A Travellerspoint blog

June 2011

Yeah, now I really can't speak Japanese

This morning when I got up, I really couldn't speak! I avoided the baby as much as possible afraid to get him sick, but they didn't seem to mind. I wasn't coughing or sneezing, and I didn't look ill, I just had no voice!! Chemi was a bit worried about me, but I told her I would be fine. She had school to go to, so she "abandoned me" for the day, and felt really bad for it. I told her as best as I could squeeze out that I would be fine, and I know the town well enough that I would be able to figure out where to go to see places at my own pace, nice and relaxed, no running! She smiled and wished me luck on her way out the door, and I followed soon after. Now to revisit the free temple that we saw, and maybe grab some more of the really good street food we got at the markets, and look around the city a little bit slower.

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Then after this I grabbed some lunch, and then proceeded to get myself completely lost walking around town! I spent several hours in and out of shops, and then I finally found the water. The day was cold, dark and rainy, so there wasn't much to do at the waterfront, but there was a few crazies wind surfing:

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Here I contemplated my depression, and fretted over my inability to talk. In silence I sat here until the need for warm and sleep overcame and I grabbed some dinner, then headed back to Chemi's where she reprimanded me for staying out so late.

Posted by - Rain 22:32 Comments (3)

"There are so many temples I want to see!" - Chemi

Yeah, Chemi was my host in Kamakura

This morning I woke up feeling very strange, and when I tried to say good morning to Chemi's mom, I barley spoke at all. "Ahem" I cleared my throat, and then I tried again. It was a little shaky, but it managed to come out. "Asa" I told her mom, it must have been the morning. When I came out of the bathroom her mom had already taken it upon herself to make me a very nice, hot, and a bit exfoliating cup of tea. "Good for throat" she told me in English, looking back to Chemi for acceptance. I sat down at the table with Chemi and my cup of tea, and we began planning the day. There were so many temples Chemi wanted to see, and she explained to me that she sort of uses couchsurfers to travel around her own city because she has never toured around it herself. Apparently, I was couchsurfer #2, and #1 could have gone better (but no pressure, only how her parents feel about my stay will determine if Chemi gets to have anymore csers). In her bathroom I saw tuns of little Mexican looking dolls, and the room itself was done up very spanish looking, with deep red painted walls and colorful jagged line patterned blankets. I asked her about it as we set out for the day, and apparently Guatemala is her second home. She said she was more comfortable with her Spanish than her English, so she was a little worried about how I would communicate with her, but I told her she had nothing to worry about (I would guess she was American because her English seemed fluent and her accent didn't seem to differ from my own).

First stop, what Kamakura is famous for, The Giant Buddha:

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We took a real quick spin around the giant statue, and then it was time to head out (we had a big day ahead of us). She also said she wanted to get through most of the temples before it started to rain on us. Also, in the evening she was going out with friends for a party, and she invited me along, but it was one of those invites where you could tell she would rather not bring a stranger over, and I always would rather not impose, so I told her I could entertain myself in the afternoon and evening while she was out. She told me I had to be at her house for dinner, and I just was honest. "Chemi, thank you so much for worrying about me, but your family doesn't speak English, and my Japanese is pathetic" "No it isn't" she began to say, and I just gave her a look that said more than words, and she conceded. She has already gone above and beyond what I could have hoped for by just letting me sleep at her house and showing me her town.

Quickly moving on she took me thought the very narrow crowded streets with all sorts of shops and outdoor markets. The streets were packed with people and color, I simply loved it. We went into a bunch of shops searching for souvenirs for me because Chemi said that the Kamakura shops are the best shops to find great, cheap, and authentic Japanese souvenirs. Here we actually found Joe one of those straw cone hats that he had been searching for, and it was only $6 US, but at the same time, I didn't want to carry the thing around. Also, I explained our situation, and Chemi agreed that he didn't deserve the hat (harsh, but maybe my story was biased). Then, just walking down the normal looking small town roads, we came to a street that was just loaded with these balls of flowers:

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Chemi's back:

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The next temple's hand washing station:

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Temple grounds:

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Moving onto the best rock garden so far in Japan!

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This next temple we met up with one of Chemi's friends, and so the two of them hung out a lot while I kept wondering off accidentally.

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I swear, they were right behind me! Why is it I find bamboo so distracting?

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Walking to the next temple on Chemi's list of things to see we passed through the infamous tunnel (at least it was to me):

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Next temple still:

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And then the 3 of us went out for lunch back in the shopping streets, and after that it was finally time for Chemi to head out, and so I spent the rest of the afternoon window shopping. Here I found the cutest cat coin purse made out of a hard leather with a magnetic lock, and I thought of June. It was pretty cheep, and I really loved it, and to top it off, it was my favorite color!

