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October 30, Nagoya and Nakatsugawa

Well, here I am, finally on my own, in a train station in Nagoya waiting for my local train to Nagatsugawa, where I will catch a bus into Magome to the Magomejaya Traditional Ryokan or hotel.

My bag is sooooooo freakin' heavy. I'm glad I don't actually need to do the whole hike with it on my back. I think I could do it, but it would be... very tiring. Too many souvenirs!

Everyone is very polite, and even helpful to this crazy Canadian. I noticed in my time wandering around with the Matsuis that they never, and I mean NEVER make eye contact or smile and nod at people as they walk around. I do this all the time as a matter of course, and so I have to wonder if I come across as this goofily friendly Canadian ever so slightly transgressing on privacy and politeness, but in such a friendly puppy way that nobody has the heart to snub me. It amuses me.

On the other hand, many Japanese make eye contact with me, probably because of the novelty of my being this blond and curly haired white girl carrying an enormous pack. It's probably alright.

10 minutes until my next train. I bought a bento (lunch box, which I'll eat on the train, if I can manage it. It has rice, which I feel pretty confident about, and some kind of chicken or pork cutlet thingy which I feel... curious about, and some unidentifiable vegetables, which I look forward to at least trying.

By the way, when I wrote earlier about the food being no problem I didn't mean to imply that I thought I was eating authentic (i.e., traditional) japanese food. I'm under no illusions about that. I'm eating a crazy modern mish-mash.

Of course, I am eating authentic japanese food in the sense that I'm eating what many of the japanese are eating now, for whatever that's worth. I have to admit I rather imagined I'd come to Japan and spend two weeks losing weight because I couldn't find anything non-fishy or non-crustaceony or non-seaweedy to eat. I'm just ecstatic to find that I can eat many things, and that's enough for me.

I'd better get ready for my train...


Okay, so now I'm at the Nakatsugawa train station waiting for my bus to Magome, which leaves in 25 minutes.

There are lockers here and I was tempted to leave one of my bag in the locker tonight, but after much mime and pidgin japanese on my part and much befuddled non-comprehension on the part of the guy at the ticket desk I believe I understand him to mean that I can't leave things overnight there. Oh well!

I've had two pregnant woman sightings in two minutes! Quite the highest rate of anywhere in Japan so far.

The bus, when it arrives, takes 30 minutes to get to Magome, and costs 540 yen. On the whole, transportation is really pretty inexpensive. I'm glad I have my rail pass now, because I'm really making use of it on this trip. It has the added benefit of basically allowing me to queue jump, becuase I don't need to wait to go through the machines. I just walk past the ticket office and flash the man inside my rail pass.

On the train from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa I could feel my ears popping constantly. I think I'm good deal higher than I was when I started this morning. Of course, the Matsuis live practically at sea level. They're only a mile from the beach.

The first day I arrived with them we went first back to their house, which is very lovely and surprisingly spacious (though they insist it isn't actually). The room they had prepared for me was a traditional japanese tatami room, with 8 tatami mats. The alcove in the wall contained some sort of musical instrument and some beautiful and fresh ikebana (flower arrangement).

There was a TV and a bookshelf full of books. there was sliding paper door/wall on the other side, and it was only on my last night that I realized that the comfy chair on the other side was in fact a fully automated massage chair. Dude! A missed opportunity on my first night!

There was a room with just a toilet and a tiny little sink, and plastic slippers that you put your feet in when you enter the room, and another room with just a sink and a big mirror and cabinets and counter space, and off of this room was another room wherer the japanese style bath was, with the rest of the room tiled so you showered and washed and rinsed just in the middle of the room, and then stepped into the tub to soak. The tub was deep and had three flat covers over it that you could stack to one side when you were in the tub.

There was an electronic control on the wall where you turned on the hot water (it's heated with gas as it comes through the pipes to you, and the water in the tub is heated up surprisingly quickly by a recirculating heating system which is likely also gas. When you don't need hot water, the heating system is turned off, which seems rather efficient to me.

The living room was rather small, and the kitchen as well, though certainly functional. I never saw upstairs.

We went to the grocery store to get some quick lunch food. This was an interesting experience. At one point Mr. Matsui dropped an empty plastic tray. This description doesn't really do the flurry of action justice. Mr. Matsui and his wife, a passing random grocery shopper, and a young woman working in the produce section all exclaimed loudly and then rushed at the dropped plastic tray. It was very bizarre.

After a quick lunch Mr. Matsui and I headed off in the car to do some sightseeing. He suggested that he wanted to take me to Enoshima (a nearby island) and then Kamakura. I knew from reading my guidebook that Kamakura was the site of the "Daibutsu" or big buddha. The karate group had been planning to go there, but it never happened, for one reason or another.

I'll write more later...



February 2010

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