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The Lone Bus Tour

Prologue
Bus tours seem to be popular lately. I heard there were various tours like visiting fruit farms, all-you-can-eat restaurant, outlet shopping malls and so on. It must be fun to go on a day trip by bus, I thought, so I did some quick research.

My memory of a bus tour07
I once went on an overnight bus tour when I was mid 20’s on my own. It was winter, and the tour’s main attractions were Shirakawago, Kenrokuen Park in Kanazawa, and Kani Nabe(hot crab pot) I was the only one who joined all by myself and everyone else were old ladies in groups. When I arrived at Shirakawago, a number of buses came, and lots of old ladies were getting off the buses, one after another. Being a much more popular site than I had expected, the one-way roads were soon full of old ladies. The overwhelming queues are my memory of Shirakawago. Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa was also occupied with old ladies. Wherever I turned, it was impossible to take a picture without old ladies in it. I had never imagined that there could be so many old ladies in this world and felt that I saw all of them to last a lifetime. That’s my memory of Kenrokuen Garden.

Then, Kani Nabe experience followed. The tables for big groups were at the corner of a spacious restaurant and I sat with old ladies from the same tour. Because I was alone in the group, a small nabe for one person was sitting on the table. An old lady who sat next to me asked me if I was alone and I said yes. It was the first and only time to have a word with others in the tour. While I was having the kani nabe quietly, I heard they were having so much fun complaining about their husbands. Is talking about their husband essential in their conversation? Everybody seemed to be enjoying complaining about her husband. That is my memory of Kani nabe, and the bus tour.

日本じゃないみたいな雰囲気

The atmosphere is exotic.

圧巻!百尺観音

Overwhelming Hyakushaku-Kannon

Let’s hit the road!
It’s been more than ten years since I participated the bus tour last time. This time I chose a day tour titled “Hopping Stunning Early Autumn spots of Boso Vol.3! Feel like in Asia and enjoy all-you-can-eat seafood barbeque”. You can book bus tours even a day before. No fuss, no muss. Visiting two temples were included in the tour and that’s the reason I chose it. A couple days before, I had a dinner with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen for a while. I asked her if she would like to join me for the bus tour to Chiba, but she didn’t say yes because the tour didn’t sound too exciting to her. So this time too, I joined the tour all by myself.

It was a sunny day. When I arrived at the meeting place in front of Marunouchi building, the tour guide and the yellow bus were already there. Because it was a weekday, there were only nine people in the tour including myself. They were divided into two groups, one couple, and my lone self. The driver said he wanted more passengers to motivate himself, but I was happy enough with the small number of people. Let’s hit the road!

山の上から見た絶景

Great view from the montaintop

Nokogiri Yama Nihonji Temple
After having a bite at Umihotaru Rest Area on the way, the bus headed down to Nihonji, which I was looking forward to visiting. The temple was the oldest worshipping place in the Kanto area opened by Gyoki bosatu (Bodhisattva) at the behest of Emperor Shomu 1300 years ago. To be honest, I didn’t know about this temple. I was amazed to know that there was such a magnificent place.

As I was walking on the road between the precipices that made me feel like I slipped into some place in Asia, Hyakushaku Kannon appeared. Though it is a pretty new statue made in 1966, the gigantic figure is overwhelming.

We climbed steep steps to get to the observation deck on the mountaintop. Then I had free time for 90 minutes. Nihonji, with 33 hectares of land, is an excellent place for healing. Walking through its greenery, I felt like I was recovering from daily stress.

I went down the Sen-Gohyaku Rakan Do( the road of 1500 Arhats) to where the statue of great Buddha was placed. A lot of arhats were placed here and there. Though there were too many to appreciate each one, I found some whose presence attracted my attention: One arhat was praying with his whole heart looked decent. Another one looked like Enari-kun, a popular actor in Japan. Finding such statue was one way to enjoy the statues.

だいぶつさーん

After taking a walk for one hour, I got to the Great Buddha. The Buddha is bigger than the one of Nara. It is 31 meter high, but before the repair, it was 37 meters high. Since it had a medicine pot in his left hand, it was the Buddha of healing. The big Buddha looked fantastic under the blue sky.

Even though I hadn’t known before, I was amazed to visit this place. It made me feel glad that I was there because I had been hungry for greenery.

涅槃仏

Mantokuji’s Nirvana Statue of Buddha
We moved on to Mantokuji, which has a big Nirvana statue of Buddha. The 16 meter and 30 ton Buddha was lying down with a soft smile. The Nirvana statue is expressive of Buddha’s attaining nirvana with his head to the north. While it is generally said to sleep with your head facing north is for deceased people, feng shui asserts it brings luck. By the way, you are allowed to take a picture of this statue only when you or someone is in the picture. I was in the photo but trimmed myself because I am shy.