In the evening when I made it back to Chemi's house she still wasn't home, but I had still missed dinner (darn it!) I let her mom know I already ate, and that I was full, so she let me off the hook. Then they weren't sure what to do with me, and I told them that I would be happy just logging onto the internet and writing some blog (pathetic I know, this entry is actually being written over a year after the fact). So I did some blogging until Chemi got back, and then the two of us spend several hours talking about our travels and how dangerous/ not dangerous Central America is, and we eventually got around to my recent experience being molested. She thought it was so wrong that I had to pay for my stay there, and that it was very un-Japanese to have me do so. So... Chemi wrote me a letter in high speak Japanese (not just polite, but one step higher), explaining our position. Then, exhausted again, and my voice failing, we went to sleep.

Posted by - Rain 21:42 Comments (6)

1 Adult

So today I made my wall all the way back to Nagano to pick up my camera. I walked into the Toyyoka Hotel, told them I was the one who left my "bideo kamara" behind, and then there it was! They even still had the plastic bag it was in from the Dalai Lama (this was how I forgot it in the first place). The Big Hat Stadium lecture made me turn in my camera, and then when I picked it up they gave it back to me in a bag which I used to carry my program. Then when I used the internet at the hotel, not being used to carrying an extra plastic bag, I forgot it. In honor of the Dalai Lama protecting my camera for almost a week with his pamphlet (I mean, come on, who could really steal a camera when there is all this Dalai Lama stuff inside with it?), I would like to post a quote:

Sometimes, when we are discouraged by a difficult situation, anger does seem helpful, appearing to bring more energy, confidence and determination. And while it is true that anger brings extra energy, it eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of destructive, unfortunate behavior. -Dalai Lama

And now, time to move on to Matsumoto!

I ended up taking a slow train to Matsumoto because it was much more direct, and it went through a much more scenic rout than heading all the way back down to Tokyo, switching trains, and then coming back up all most to Nagano again, just a bit further east.

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The train didn't take too long though, and then there I was, at one of the 3 most famous castles in Japan, and Bjarke's favorite.

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There were posters all around about getting a free guided tour, so I went to the booth and a nice older woman agreed to take me on a free one on one hour long guided tour of the castle! She said it is part of their foreign outreach program to boost international tourism in Japan. We began in the courtyard that she explained would have been filled with the nobility's homes if they all hadn't burned down as most of the historic Japanese buildings have done. This castle wasn't the original, but it was one of the oldest replica castles in all of Japan.

Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jō), also known as the "Crow Castle" (烏城 Karasu-jo) because of its black exterior, is one of Japan's premier historic castles. It is located in the city of Matsumoto, in Nagano Prefecture and is within easy reach of Tokyo by road or rail. The keep (tenshukaku), which was completed in the late 16th century, maintains its original wooden interiors and external stonework. It is listed as a National Treasure of Japan. Matsumoto Castle is a flatland castle (hirajiro) because it is not built on a hilltop or amid rivers, but on a plain. Its complete defences would have included an extensive system of inter-connecting walls, moats and gatehouses.

Inside it was just the very basic structure of the original castle, and then everything else in it was a museum V_V; I was hoping for getting to see what the inside of the castle would have looked like hundreds of years ago, with the proper dining tables and chairs, etc. Oh well.

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Built by the Ishikawa clan between 1592 and 1614, the famous castle was designed to survive gunbattles, although none were ever fought there. It featured square gun loopholes, widened toward the inside, for Samurai warriors to maneuver their guns. The structure also had projecting shelves called “ishotoshi,” constructed at intervals on the first floor for dropping stones on enemies attempting to scale the outside walls. An assortment of pistols, rifles, ammunition and other weapons — including a mini-cannon — sit on display. The central fortress, or “donjon,” has five stories and six floors. Short, steep stairwells throughout provide a real test on backs, knees and ankles.

And I don't know if you can tell by the picture, but the painting on the screen is of Japanese samurai fighting against the modern Japanese warriors with the above projectile missiles and cannons.

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These are the views looking out the various windows of the castle. It was very interesting to look through, and the woman apologized the whole time for her poor English, so I refused to talk to her in anything but Japanese, just to make her feel better about how bilingual she was.

The following picture is a recreation of the room the last lord used to pray before battle. As this castle never actually had any gun battles fought on castle grounds, I guess this room is truly magical.

