December 10th, 2004 – by: bcbusdriver
JR station lobby
So we have done the beaches and the big city so now it is time for the mountains. We head north off to the Olympic city of Nagano
. The reason to go here was simple. I lived in an old Olympic city of Calgary and had just moved to a future one, Vancouver, so it seemed to be a good idea to check out an previous Olympic city of Nagano. To be honest this is where I wanted to see a hockey game as I heard the rink here was nice and it has one of the most unusual names in Big Hat. However there were no games being played in Big Hat during the time I could be in Nagano. So I simply would have to be happy with just going to see the stadium.
My Lonely Planet book told us the place to stay was a hostel in an old temple called Zenko-ji Kyoju Youth Hostel.
I was not sure what to expect but it was great if not cold. It was warm down in Atami but winter was strong in Nagano with night temperatures below zero. The hostel only has limited electric heat during the day but all power is cut during the night because of fire danger. The floors are all very old tatami mats and the walls are original wood. Over all the place is incredibly beautiful and peaceful. In the mornings you hear the monks chanting as you are right among the other temple buildings. As we got to Nagano after dark we headed into town for some food and a bit of wandering around the town center.
Our beautiful accommodation
The day we get up early because we both are frozen and we really want to warm up. We head towards the main temple and just walk around.
Not really sure why but this is still one of my favorite temples I have seen in my travels. It really does bring peace to yourself as you walk the gardens and buildings. I even enjoyed the huge metal bell they ring just outside one of the building, this bell was used to open the Nagano Olympics.
The bell at the temple
After touring around the temple we took the city bus towards Big Hat. The stadium was a bit of disappointment as it reminded me of many mid sized rinks in North America and really was in a boring part of town. I could not even get into the building no matter how many doors I tried. Oh well not everything has to be great. I still wish I could have seen a game in there.
The last thing that I remember was the train we took from the Nagano towards the Japan Sea coast. We came in the ultra modern shinkansen and left on a very old style local train. This was not by choice but the only way to go the direction we wanted to go on JR. Nagano is the end of the shinkansen line and so we got on a slow very not express train. The train was so not modern that when you got on or off the train you actually had to turn around and slide the doors shut. What a contrast.