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Page history last edited by Phil Baraona 14 years, 7 months ago

Wednesday, Sept 30                                  

Today was (mostly) a travel day. It started off with a walk back to Kegan Falls which looked exactly the same way as it did yesterday: fogged in. I guess I was just not meant to see that waterfall, at least not on this trip. After failed attempt #2 at the waterfall, we got back on the bus for the ride to Nikko and then boarded a local train towards Utsonomiya.

It was on this train that I realized I had made a huge mistake. I left my camera on the bus in Nikko! I was fumbling around with my bags and didn’t realize the camera bag was sitting on the seat as I got up. Ooops. Everyone on the trip started offering suggestions on what we could do. David had the best idea. He sent a message to his Japanese friend in Tokyo and asked him to call the bus company to see if someone had turned the camera in. I have read many things about how polite the Japanese are and that they will go out of their way to assist you however they can – specifically including going to extraordinary lengths to return lost items. Hopefully, this will turn into another story to add to that list.

From a practical perspective, the worst part about this is losing the pictures I have taken so far and not being able to take pictures for the rest of the trip. There’s not much I can do about the first problem except “borrow” pictures from others if I never get my camera back. As for the second problem, Mike R actually brought three cameras with him on this trip and very generously lent one of them to me. Maybe everything will be all right after all.

Back to our travels. We transferred to the Shinkansen in Utsonomiya and then stopped for a little over an hour in Sendai. Mike L, Greg, Samir and I ventured out of the station to find lunch and snacks for tomorrow’s hike. We saw a place called Mos Burger and knew we had to try it out. It looked like a typical fast food restaurant and we ordered by pointing at pictures. Rather than picking up your food at the counter and carrying it to your table, they give you a numbered card and deliver your order directly to your table. With typical Japanese efficiency, our food actually arrived at our table before we even got back from ordering it at the counter! The onion rings and burger I had were quite good. The only oddity: my burger had some kind of a “special sauce” on it that looked a little bit like salsa. Fortunately, it tasted pretty good and this may have been the best non-American hamburger I have ever eaten. I can’t remember the last time I had a fast food burger back home, but this was definitely an interesting experience.

After a quick stop at a convenience store, we headed back to the station for the Shinkansen to Tazawako. We had about 30 minutes there and most of us just hung out near the train station. Unfortunately, Jim misunderstood the instructions and was nowhere to be found as we were getting on the bus. Just as the last passengers were boarding, we saw Jim sauntering across the square not even realizing what was going on. Fortunately, Samir and Eric were able to yell out to him and the bus driver waited, probably making our departure a minute or two behind schedule. How very un-Japanese!

Our destination tonight is the Kuroyu Ryokan in the tiny mountain town of Nyoto Onsen. This place is a little more than a half mile walk from the bus station. Just long enough to be annoying since we were carrying all of our luggage and it was uphill most of the way. As we got up to the parking lot, I noticed Mike L hurriedly fumbling through his bag. It turned out he had followed my (very foolish) lead left his camera on the bus we took to get up here. Silly boy!

We arrived shortly before dinner and had an amazing spread of tasty food – something like 8 separate items. This looked more impressive than the other places we have stayed and David informed us that was because these are our “splurge” nights. 11,000 yen (about $120) per person each night, including dinner. For comparison, the Miharashi Ryokan in Chuzenji-ko was 7,500 yen while the place in Tokyo was just 5,500 yen (but didn’t include dinner). All of these places were nice in their own way.

The real highlight of this ryokan is that it is one of several in the area that has a traditional mountain hot spring. The baths are outdoors and fed by water from the springs nearby. This place actually has three separate baths: one for men, one for women and a mixed gender bath. Since I don’t really understand the tradition, I just stuck with the all male bath. As has been the case the past several nights, the bath was a very relaxing way to unwind after a long day. We capped the night off with an alcoholic drink from the vending machine that Eric correctly described as tasting like a carbonated wine cooler. Not as good as beer, but still a nice way to end the evening.

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