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After seeing the castle my tour guide asked me if there was anything else I wanted to really see in Matsumoto, and that she would do her best to direct me. I told her other than climbing the mountain, which I didn't have time for, that I had no idea. So, she directed me to the meuseum you could get in for free by showing them your castle ticket, so I crossed over the gardens and one street, and here I was:

Awesome dols depicting real people in Japan's history (I think):
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Best exhibit of randomness ever:
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Yeah, its what you think it is:
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And I really wish I had more, but my video camera ran out of batteries, and now my camera phone was full with photos from Sapporo and Shiritoko. I ended up taking a few more, but had to delete them along the way, especially for this guy I passed on my way back to the train station:

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So cool!

Now it was time to head back to Tokyo for the last time.

Last pic for today, train leaving Matsumoto:

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Joe had been emailing me all day about me stopping in Tokyo for the night as it is on the way to Kamakura. I had one night between my molestation and my new couchsurfing place, so I agreed. We didn't actually say goodbye goodbye. Last I saw him he was still sleeping at Shelly's place. I'm not sure what he got up to this week, as the only contact we have had has been his emails that he already has a place booked for us for the evening. Its a hostel near where we stayed before in Tokyo, so I shouldn't get lost. Its also separated by male and female, so no worries about having to bunk near each other. Just spend the night where a booking has already been made, then say a proper goodbye, it was the least we could do right. Now, for the first time, Joe was leaving the next day, without me. 1 Adult ticket purchased, that was new, Oneway, we never have bought a ticket roundtrip, that at least was of the norm.

Travelers: 1 Adult/s
Fare: 404.00
Taxes & Fees: 50.67
Sub-Total: 454.67
Flight 12
Oneway
Operated by Jetstar
Tokyo Narita 08:25pm-
Gold Coast 06:55am
Nonstop

I met Joe late at night, so we talked for a bit about what we had been up to. Joe had hung out all week in Tokyo, and I, well, you know. The next morning I felt a bit of nerves. Were we really going to do this? Life was so much easier when I don't have to say goodbye. I'm no good at it. Joe was in his grey sweatshirt with the black flame in the center. It had been my shirt for most of the trip, and it only went back in Joe's bag recently when we were on the shinkansen from Hiroshima. We had that fight post "we should break up" on the train, and I separated out our stuff right there and then. I made a bit of a scene about it. Joe said I didn't have to give him his shirt back yet. Yet? Yet? How about at all?! It would have been nice to know he cared about me enough to just offer the sweatshirt up, but I guess it was both of our favorites, so being that I was now the ex, in my mind at least, I suppose it was only reasonable that he get the shirt in the split. Him wearing it at that final goodbye seemed fitting. He looked at me, and I at him, and we didn't have words. He had his things all sorted to head out to the airport, even though his plane didn't leave until that evening. I still hadn't showered. He hadn't either, but that was beside the point. First we were going to say goodbye inside, but then we didn't. He brought me outside with him, and I said the thing that was on my mind. "Are we really doing this?" I'm not sure if the last two words came out proper... I was feeling a bit like I was loosing my voice...

He pointed out that I was the one enforcing the situation, of which I then replied that he started it. We were both teary eyed at this point, Joes eyes turned their usual pinkish red tint that comes when he is sad, tired, and not dealing with is insomnia. He put his backpack down and wrapped his arms around me. No one will ever hug me like him. We melted, his chin around my head and my leaking eyes held shut against his chest. I felt his fingertips hold into my upper arms, completely encompassing me with his reach. I didn't think I would cry. He didn't think we wouldn't. Well okay then! I laughed, and he smiled. There was a lot of nodding going on at this point. A lot of raised eyebrows and pursed lips, and then some more nodding. "I'll see you in Australia." His voice was so strange to me, I couldn't tell if it was a statement or a question. "Probably won't, its a big place." Vanessa, the pessimist. "Not that big," a statement not so much about its size, but about our inevitability to see each other again, and soon. I didn't agree or disagree, now really wasn't the time. One more hug, this time my face pointed up trying to see beyond his shoulder that was hunched over to reach me, my eyes blinking dryness into themselves. When we didn't pull away, I could feel the waterworks start up again. No, not again. I pulled away first. "Well, you had better get going, you've got all day to kill." That wasn't entirely true, it was very long to the airport, and I think he planned to hitchhike there. Joe gave me a look that said I was making shit up. I was, but I also knew we couldn't stand here all day, so I needed something to say, right? "Okay, see ya." I was going to say probably won't, but I have already tossed that bitter sweet comment in there. "Yep" I resined with. I watched him walk around the corner, we both waved goodbye.

Time for a goddamn shower!
Then I packed my things, got some breakfast, and headed out.

