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This version was saved 14 years, 8 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Phil Baraona
on October 18, 2009 at 7:37:11 pm

Friday, Oct 2

Today was (mostly) a travel day. After breakfast and a brief walk around the ryokan (for me at least), we headed back down the hill to the bus. Much easier going downhill with all of our luggage! Instead of taking the bus straight back to the train station, we stopped for about an hour at Lake Tazawa-ko. This is a pretty typical little “tourist town” with shops selling trinkets, busloads of tourists welcome. It is the offseason for this area so it was actually pretty empty. You could tell from the number of empty restaurants and unused paddle boats on shore that this place must get pretty crowded during the summer.

The reason for this is that the lake itself is beautiful. The water is multiple shades of blue and mountains rise up all around it. I stuck my hand in and it felt pretty warm. There was a nice sandy beach which seemed somewhat odd since this region seems to be full of mostly volcanic rock. Perhaps the sand was imported from elsewhere? I would have loved to go for a swim, but we were only here for an hour and the air temperature wasn’t really that warm. Oh well.

One thing we did not see is the famous statue in the water. It was all the way on the other side of the lake and we did not have time to get there and back. An interesting way to see this lake would have been to rent a bicycle and bike around it (about 12 miles). So many good ideas. For next time.

As for this time, we boarded the next bus and then headed for the train station. One interesting thing about this: we had just left our bags piled up next to the bus stop. No worries about anyone taking them. It’s Japan! I can’t imagine doing this back home, even during the offseason in an area like this (say on Cape Cod). Someone would certainly have messed with our stuff. We had about 45 minutes to hang out at the train station so I found a grocery store and picked up a bite to eat for lunch. I kind of enjoy going to a grocery store in a foreign country. Things sort of feel familiar, but there are a lot of different brand names and unique foods. I always feel like I am sticking out like a sore thumb – and I’m sure that I am!

As I was walking back to the train station, Samir called me over to tell me some good news: they found my camera! They were holding it at the train station in Nikko and would be happy to send it (C.O.D.) to any address in Japan. David called his friend Erie (named after Lake Erie, interestingly enough) back to give him the address of the place we are staying in Nara. With luck, I should have my camera back for the last six days of the trip!

Our first train was one of the slow Shinkansen trains to Akita where we had about 10 minutes before switching to an even slower local train that took us to Tsuruoka (in about 2 hours). As the day went on, it had been getting more cloudy and it finally started to rain while we were on this train. I barely noticed because I was asleep (or at least had my eyes closed) for most of the trip, but I could certainly tell it was raining when we got to Tsuruoka. We once again had about an hour to kill so the two Mike’s, Greg and I set out to explore the town. In the rain. There really wasn’t much to see. It mostly seems like a working class town without too many interesting sites. Especially as it started to rain even harder. The one odd thing we noticed was that there seemed to be an inordinately large number of places to get your hair cut here. Strange, especially since Eric (who wasn’t with us) had noticed the same thing.

When we got back to the train station, we were all dripping wet – especially Mike R who had worn his cotton dress pants. We boarded the bus towards the Dewa Sanzen which are three of the holiest mountains (according to the Shintos) in Japan. We are actually spending the night at a temple on top of Haguro-san which is the first of the three peaks. The bus ride up there took about 50 minutes. Fortunately, the rain had let up a little bit when we got up there since we had a 10 minute walk with all of our luggage to the Saikan where we’ll be spending the night.

This place is amazing and it’s “only” 8,000 yen/person per night. It’s an old temple built on top of the mountain with a great view of the plains below and the Sea of Japan beyond that. The 12 men and 2 women in our group each have separate rooms tonight (i.e. men in one room, women in the other). The windows just outside our room have the spectacular view and it had cleared just enough that we were able to appreciate it. For dinner, we all decided to wear the traditional robes that have been provided in all of our accommodations so far. Dinner was tasty enough – especially the salmon.

On the way back to our room, we noticed a beer vending machine in the lobby. The opportunity to drink beer in a 300 year old Shinto Temple just seemed too good to pass up. Better yet, this machine sold the 500mL bottles of Asahi. Nothing quite like drinking temple tall boys in the smoking lounge (which is the only place you can actually sit in a chair in this temple). Fortunately, our group is the only one here tonight (even though this place can accommodate something like 300 people) so we weren’t even interrupting anyone trying to smoke. After a couple of tall boys, it was time for a bath and then off to bed.

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