Oyama Senmaida (Rice terraces)
Next we went to Oyama Senmaida, which is designated as a beauty spot by Chiba Prefecture. Oyama Senmaida is made of about 375 terraced rice paddies on about 4 hectare steep sloping land. I had wanted to see these rice terraces. The land is covered with greenery. This kind of scenery makes me feel at ease.

びわソフト美味!

Yummy Biwa flavor ice cream! 

The bus tour gourmet
The sight seeing finished early and it became a lunchtime. The all-you-can-eat seafood barbecue was this tour’s main attraction. You can choose anything from oysters, turban shells, abalones, scallops, shrimps, heads of yellow tails, etc. You can also make Kaisen don with a variety of toppings: tunas, sermons, tuna mince, squids etc. When you barbecue shells, you need to cover them with a basket, in case that they explode. I couldn’t help myself but order a beer paying extra. After a few days later, being asked about the tour from a friend of mine, I told her that I couldn’t eat as much as I had expected. She laughed at me to see the picture of the kaisen don saying that that amount was for three. Hahaha.

With my stomach full, I visited Yume No Hana Kan, a greenhouse that is full of leafy plants. Here I had tried a dragon fruit. I didn’t know that they were a fruit of cactuses. This place’s dragon fruits were grown without any disinfections. Its taste was like a kiwi fruit and tasteful. I like it. Luckily, I happened to see an owl on a perch, which sometimes comes this place. The form of owls is so cute, I think. The nocturnal bird looked sleepy.

ぼっち

Last of all was shopping at Michino-eki(roadside station). I was attracted to its name was shochu “Bocchi”, which is made from peanuts, Chiba’s specialty product. After harvesting, peanuts trees are piled out in the open and it is called bocchi. The shochu is named after it. Oh, that bocchi, not the other…

Epilogue
After stopping at Umihotaru again, we headed back to Tokyo. It was maybe because there were only few people, nobody was late for every meeting time, everything went smooth and we arrived at Tokyo earlier than planned. The guide was kind and I had much more fun than I had expected. Though it was a group tour, I enjoyed myself like I was traveling alone. No wonder that bus tours are popular. When I find another good one, I’d like to join it. If you are looking for a nice way to spend your day off, join a bus tour.

うみほたる夕日

The sunset I saw at Umihotaru

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Atami Travel Report Day 1

The other day, I visited Atami with my friend for two days and three nights. I wanted to go to Macao or Taiwan but since we didn’t have much time to prepare what to see nor would there have been enough time to see, we chose Atami.

It was unfortunately raining that day, but the shopping streets near the station had a lot of visitors. Every restaurant on the streets seemed busy at lunch time, so we walked a little bit far and had lunch in a small restaurant. Then we headed off to Atami Hihoukan(sex museum). I had wanted to visit there once.  

Viva! The Hihoukan

写真-1

We got a round-trip ticket that came with an entrance ticket for Hihoukan, and got onto the ropeway. The women who came inside after us were obviously snack bar staff and the men, who were regulars at the bar. Of course, Hihoukan is not known as a fun park for adults for nothing. We might be the weird ones being two girls visiting together.

Getting off the ropeway, we stepped into the Hihoukan. An atmosphere of the Showa era was floating all over the place. Amazingly silly, everything there was about porn. Thinking, “Right, this was the place people talked about,” I kept going ahead.

Finding an omikuji machine , or a machine that tells you your fortune, I put a coin into it. Then a female attendant doll brought out a paper fortune. Nothing erotic at all, I thought. But soon I found out that the doll, who turned around to go back was bare-assed. Also, the paper fortune was named “The 48ways omikuji” and it said about sex. I got shokichi, which means small blessing. What is it supposed to mean? Anyway, I was impressed that every detail of erotica was well thought out.

There were a couple small theaters in the museum. Of course everything that showed were porns, so I got the are experience of watching porn with strangers. None of the plays were funny enough to crack up, so everybody was letting off a half smile.

After looking at all of exhibits, we ended up at the museum shop, which was full of porn goods. It was sad to go home empty-handed, so I bought The 48ways hanky. Who wouldn’t ? The simple illustrations of men and women were surreal and funny.

Though the Hihoukan is the place to visit when you travel to Atami, don’t go there with family or anyone you are not close enough with.

Though I didn’t know whether it came from the tour of Hihoukan or my daily stress, I was feeling tired in the ropeway on the way back. Walking in the crowd after getting off the ropeway, I heard someone hollering. Looking up, I found a naked old man raising his full height. He seemed to be showing off, like “Look at me!” Come to think of it, it is an act of indecency in public, but people on the way back from the Hihoukan were missing a few screws. We thought it was another exhibition or something. We already had seen enough. So no one didn’t care. It was also surreal and funny, which made me laugh.