Now to board the short train to Kamakura, my last destination on my Japan trip (other than ending up in Tokyo where my plane for Australia departs). Today actually marks my last day of travel on my JR pass, but nobody ever checks the date, so I am going to try and squeeze out the ticket back to Tokyo from Kamakura using the pass, and if they catch me, its only like 6 bucks I think (like I said, short train ride from Tokyo).

I get off the train in Kamakura (PS Thank you Nono for showing me your Japan photos, I wouldn't have made it here if you didn't show me it was a must), and the sun is just a bit low in the sky. I grabbed some lunch (train areas are great places to grab food because they are always surrounded by mall like food-courts or local eating establishments. Then you go out into the city, and who knows when you'll find so much variety again? Or if they will be so nice to foreigners (we use trains a lot).

Now, for the adventure of my lifetime, finding my last couchsurfing house in Japan. Chemi, where the hell do you live?

She told me to get off at the east side of the station (Tokiwa Guchi) and get on the bus in front of Beck's coffee. Then at -:43 there should be a bus arriving, and it will get me to the exit I want at -:50, so I was not to stay on it long, but this would help me with directions, and it will cost 210 yen, and I was to tell the driver I wanted to go to Daibutsu (The Great Buddha).

I got off when the driver signaled me to, and there Chemi was to meet me (thank goodness!) because here are her directions if she ended up not being able to meet me:

1.) From Kamakura station, follow signs for the "Big Buddha"
2.) Walk to Yagumo jinja road intersection
3.) Turn Right (turning left will take you to the "Big Buddha"
4.) Walk to the first bus stop, cross the street, then turn left at the next street
5.) Walk past the wall painted with all sorts of art
6.) When you pass the statue of the angel bowing her head, turn right on the next street
7.) Follow the path curving up the hill to the left, then continue on it as it turns right going uphill
8.) Pass the bicycle parking garage with the small Buddha statue
9.) Go to call box #502 through the gateway with the kanji for exit (出)
10.) I will buz you in, then take the elevator to the 3rd floor
11.) Leave that elevator (goes directly up) and take the elevator that goes up diagonally
12.) Exit elevator, circle around the rooms clockwise, I am #502

Chemi lives with her family still, and neither of her parents speak English, so I tried my best to talk to them. Her father got a kick out of me, but her mom was worried. My voice was a little raspy. "Must be because I haven't used it all day," I told Chemi to translate to her mom. Her mom didn't seem to like that answer, and she asked if I would like some dinner. They had just finished eating, but apparently there was still food left. "Please, thank you" I told her, and she sat me down for some traditional Japanese food. There was soup and sticky rice with some sort of vegetables all tangled up inside. She kept trying to feed me, but I assured her that I had been snacking on the trains all day, so I was fine. Then Chemi's little nephew came in the room, and he and I spent the next hour together as Chemi finished up some papers she had to write. He was about one and a half, and he was a little confused as to why I communicated so funny, but eventually we got to tearing up some of my notebook and folding it into airplanes, and this he couldn't get enough of.

Chemi and her nephew:

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When Chemi's older sister came home she put him to bed, and then I let Chemi know that I would probably do the same. I was so tired, so I felt bad just curling up on the mats in the living room while her father watched soccer, but I was really exhausted. Her father decided to go to sleep too, and so the house went dark and quiet, and I passed out (to sleep, not literally blacking out).

PS Here is an email I wrote to Laura "today" (a year ago today now that I'm writing this blog) just to give a sense of where I am:

"I have a sketchy connection right now, so I don't want to over task it.
Joe broke up with me, I was more okay with it than he hoped I'd be,
which hurt him about as much as he hurt me. Joe should be in
Australia now, and I leave the 7th. We are not meeting up like the
plan was before he broke up with me, I think I will get a job at a bar
or a cafe since I've been told that is really easy to do for temp
work. You should come to Australia and I will hike with you. I love
hiking. Next week I have no rail pass, so I should be in one place
allot, so look for me then!"

Joe was flying out at 8:25pm, and I wrote that email at 7:27pm.

Posted by - Rain 21:22 Comments (2)

Bright As Day, Black As Night

(Lamest insightful pump up ever)

Okay, so I have been having a really lame as hard time getting this blog post done and over with. It is an uncomfortable story, so... here I go, pumping myself up to write and be done with it.

