Heading into our third leg of the holiday (the first being Tokyo/Yokohama, followed by Kyoto), we were now to travel to Ina, a small city in the Nagano Prefecture which is near to Komangane where the big wedding (and reason for the trip) was to be held.
Ryan’s happiness at being featured on the Hamish and Andy podcast (he had just finished taking their call), soon dissipated at the realization that he would be squashed in a bus next to me for the next couple of hours (something he was slowly but surely kind of getting used to over the duration of this trip!).
As comfortable as the bus trip was (for me, not poor squashed Ryan), it was a lengthy highway bound journey and sights or no sights, we were pretty happy when the stopover to stretch our legs happened.
(That said, neither of us wanted to risk being left behind by the bus, so we didn’t stray particularly far!)
The countryside was slowly giving way to the stunning wooded central alps region, and the last half of the highway bus trip was particularly pretty, though Ryan and I had to keep our wits about us because we needed to listen/lookout for our scheduled stop, the in the middle of nowhere Komangane IC Highway stop.
(Not that there was any reason to worry though. Just as everything had been running super smooth since the start of our trip, we didn’t muck this one up either.)
At the highway stop, Yuko and Terrance were patiently waiting for us and our luggage, and after a happy reunion, we were ferried away towards Ina, where the next adventure was to be trying to find our hidden away in the backstreets accommodation, the old Ina-chuo Hotel.
As it turned out, luckily Yuko and Terrance were on hand for the check-in, because unlike at Kyoto (where the younger staff member could actually speak a bit of English), this hotel is run by a very, very old Japanese couple – meaning that other than the occasional smile, nod, shrug, or look of confusion, Ryan and I were complete and utterly unable to communicate with our hosts!
Bags unpacked, we were then immediately whisked away to a local izakaya, with Yuko and Terrance eager for us to drink some sake and partake in some proper Japanese food – not the fast food that Ryan and I had up to now been living off of. (So sue us, neither Ryan nor I am adventurous when it comes to food, and we certainly weren’t there on a gastronomy holiday!)
[Note: An izakaya is essentially a type of informal Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany the drinks, acting as casual places for after-work drinking. So kind of like a pub or tavern, but also not quite.]
A super fun, and properly authentic Japanese experience for Ryan and myself then!
Not that Yuko and Terrance were quite finished with the two of us just yet. After enjoying some food and drink, we next drove around the small Ina looking for a karaoke shop that might still be open this late on a week night.
Sadly for Ryan, they found one, and soon the four of us were belting out one bad song after the other. Ryan hated it, but I loved it. You have to karaoke when you are in Japan because they certainly seem to know how to do it!
With that, the evening drew to a close, and Ryan and I were returned to our rather spacious (in Japanese hotel terms) room at the Ina-Chuo Hotel. The furnishings were ancient (but in working condition), and as our trip was proving, the less modern were were going, the more space we were getting.
Which I kind of liked.