Terry and PJ’s Adventures in Japan – May 2000
Friday, May 26, 2000
Chuck, Terry and I got up and headed to the airport, so that we could fly to northern Japan. The trains at rush hour are quite hectic. They actually have employees who push the people into the train and close the doors when it is so crowded. We ended up squashed on one side of the train with our bags at our feet. At every stop, we hoped that the doors would open on the opposite side of the train. We knew that the minute the doors opened, we would flood out, as though a dam broke.
At the last stop, the platform was on our side of the train. Terry ended up with his foot caught in the strap of one of the bags and hopped out of the train in an effort to not be tripped and crushed with the stampede of fellow riders surging behind him. All the hopping around actually worked to our advantage. It cleared a path along the platform that otherwise wouldn’t have been there. Fortunately, he didn’t fall. It did provide a few laughs among all of us though.
The three of us made it to the airport in plenty of time and got on our plane. We flew All Nippon to the northern island of Hokkaido. The service is on the Asian airlines was incredible. They also had the cameras on the nose of the plane, and on the landing gear. Seeing your take offs and landings is quite awesome and scary at the same time.
We landed at Chitose airport and proceeded to the information counter to get directions to the train station. We had about 8 to 10 minutes to get where we needed to be, prior to the last train departing for Ashikawa. If we missed the train, we would have to rent a car at about $100, or more, per day. We knew that we didn’t want to waste that money, so we hurried to the platform. We also didn’t want to drive in Northern Japan, because the signs were all in Japanese. After a 2 1/2 hour train ride, we arrived in Ashikawa and had to catch a bus that would take us to the hot springs at Tenninkyo.
At the bus stop, a Japanese woman decided to talk to us. The only problem was that she didn’t speak English and we don’t speak Japanese. She especially liked Chuck. I think it might have been because he kept smiling and nodding, as if he understood her. The only thing we got out of about 20 minutes of one-sided conversation was that she and her classmates were having a reunion in the same area that we were going. She also mentioned a gondola ride to the top of Mount Asahidake, the second tallest mountain in Japan.
By now, all of you are probably wondering, why bother with all the travel connections? Well, it was worth it. Several months ago, Terry and I saw a picture of a waterfall, and decided that we wanted to see it. But the waterfall was not identified, so we kept looking for other pictures of the same waterfall. We never saw another picture with quite the same angle, so we weren’t sure that we were headed for the right place. We thought we might be. It turned out that the ryoken (Japanese inn) that we picked was a 15-minute walk to that very waterfall! We were overwhelmed at the sight of it, Hagoromo Falls, at last! (You have to remember, this was 2000. Pictures were not plastered all over the internet yet.)
Terry and I hiked to another waterfall that was in the area, as well. That waterfall was a lot more work to get to, and wasn’t as pretty as the first. Since Chuck was having trouble with his back, we told him not to go to it.
At a ryoken, one sleeps on futons on the floor. They also may serve dinner in your room, while one is seated on the floor at a low table to eat. Both nights, the ryoken staff served us dinner in our room. They brought in huge trays with dish after dish of traditional Japanese food. They set the first tray down in front of me. Terry, “PJ you have to eat all of that yourself.” And Chuck sat there laughing in agreement. It turned out they were right, because the staff brought in two more identical trays for Terry and Chuck.
As we expected, some of the food was excellent, and some was not exactly what most Americans would enjoy. We did try the sushi, but did not care for it. They also had some dishes that cooked in hot pots while on the tray. So, I promptly put the rest of my sushi in the dish with the burner so that it would cook. Terry and Chuck didn’t object to this idea, and did the same thing.
Also, they had whole fish on skewers that you pick up and eat. It was actually quite good. They served prawns with the heads and tails still attached. The prawns were part of the items that we ended up cooking. I am not used to looking at my food and having it look back at me!
To be continued…