Friday, April 10, 2009
Day 2 of our WishClub experience had begun with breakfast of some fresh fruit (something lacking in our travels so far), toast, and coffee.
Outside was a quite, regular, non neon infested street, quite a change from what we were used to in Tokyo. We took pictures, said goodbye to the two Japanese guys who came back with us, and headed off to our first destination of the day.
The Mariko-Shuku Hotel Village
Back before there were fancy things like paved roads, cars, and bullet trains the samurai who would travel between Edo, Kyoto, and other places would stop along the way in hotel villages. This is one of the few remaining that has not yet been knocked down (or burned down like everything in Japan) and rebuilt as something modern.
The homes are traditional the streets are tiny, just as they always have been.
A temple in the back of the village and a cemetery on the hill across from it.
Back in the bus and we were off.
As you drive around the Shizuoka you will notice these green strips everywhere you look. In case you did not know already they are tea leaves. Shizuoka is famous for it's tea and is exported all around the world (just one of the many teas available, but I like that site so I linked to them).
Our next stop was Gyokuro-no-Sato. It is a park and slight tourist attraction, not like the ones you find in Tokyo, but something much quieter and local. Today we were there for the tea ceremony, but since we had to wait for the tea master to be ready we spent some time feeding the carp.
The very hungry carp.
They don't care if it's fish food or your hand, they are furious with hunger and will consume anything that gets in their way.
Now while you can go for tea ceremonies all over the place this location is peaceful and quite, hours away from the busy streets of Tokyo or the over visited Kyoto. On the day we went we saw a few families, all Japanese, but all quite and respectful of where we were.
It was time to start.
Entering the tea room is accomplished by using this tiny door. The door is so small as it was once used as a way to make the samurai take off their katanas, with them still attached to their person they would be unable to fit.
Next was our "appetizer", that is not the right word at all to use in this situation but I cannot think of the proper term. It was a small light red bean bun, the tastiest I had ever eaten.
The tea master came in next and we watched her prepare the macha tea. A process rife with tradition, every movement having some sort of meaning.
We drank in the proper fashion, the cup is handed to you with the design facing and you spin it twice as to not mess it. We were all very quiet during the entire time in the room. Although it was used in tradition as a place to relax and converse with your peers we sat there and simply watched. Quite a good time.
Out of the room we went back onto the WishClub bus.
Next up was Lake Tanuki which would offer us a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji. Just click that link and see what I mean.
Unfortunately the mountain lived up to it's nickname of The Shy Mountain as it hid from us amongst the clouds.
At least the area was pretty.
He came out to say goodbye as we were leaving.
Don't forget about the vending machines, this is Japan after all.
Down the hill we went to our final destination
The Shiratio Waterfalls. Now what were white folks doing here? That's what the people wanted to know. We were so far off of the standard tourist path that we had people talking to us about where we were from and us (handsome) guys in the group got a couple smiles and giggles from Japanese girls who never expected to see blond hair and blue eyes at the bottom of a local waterfall. ;)
It was at the bottom of these waterfalls that we ran into an ancient ancestor of modern Japan, an artifact forgotten by time, left to rot, unable to live in it's former splendor..
Onward we went, climbing a huge flight of stairs (it didn't seem so bad going down) to reach a small shopping area.
A girl preparing a local bean something snack on a grill. It tasted sweet and was incredibly sticky. In this area wasabi is everywhere as it is locally grown, what would cost me here in New Jersey 10,000 yen could be had for only a few 100 yen. Too bad importing vegetation is something customs do not take kindly too. But they did have wasabi soda, which turned out to be not very good, but that was expected.
Once again back onto the bus we went but this time it was to say goodbye. After we dropped a few people off at the local train station her and I were driven to one of the greatest things Japan has to offer
That's right. The bullet train.
The Shinkansen. I would eventually become obsessed with it but this was my first up close experience.
As we stood on the platform of the station waiting for our train to arrive we talked about the bullet train and how it's famous the world over.
"So how fast do these things go anyway?" she asked.
I didn't need to say a word as only a few seconds later this happened.
The video can hardly convey the speed that we witnessed as a Shinkansen rushed past us on it's tracks. It was awe inspiring, we could react in no other way than simply laughter of shock.
The train arrive exactly when it was supposed to. We took our seats and headed back to Tokyo to fall asleep before yet another day of adventure.