Izusan Jinjya (shrine)

龍

Izusan Jinjya (shrine) is well known as the place that Minamotono Yoritomo and Hojo Masako secretly met each other and also as the birthplace of Izu’s name. We were heading to the shrine on foot in the rain but soon we realized that the scale of the map we got at the tourist information office was random. We kept walking in the rain and arrived at the middle of steps to the shrine. There were more than 600 steps out of 837 from there. As it was after sunset, we puffed climbing upstairs in the dark.

When we finally made it to the shrine, there were only a few people. We were so satisfied with climbing up the stairs that we decided to leave soon after quickly glanced the event. Then we happened to be served sake by the locals who were standing by in a tent I thought it would come in a small glass like an ocyoko, but I was passed a bigger glass that was full of Sake. Because I didn’t want to be rude, with some effort I managed to drink the whole cup.

Unable to say no, my friend even had to have a second full glass of shochu. We also got two packs of sweet rice dumplings. Though sake soaked into my empty stomach, but talking with the locals is the spice of trip. I felt blessed. We were also lucky enough to find a cab on the empty street and got to Kasuke on time.

Kasuke

えびフライ

How many times did my fried sighed emotionally, “So good.” One after another the dishes were served, Mozuku (seaweed), steamed egg hotchpotch, fried taros with starchy sauce, grilled mackerel etc… Everything tested tenderly and very delicious. I was impressed that the cook’s attentive wife knew precisely when to give the guests hand towels.

Kasuke seemed to be a place for locals, so we were not really involved in the conversation with the others. However, we enjoyed good food and sake that brought the best out of ingredients. I was obsessed with the fried shrimps that came with a potato salad for a while. We were lucky enough to have gotten information about Kasuke from the local man. Delicious food makes you happy. After a nice dinner, we were in a very good mood on the way back to the hotel. I definitely want to visit there again when I go to Atami, or I might even go to Atami to visit Kasuke.

The Wish Granter Pino!

願いのピノ

Though we were full, we stopped at a convenience store to buy some stuff. I bought the icream Pino. Back in the hotel room I opened the box expecting something nice , and I found that one of the six was a rare star-shap pino. This travel was for my upcoming birthday. Though I had gotten only a small blessing from the 48ways fortune telling, I felt that my 40th birthday was coming soon with some luck, which made my day.

To be continued in Day 2.

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The Unchi-Kun Candy and The Night of Nichome

     The other day, I went out for dinner with the Spanish gay couple, J ,P and my friends, and we went to a bar in Shinjuku Nichome to drink. The couple has been going to the bar every night during their short stay in Tokyo, and now they’ve become almost like regulars.

4903325114536

     We were enjoying drinking at an outside table. Then, J left the table for a moment and came back with lots of Unchi-kun candies he bought at a nearby convenient store. He gave me one of them. He was very excited saying, “It tastes like shit!” I recalled my cousin’s little son had been rolling on the floor laughing at the word “poo” for half a day. J can be amazingly silly even if he is over 40.  

     The fact that Unchi-kun candy is marketed in a convenience store on Nichome means that there are many people who were attracted to it, I suppose. I’m amazed by the popularity of Unchi-kun. It is said that the animated coiled poop has its roots in Japanese manga like Makoto-chan by Kazuo Umezu or Toilet Hakase (Dr. Toilet) by Kazuyoshi Torii, or something older. However, as the Unchi-kun on the candy package with eyes and a mouth shows, I believe it is Dr. SLUMP that personified poop and gave it popularity. In that sense, I have an enormous respect for Akira Torii. By the way, even in the height of today’s mascot characters, the design of Nicochan Daiou, whose ass is his head is still distinctive.

     When I was chatting with the couple, though I don’t remember the course of our conversation, P said to me, “J is like my daddy.” In the moment, J’s face stiffened. “What did you just say?” he demanded with a stern look. I wouldn’t like it at all if my boyfriend said about me like “She is like my mom.” So I took J’s side and told P that it wasn’t nice. J returned to good mood and we sipped our drinks. P was making an excuse in Spanish like he looked a little guilty. I didn’t understand what he was saying but his words were lovely. They were surely a couple in love.

069882     A variety of people come and go on the streets of Nichome. They are business persons, foreigners, tourist and so on. Though lots of straight people come to Nichome, a lot of most gays come too. I guess they feel comfortable to be here. I don’t feel welcomed but it’s not like I am alienated. It’s different from getting hurt to realize that I was unwanted, when I happened to join in the young people’s mixers. Nevertheless, the attitude of drag queens flashing smiles at nice-looking guys while being dismissive towards me is so different and obvious that it even made me laugh. There is nothing new in single women nearly forty. No wonder they’re not interested.

     Then, a question went through my mind. What can I do to interest other people? Not only drag queens, I mean. If my ass was my head like Nikochan Daiou, would they take interest? Naah, it’s not about such external factors. The point is to make others interested in who I am. I have been told that expressing myself is key to this. Talking of expressing myself, what a kind of person am I in the first place? It was one sommer night that I thought of this, while taking glances at the Unchi-kun candy on the table.

 

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