Every travel advert for trips to Japan suggests that rail is the way to do it. Well just to be different we are doing a road trip. It may be more expensive, especially with road tolls, but there are so many tempting sites and who wants to lug large cases on and off trains. Our hotel in Tokyo was a five minute walk to the car rental office and after signing that we were happy that the car we were hiring did not have snow tyres (something we had not considered when making our booking!) and checking that the ETC card which electronically logs all the tolls will be paid when we return the car, we were off!
The sat nav in the car worked perfectly so soon we were having a quick coffee at our first service station. Vending machine coffee that tasted fine and is half the price of the UK, immaculate toilets with all the warmed seat/bidet/shower buttons, big tubs of pansies reminding us it is Spring and the 1st of April, so no April Fool here, just normal Japan efficiency.
Our first destination for lunch was a winery called Katsunuma Bud no Oka.
It is set on a Hill with beautiful views over the valley which grows wines, peaches and cherries. The vines are taller than in Europe, pruned to perfection and later in the year must be netted to prevent the birds eating the grapes. There was lots of wine to choose from and wine tasting was on offer, but we had lunch and sampled the white wine made from the Koshu grape. Perfectly drinkable so we bought two white and two red to try later. The Japanese probably thought we were alcoholics as most of them were buying all the sweets and biscuits on offer! There is a train pack too for all the train travellers.
We set off in beautiful spring sunshine after lunch towards Lake Yamanaka and hopes of seeing Mount Fuiji. But as we climbed upwards, the snow started, so no wonder the car rental company were asking about snow tyres. Thankfully it didn’t lie but Mount Fuiji remained well hidden. But then Joanna Lumley didn’t manage to film it when she visited! Our hotel room on the lake is Japanese style so futon mats on the floor, slippers on to protect the tatami mats, low seats and three types of massage toys! The lady checking us in used Google Translate to joke that we had brought the snow and that we are too tall for the futons!
So we hope the weather improves and tomorrow we may get a glimpse of Mount Fuiji.