Last week I finished what I assume will be the last bike trip of the year (The snow has started today). I was lucky enough to be guiding two wonderful sisters from Australia with the perfect attitude to enjoy the trip. It helps that it was their first time in Japan, they got off the plane and caught a night bus directly to our meetup point, so literally everything was new to them and elicited “wow”, “look at that”, and “oh my gosh that is so awesome!”.
That kind of attitude is incredibly helpful – especially on the first day which is always the hardest to plan because until I actually meet the customers, I can not be sure how far to make the ride, or how challenging. I have to make sure the van is always accessible, in case they turn out to be in less-than-previously-stated shape, but I have to have options to take the energetic people further, and still make it to our lunch date at a soba shop where we have found the best soba noodle teacher in Nagano.
It also helps when random farmers stop us along the way to give us fruit. I will plan on an extra bag next time just to hold the apples and grapes we are to polite to refuse.
Above is a photo of the instructor (Sato-sensei) If anyone is planning a visit to the Yudanaka/Nagano City area, and have two hours for a unique Lunch experience, I highly recommend reserving her time to make and eat your own soba noodles, all with ingredients she grows, processes, and forages from her land. She doesn’t speak English, but she doesn’t need to, she is amazing at teaching through gestures and a smile. I send self-guided customers to her when I am not even around, and she has never had a problem. If anyone is interested, you can try to contact her at Nogyo Minshuku Ippu, or write to me and I can book for you. (thanks to Zeno for the introduction).
We were lucky enough to have snow in the mountains for their second day, and lightly dusted mountains makes up for the cold and less-than optimal end-of-season autumn leaves. It was really quite beautiful and amazing.
The sisters take a shot at writing their names in Kanji at a local farmer friend’s house where they stayed for two nights. They were also quite excited about making their traditional Japanese paper craft at one of the few remaining traditional paper makers in Uchiyama, a village once famous for its high-quality paper.
There are many more photos from this trip, as well as footage from the Go Pro camera they brought along with them. It may take a while though, as days are short and the snow is falling, and we still haven’t put up the winter garage, or even finished cutting the firewood pile that is now inconveniently located in our snow-melting pond.