Travel

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 3

Enjoying Beer in a Hammock

島カフェ

The morning when I had woken up in Hatsushima, I was already forty. Things looked different…then I realized I had accidentally put on contact lenses twice.

After taking a bath at the Shimanoyu, making hot sandwiches at breakfast and checking out, we went to the Asian Garden to rest until lunch. We spent time doing nothing on a hammock which was set up under the tent for shade drinking beer. Why does beer in the morning taste so good? After some lugubrious time, we headed to Shokudogai, the dining street.  

Ohatsu’s Pine Tree

お初の松

There is a pine tree called Ohatsu’s pine tree near Shokudo-gai. There is a folktale of a girl called Ohatsu connected to this tree. 17 year-old Ohatsu fell in love with a young fellow, Ukon at the festival of Izusan. He promised her if she came to see him every day for hundred days, he would marry her. So she crossed the sea in a wooden washtub (!) every night. However, on the 99th night, a man who was in love with her put out the fire as a landmark. Drifting on the sea in the dark night, she was caught in a wave and died. Ukon went on a pilgrimage to grieve for her soul. The man who put out the fire died in agony seven days later.

It is a sad story. Though it is only briefly told, it is full of dramatic factors: festival, love for the first sight, promise, basin, jealousy, pilgrimage, and death in agony. Love is blind through the ages. The man who put out the fire was a looser, but what about the guy who made the vulnerable girl travel across the sea in a washtub? He was a jerk, too. Why didn’t he come himself? Maybe it was because I was a bit drunk, but the thought pissed me off.

Meganemaru

写真-3

We visited Meganemaru for lunch. My friend had researched for a good dining place. Lots of people take a day trip to Hatsushima to have lunch. Meganemaru seemed busy with lots of visitors. I was attracted to Ikadon, a bowl of rice topped with squid sashimi, but I chose Omakasedon, a bowl of rise topped with variety of sashimi such as mackerel, shrimp, turban shell and squid. I ordered a pint of beer, and another later.

Two old ladies shared a table with us. They were coming from Gunma with a cheap ticket, which took many hours to get here. Though I don’t really like to be in a train or bus for long hours, I was impressed that there was such a way of having fun.

The ferry’s departure time was coming close, so we left Meganemaru with a full belly.

Kinomiya Jinja

 大楠We got back to Atami around two o’clock. We had enough time, so we decided to have a long walk to Kurumiya jinjya. Sweating heavily, we arrived at the popular power spot that is well known for a gigantic camphor tree. The two thousand year-old tree was much wider than I had expected. I was convinced that its massive presence attracted lots of people. It is easy to say, “Oh, this tree is more than two thousand years old.” But two thousand years is mind-boggling indeed. I wonder what has the tree witnessed for so many years.

I paid my respect at the shrine and picked up an omikuji, a paper fortune. Surprisingly, it was daikichi, which means excellent luck! It said unexpected joy and blessings are coming. Follow your intuition. Your circle of acquaintances is going to be larger.” Yet it warned me not to get carried away. This was the very first omikuji after I turned 40. I felt so lucky. Then, I realized that the last one of my 30’s was “The 48ways omikuji”. I took it out and reread it. The erotic omikuji said “Your body and soul are going to be revitalized.” Considering that I had a fever a several days before, this three-day trip gave me a relaxed time, the erotic omikuji was in a sense right. It is not something to be taken lightly, I guess.

The Nostalgic Rick Astley (extra)

We got back to Tokyo and met up with one other friend at an 80’s bar which opened lately. They made a toast to celebrate my birthday. I got presents from them. Thank you. While we were talking about the trip over a drink, Rick Astley’s music video come on the screen. Rick Astley!

As a teenager, I bought his Give You Up! and Together Forever CD.I found myself moving my arms to the music like Rick did in the music video. I still remember Rick said about himself “ I’m shy,” on a TV program in Japan. I had remembered it because my middle school self was able to understand the short phrase and because I had wondered why a shy person would say in public that he was shy. Not that I mean anything. It was just a piece of memory. What was the dream I had as a teenager? Being a housewife with sextuplet. As for my dream right now? I imagined saying “it’s a secret” in a seductive 80’s idol manner, but it made me sick. Ew.

With Listening to Rick Astely and other 80’s songs, I had a nice birthday. Thank you to my friend who made plans and organized everything. Now I feel like being 40 is not so bad. I’m excited.

Fin.

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Atami Travel Report Day 2

朝食Morning of the second day in Atami.

After having a nice morning bath at Otsuki Hotel Wafukan, where we spent a night, we headed to the dining hall to have breakfast.

