You can't plan an adventure, but you can make the best use of one when it arrives. Our original intent after stopping in Matsumoto had been to head back to Gunma. It would be a long drive, but we'd save money on hotel. As the day wore on Travis the driver became less and less enamored of that option. Having served in his role myself, I fully understood his desire to stop moving for the night, so we headed to Nagano city, home to the famous temple of Zenko-ji.
I had stayed at a nice youth hostel near Zenko-ji a year before, so we figured to try there first. The hostel itself is in an old temple, and the lady who runs it doesn't speak a lick of English. Though she may be the nicest hosteler I've ever encountered. When she found out we were residents of Japan, she dropped the no reservations charge, and then threw in free parking just for fun.
The next stop was dinner, which we found at a local soba place that came highly recommended. It figures that they were out of soba, but my sukiyaki udon was still pretty amazing.
Like Gunma, Nagano Prefecture is known for its hot springs, and within a moderate jaunt of the hostel is a primo resort. Indoor and outdoor baths, saunas, steam rooms and more. It really is just the thing to relax a body after a long hard days travel. Though en-route we happened upon a passage, a tunnel with paper lanterns that just seemed to go somewhere interesting.
So of course we walked down it! At the end, like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, we found a sake brewery. Because of course that is what you find at the end of strange passageways.
All good sake breweries have to have tastings available, and Travis, Peter and I surely took them up on that. Of course, they ply you with free booze so that you'll be more likely to buy the non-free booze. It works like a charm every time.
Freshly ladened with our freshly brewed nihonshu we made it to the hot springs without any further damage to our wallets. Back at the hostel post soak, we were ready to tuck into our bottles with gusto when the proprietor noticed the logo on our bags. Rather than forbid us from drinking in the rooms, she dished out a bottle of the same company from her own stock, as well as some home made plum wine. In fact, she kept bringing out new things to drink and sample even after we had drunk our fill. Nobody expects an adventure, but nonetheless, sometimes you find one.