoot a bow (kyūdō):

This one I was mildly tempted for, but also ultimately passed on.

Back at Ueda Station

Finally, it was time to leave. It was still only just past 2:20 pm at that point, and my return trip wasn’t actuallyl until 6 pm or so, but I went to the office again to change my ticket to an earlier one. It turned out to be a strategically brilliant move to set my home base to Nagano and transit to Ueda City for one day, as I didn’t feel like there as a ton else that I could have done with a second spontaneous day in the city or town on short notice. A lot of shops and places were closed due to the festival, as it was something that seemed to be really strongly supported by the community, and this was something I hadn’t factored in when trying to book a two night stay in Ueda City originally. This is also when I took the following picture that i promised in yesterday’s blog post, which shows the scaling of the ticket fare and (unreserved, but reserved scales in a similar fashion, just with bigger numbers) seat fare for the shinkansen.

Anyway, I got my ticket booked for a 3:40 pm train, and this meant that I had about an hour to kill before the ride. I wandered into an interesting-looking store across the street from the station, and found out that it was a hobby shop. It was actually a hobby and cosmetic shop, which is a weird combination, but I apparently didn’t take any pictures of the cosmetic side of things.

Lots of anime stuff, but the one thing I ended up buying here was a Fairy Tale Dream Notebook that was calling out to me. I then went back to the station, and another upcoming shinkansen would have meant another ekiben, except that the couple convenience stores in Ueda City didn’t sell any! So I had to pick up a normal bento box from the NewDays store in Ueda Station. At least this became the first bento box that I microwaved in the store before eating up on the train platform. It was called the Mago wa Yasashii bento, and apparently contains Japanese mushroom rice, glutinous barley, and grilled mackerel.

Once I returned to Nagano, I spent another two or three hours wandering around the city, though I didn’t really take any pictures other than this one:

i ended up at a bar or something in the Gondo Shopping Street named Orion Gyoza Nagano, and had dinner there, an interesting dish called pork bone broth miso ramen… without noodles. Instead of noodles, they substituted it with veggies, particularly bean sprouts. I liked it quite a lot as I am a big fan of bean sprouts.

With that under my belt, I crawled home for the night, booking my next day’s stay in Kyoto after some research, and taking pictures of my loot for the day.

Loot

This is mostly stamps, but I wanted to highlight them anyway. Firstly, I hadn’t seen any stations with stamps to collect for about a week or so, but Ueda City had one that I picked up on the way in.

Next, the Ueda City Museum Annex (a small building next to the actual small museum) and the Ueda City Tourist Information Center (just across the street from the entrance to Ueda Castle Ruins) had stamps too, and I collected them, even though the first two were identical.

Next, in the tourist center, I found this:

I didn’t buy it, but I realized that this meant that completely by accident, I was near one of the pilgrimage spots or something that had a stamp nearby. The staff pointed me to an upstairs room where I acquired it:

I’ve never even watched Summer Wars, but hurrah, I suppose.

Next, the Fairy Tale Dream Notebook that I got from the hobby store, Yawatawa Cosmetics/Toy World, looked like this:

Pretty, innit? Lastly, at Sanada Shrine, I finally picked up something that my younger sister had recommended and that I had been considering for a long time, but had not bit on while I was still in Tokyo. I figured that it was unlikely that I’d ever be back here though, and I liked the look of the book that they had (each shrine/temple tends to have a different book and several bookstores sell custom ones too), so I picked up what’s called a goshuinchō, or a book of seals, a small, ten page or so book, from Sanada Shrine.

These goshuinchō can then be brought along on one’s jaunt around Japan and given to one of the monk attendants at most shrines/temples, who will then draw calligraphy and stamp over one or two pages in the book as a goshuin, or seal, as proof of one’s pilgrimage to the place. They’re very pretty, very elaborate, and since they’re hand drawn by the monk or attendant into the book on the spot, and thus have an element of slight uniqueness to them. Many sites online expound more on this topic, though this one is a good starter read.

This specific goshuinchō cost 2500 yen, but came with a two page goshuin (seal), as well as a bookmark, a plastic protective cover, and a pamphlet, a small plastic file, and an envelope to carry them all in. The actual goshuinchō is the dark blue one in the middle bottom.

And the Sanada Shrine seal looked like this:

Once I returned to Nagano, I tried to go to Zenkōji Temple and get their seal as well, but they were closed! Their goshuin office runs from 6:00 am to 4:30 pm or something like that and I only arrived there at 5:30 pm. Oh well. I figured I’d just pop in the next day before I leave. What could go wrong, right?

Shinkansen Running Total

I have a 21-day JR Pass that kicked in on Nov 05 and should last until the end of my trip on Nov 25. It cost $568 CAD, which cost around 61,769.08 yen, as per Google as of the first writing of this section. So I was curious and wanted to keep a running total — was this thing actually worth it?

That’s what I hope to find out with this section. For the full explanation blurb on this, check this corresponding section of the Day 15 blog post.

Trips

ට  Nov 05 2022 – Asama 611 (Tokyo to Nagano) – U: 7810, R: 8340
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Hakutaka 556 (Nagano to Ueda) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Asama 615 (Ueda to Nagano) – U: 1470, R: 2790

Running Total

Unreserved: 10,750 yen
Reserved: 13,920 yen

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