The splendid breakfast, which was beyond my expectation, excited me. Carefully selected raw egg on rice was the best.  

A couple of university students who were seated a little distance away from us were talking about the philosophy of life based on their own experiences. The entrance exam or interview apparently is the biggest event in life for them. Of course, I thought, they have only lived half the years I have. You’ll experience much more young men. I was feeling a little blue on the last day of my 30’s. I can’t believe I came so far!

Landing on Hatsushima Island!

初島

We headed to Hatsushima Island, which is about 20 minutes away from Atami by ferry. With a nice breeze, I felt good. A line from Olivia wo kikinagara (While listening to Olivia) was repeating in my head.

♪ I didn’t imagine this day was coming…  

I mean it. I’m gonna be forty tomorrow… I still remember when I asked myself, “Am I an elementary student for the rest of my life?” as a third grader since every day seemed too long. But look now. I’m turning to forty all to soon. My hair I just had washed that morning was getting sticky so quickly, and in no time we arrived at Hatsushima Island.

Hatsushima is the closest island from the Kanto Area. Its circumference is about 4 kilometers, and about 250 people live in this island. On disembarking, you will see Shokudogai, the dining street.

We had booked for a camping trailer at the camping villa of the Hatsushima Resort Island. It was early for checking in, so we rested at the lawn at the Asian garden where many hammocks were set up.

SARUTOBI 

サルトビ

SARUTOBI(I don’t know why but I keep calling it Sasuke by mistake.)is an all-out rope athletics course. My well-organized friend, unlike me who always doesn’t have a plan, had pushed SARUTOBI and she was looking forward to trying it. Though you might have to wait for three hours during summer vacation, we didn’t have to wait at all today. So we tried it out.

Once you put a harness into the wire, you can’t quit. So, you need to sign in case of getting injured. I was a little bit worried at first, but soon I realized it was a piece of cake for me. After a while, my friend became quiet and said, “I can’t do this. It’s too scary.” She has run full and ultra marathons and even climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. It surprised me, but I even heard male students making a fuss about the course. Right, the course was full-scale and if you made false step, you could get in a big trouble. But once you start, you have to go on.

After quickly finishing the second course and cheering my friend from the ground, I heard one girl’s voice coming from above, “That lady is already finished! How fast!” The girls started right after me. Now they were shaking like a newborn doe. Waving to them, I grinded to myself: I have lots of experience.

As a kid, I used to run around the hills and played Tarzan. I hung on a tree vine that my brothers cut off from trees growing luxuriantly, and swung shouting like Tarzan. That was the most fun among the play activities in my childhood. I never expected that the experience would help me like this.

There is a expression in the Fukushima dialect called “sasukenee”, which means “not a big deal” or “no problem”. Literally, SASUKE was sasukenee for me. Oh no! It was actually SARUTOBI.

Strolling The Island

リゾート

After we took a quick bath at Shimanoyu, the hot spring with a view of the ocean, we strolled around and headed off to Shokudo-gai, the daining street, to have a late lunch. This island has no beach so the waves directly hit the rim of the island and roar. I felt rejuvenated, taking a bath and taking a walk in the sound of the wave hitting rocks.

海苔ラーメン

We had seaweed noodle and beer at Sakaya. The wether was fine, a beer after exercise was good, and the simple flavor of the noodle with seaweed, which is the specialty of the island, was delicious. The well-seasoned squid legs served as a complementary dish was great with beer. Only a few people were left in this hour, so we enjoyed talking with the owner of the place. He said he likes traveling all over Japan for sake. He sometimes made jokes, harmless but boring ones. I still remember his tanned smiley face. The place on the bathroom door which said “President’s Office” made me laugh when I went to the bathroom.

The Supermoon

スーパームーン

Fighting with mosquitoes, I enjoyed taking a nap in the hammock in front of the trailer we stayed for a night. Dinner here is barbeque and its ingredients are prepared. You can also cook western style nabe by boiling them thoroughly in a pan, ( Actually when you think about it, it is neither western style or nabe. It’s a quite rough dish.) and that’s we chose. The taste was not so bad. While we just kept eating it, a man from the villa brought a cake and a bottle of sparkling wine. My friend had them arranged for me. (Thank you!)

ケーキ

This day that was the last day of my 30’s had a supermoon. It is said to have detox effect.I wanted to release my bad habit of imagining bad things and being worried about them. I could be obsessed with things that have not yet happened. I wanted to stop it. So I made a promise to the full moon.

The only supermarket on the island closes at five. The light-out time here was ten thirty. After finishing all the drinks, we went to bed before the date changed.

To be continued in Day 3.

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