I reluctantly left my lovely airbnb place and headed north towards the mountains. My host already had some eggs ready for breakfast and I bid them farewell and signed their guestbook before getting on my bike. The first 10km were very flat and afterwards the incline was fairly gentle, aside from a steep part with road construction in progress.
I chose to take a detour to Nemichi Shrine, a popular spot known for Monet’s Pond, which has lily pads, flowers and koi. When you see it in person it just looks like a regular, murky pond but in photos it looks completely different, the colours swirl together and the ripples look like brush strokes. There were a lot of other people taking photos and the area seemed to attract a lot of cyclists and motorcycle riders too.
The scenery along the ride was really peaceful and the sound of the river was really soothing. It was pretty warm as I continued climbing, but a 4.6km tunnel towards the end was the perfect opportunity to cool off, although it’s still a bit scary because all the noises were amplified, making mopeds sound like jet engines.
I arrived at my accommodation before check-in time and had some lunch at a soba restaurant, alongside some cyclists I saw earlier in the day. I’m still impressed by the way almost all Japanese food at restaurants look exactly like the pictures, the only exception would be when I think a set menu comes with cheesecake, but it always ends up being tofu.
The city itself is larger than I expected and there were heaps of tourists walking around and enjoying the sunshine. Gujo Hachiman is the city where screen printing started in Japan and I stopped by Takara Gallery to watch people making their own designs. They had really cool patterns for furoshiki, a traditional cloth that is used to wrap items like lunch boxes, gifts or other small items.
I checked into my hostel and the host, Seiko, invited me to have dinner with her friends at 7.30, but I was still hungry and went to the supermarket to look for discounted food at the end of the day. Custard filled choux pastry is one of my favourite desserts and I assumed that a pack of 15 pastries marked down to 44 yen (50 cents) would be terrible, but it was delicious and I demolished them all before I made it back to the hostel.
Seiko’s friends made a feast of pork stir fry and tofu pork with some pineapple and grapefruit for dessert. Usually I’m too cheap to buy fruit here (aside from bananas) so I enjoyed the extra dose of vitamins. The lady sitting next to me, Kayo, recently moved to the city to work as a cycle tour guide and invited me on a tour of Nagara River in the morning. We were both excited because it was a chance for her to practice running the tour in English and for me to get a real guided tour of the region. The neighbourhood was really quiet, with a gentle stream running nearby and I was able to sleep well before my next day of riding.