Ah Otsu, a lakeside town that was the capital of Japan for 5 years way back in the 1600s. Now it sits resplendent on its lakeside shores with not much else to recommend it. So it is that these types of places create the challenge to the tourist to create your own recreational platter without having it served up to you. We arrive after a short bus journey after a show...never the most illustrious of journeys' when you are post show and haven't eaten and you are surrounded by 40 fellow dancers in the same predicament. But it was short and what a surprise awaited those of us who have never travelled to Otsu before. The Otsu Prince Hotel awaited, with 35 levels of spacious rooms, with giant windows that literally look out over the massive lake and to the mountains that skirt the town and make for some pretty impressive scenery as the snow capped peaks sit looking across at you. The rooms have enough space for two people, two single beds and a couch and two armchairs, a decent bath, wardrobe and mini fridge. FABULOUS! There is space aplenty for yoga first thing looking out over the scenery with the incense burning. LOVELY.
The first evening is nothing too special and with the beautiful hotel room being lakeside, it means there is nothing much else around so dinner was an exploratory walk to a Katsu place, with a quick stop off at the 7-Eleven for some comfort OJ and Haagen Daz! With roomy out meeting up with friends, I take advantage of the solitude and watch a DVD. I have never watched the classic PSYCHO by Hitchcock and it was a fantastic movie to settle into Otsu with. This was then followed with The Motorcycle Diaries which was a fabulous movie. If I am the only one who hasn’t seen it then I won’t bother raving about it, but if you haven’t seen it...do so. It is brilliant and makes you want to go out and have your own adventure on a crazy old motorcycle in some undesignated lush area of South America. Inspiring stuff.
The next morning though was a day off and it was the challenge to see what Otsu brought. Knowing there was not much to do, I had planned a day trip to nearby Kyoto but the weather awoke with other ideas. So instead I accompianied my intrepid tour guide friend Liz, who is incidentally my German Princess in the show and fast turning out to be my fiendishly friend of mischief and adventure on this tour. (She was the first person ever to be tigger pounced in the company so it was kind of destined to be a beautiful relationship). Oh, where was I? Ah, yes, Liz has ideas of visiting a tiny Island in the middle of the lake which involves bus, train and ferry to get there. Knowing Liz’s brilliant and impeccable taste in all matters touristy, I tag along (and Mitchell you will love it but I had to also share the day with the wonderful Mr Barrett whom we met in the lobby...DOH). We adventured to a place called Nagahama which is a tiny vilage from where the ferry leaves. But with the weather being so miserable, all ferries were cancelled. (Sandy we did not become the bemoaning backpackers you will be happy to know) So instead we decide to walk about this tiny village and see what it has to offer. And what a delightful yield of beauties it offered up. At first downtown Nagahama looked empty at best. But as always with these sorts of places, a little digging is required to find the gems. We pass a seemingly anonymous door and see what looks to be an open sign (getting used to the Japanese characters still). The woman seated on her Tatami mat in the apparent reception doesn’t speak English and all we can ascertain about the place is that it is 200yen to enter. So bugger it we think! We pay and enter without any idea of what is behind the curtain and we find ourselves in a traditional Japanese house with gorgeous rooms containing sliding panels, sliding windows, papered frames and gorgeous handpainted frames and cupboard panels, it was simply BEAUTIFUL. So beautiful in fact that we couldn’t help ourselves and had to sit down on the floor and have a few quiet moments, and then sitting led to lying and even a short snooze. The space was just so relaxing and we were the only people in the house so it was kind of cool. As soon as we heard others come in we did get up and try to collect ourselves. The whole structure of the house and the feeling of it with its wide windowed corridors that looked out onto the stunning and very full Japanese garden was so conducive to relaxing and taking your time. It was a haven that I think we all wanted to be our own. I was getting serious ideas of how I wanted my ideal treatment rooms to appear in 20 years time! Hehehehehe.
We then moved on and found a great little street that had all sorts of gift shops and little houses that seemed out of a time warp. Apparently these were all warehouses that have been converted into shops to house the handicrafts of the local merchants. Then we found the Glass factory which seems to be a centre of interest for these shops and it was sublime. Beautiful Japanese glass blowing and decorative jewellery, plates, grandiose lanterns and candlesticks. And of course, corckery and wine glasses. I was in quiet heaven marvelling at the stunning crystal and drinking vessels. It just made me want to drink Port and Sherry! We spent a good hour and a bit in there and found some stunning pieces to spoil each other with temptation. Liz did end up buying a most beautiful necklace for herself which I helped her to purchase (get it get it get it get it!!) and we had a very indulgent time of it.
Then it was off to lunch which happened to be an Osteria which we just decided looked dry and warm. Turned out to be an Italian place with cosy tudor style walls and set 5 course menu. Again, it was easy to order the set menu and we ended up with the most delightful lunch that just kept on going and going. So much so I had my first glass of wine in 5 weeks. The food and atmosphere was that good it deserved wine. The best bit was that it only cost 10 quid. So we stayed and imbibed for a good hour and a half. Food once again making me a happy disboy!
Then it was off on a wander, sort of meandering back towards the train station in a roundabout way when we stumbled upon this little lantern display in front of someone’s house. We had a quick look and as we did, the door opened and out came two gentlemen. Behind the door lay a stunning large, old looking Japanese building which looked decidedly like a temple. Liz being the confident one stuck her head through the door and then looked back with a huge smile on her face that screamed “this is amazing!”. The gentleman then indicated to us that we should venture in. Again, not knowing what we were in for we entered and were shown a 100 year old family temple. This man had just asked us to come in and look at his family’s private temple!!!!! We were astounded. The man spoke a little English and we found out he was the 15th generation to be in charge of the temple and he ran it as a place of worship including small little mats and toys for children to come and learn as well. It was gorgeous. Turns out he had lived in Brisbane for a year some time earlier so was pleased when I announced my nationality. We took photos and he was so generous. We left a sense of awe; not just at what we had just seen, but also of the generosity that is inherent in the culture here and the realisation that we had just seen something that not many people get the chance to see. VERY SPECIAL!
So we return to Otsu very happy campers. It feels great to have gotten out and explored a little bit again. Tomorrow is back to work and then we have one performance before moving on to another town and leaving this luxurious hotel and its large rooms and stretching spaces. All beautiful things.