Nagano January 2021

In January, Dan and I enjoyed a belated winter break to Nagano. The main attraction of the break was the Air BnB, which provided us with a unique and tranquil space to unwind in after the year most want to forget. It didn’t disappoint, allowing us to sleep in absolute silence and darkness, and wake to the sounds of birds and not much else. Well, aside from the cracking of logs on the fire (once we had managed to get it going…)

The space we spent most of our time in was a converted Silk Worm house. Spending time inside was healing in itself, reminding us of the more simple life. It was mostly wooden throughout, with a queen-sized bed on the mezzanine level. It had an essential wood stove fire, and a basic kitchen area, also made out of wood. The best parts were the views and the small table by the bedroom window, which would catch the sun each day and was where we enjoyed many card games during the two weeks.

Although we didn’t spend all of our time inside. The owner of the house lent us a car for our two weeks there, which turned out to be an absolute blessing! It meant we were able to visit a few different areas, including the very snowy mountaintop featured in some of the attached images. It was about an hour drive away from the house and to reach the top we had to go up two ski lifts. Once we reached the top, we stepped off the ski lift into a total wite out. Dan walked a few meters away and was lost from view! It was a reasonably dramatic way to spend about ten minutes…after which we hastily retreated to a cafe on the ski slope. However, not before enjoying the shrine on the top of the mountain and snow that was hip deep!

We also went on daily walks around the house and town it was situated in. I’ll be honest, the two we stayed in must be the sleepiest place in all of Japan. It had no shop, and very little more than a few houses and of course a vending machine. Only once or twice did we see anyone else when out walking…there was a nearby quarry so we did see traffic on the road, but very few people actually outside enjoying the winter sunshine.

Displaying that I have been living in a city for too long, on a few of our walks I got suitably freaked out by the isolation. Once we were hiking up a mountain track in the snow and came across a cave-like area in which some scavenger birds were feasting on something inside. Enter my wild imagination… it’s fair to say I almost immediately convinced myself we had stumbled into literally every horror movie I have ever seen…and so there was a very hasty retreat back down the mountain! 

There were some less ‘horror movie’ hikes and walks too. One of my favourites was hiking up hundreds of very old steps right to the top of a cliff face to see a shrine. Sadly, a tree had fallen through the shrine, but the views and feeling of an ancient time made it worth the hike. It took us both back in time and again was extremely tranquil being just us and the birds. We also visited two nearby dams for some walking and great views. We drove back on one of the nights to see some beautiful stars and what seemed like hundreds of deer in the road. When humans go to bed, the deer came out to claim the space…

We also made a friend of the neighbour’s (and owner of the Air BnB) cat. This cat was obsessed with coming into our house, but we had been told not to allow her in. So, every day we had to play the game of ‘outmanoeuvre the cat’. Several times we lost. Once I ended up with a cat on my head. Still, it meant that we became friendly with the cat and so several times she joined us on our walks, trailing behind like a little shadow. When not trying to break in, her face would appear in the window making us both feel very guilty about keeping her out in the snow!

All in all, we had a relaxing, long, peaceful, and stripped back break in Nagno. I read four books, we played countless card games, and drank enough to force us both to concede to ‘Dry February’, which was actually a great success!

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