"The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all." ~ The Emperor in "Mulan"
"To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human." ~ Mouse in "The Matrix"
"Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~ Prince of Genovia in "The Princess Diaries"
"Life is not the amount of breaths you take. It's the moments that take your breath away." ~ Alex "Hitch" Hitchens in "Hitch"
"Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'." ~ Andy Dufresne in "The Shawshank Redemption"
"In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. "Mankind." That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom... Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution... but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: "We will not go quietly into the night!" We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!" ~ President Thomas Whitmore in "Independence Day"

So, this morning I take my time getting to the train station saying goodbye and thanks to June, getting Zeke's info so he can send me his pictures from Shiritoko, and taking a costal walk along the city before my train left at the ungodly hour of 10am (very late to get started on the slow trains).

'Nother rainy day:
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Eventually I made it to Shin Hakodate:

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My day was gone, and I hadn't even made it out of Hokkaido! Thanfully, tomorrow I would get to switch to the medium speed trains, and then would be mostly on Shinkansen after that, so I should be able to make it to Nagano, get my camera, and then head over to Matsumoto and see the castle, and get all the way to Kamakura all in one day. ^_^* Only down side was I had to cross the tunnel tomorrow, but that was a nice thing to get to put off for another day because today's very slow trains had put me on my last nerve.

As it was, when I got off the train the info desks were just about to close, and they told me that there were no hostles or cheep accomidation in the city! The best they could do was the Toyooka hotel (figures), but then the woman told me about this Onsen. It was quite pricy for an Onsen since it was a very upscale 24 hour Onsen, but for an extra $8 US dollars I could gain use of the "nap" room, and just sleep there! This sounded perfect for me, pay $22 for the hot pools, then $8 for a bed, and it was about the same price of getting a hostel without the hot pools. Worked for me, only the busses stopped running at 6pm... and it was after 6. She said that it was about 15 minutes on bus, so walking it was going to be almost an hour, but I had time since I had no plans for the evening, so in the rain at sunset, I began my long walk with all my gear strapped to my back.

About 30 minutes later, walking down the street the Onsen should be on, in the dark, in the rain, a car actually pulls over and stops for me! "Konbonwa" I said to the girl in the car, who was surprised by my Japanese, but spoke to me knowingly in English anyways. "Do you want a ride? Where are you going?" I showed her the brochure, and sure enough, she pointed to the huge neon sigh just a little further up the road. "Oh, that is really close now, thank you so much!" She explained to me that its easy to miss because it doesn't have the name written on it, just a real impressionist neon sign of a man in a hot pool... (was that what it was?) And like one of those magic eye tricks, after staring at it for a few moments, I saw it... ("there is a sailboat!" - Mallrats) I thanked her, but we agreed that it was easier for me just to walk it rather than try and stuff all my gear in her tiny car, so she drove off, and I soon made it to the Onsen.

There they spoke absolutely no English... it was going to be a fun night. Between my Japanese and their sign language we managed to get me a shoe locker in the general area, a big locker in the women's room, and they escorted me to the woman's "nap room" just up the stairs from the casino/ bar. The nap room had a bunch of single sofas on the floor that looked like they just chopped the legs off a lazy boy recliner. They also had blankets, and that was about it. A dim light stayed on in the room always so you could easily make your way in and out of the room without disturbing anyone, and at the time I came in there was only one woman in there sleeping, and she was about 90. I have to say, other than the staff, I had to be the only person in there under 40, but it was nice, quiet, and fairly empty. I had to take my clothes off and put on their nightie which was basically a long pink and white stripped t-shirt that went just below my knees. All the other women's went to the floor pretty much, but I don't think they had a pink one long enough for me. The men were all in shorter tees that were blue and white stripped and blue shorts (this will be important in a few hours to note, hence the mention now... foreshadowing if you will).

First I tried logging onto their internet, but it was so slow that all I could be bothered doing was checking my emails, then I put it away in my women's large locker, and then got naked and hopped into my own personal Onsen. There were about 5 different pools indoors, and one outside, and they were all empty. There were two women showering off, but that was it. I started out in the "baby pool" with the mushroom fountain you could hide under like being inside a waterfall. Then I moved to the pool with the rocks in the center that had hot water poring down them like a creek into a pond, very nice. Next I maned up and moved to the pool that looked like a flooded, 3 sided sauna. The wooden logs lining the pool were strangely comfortable, but the water was simply too hot. I tried to be polite when an older woman came in and started talking to me, but between my limited Japanese, and my pure whimpyness, I had to cut off our conversation. "Atsui des ne!" "Hot isn't it?" I told the woman as I made a fanning motion to my face. "Hi, so desu!" She agreed, but continued even lower into the water (show off). At this point I headed outside where I was completely alone. The water in this pool came from a black pipe that was probably once hidden completely inside the wooden log that jutted out from the rock mound. This pool was the nicest decorated with plants and rocks surrounding the whole pool, and the inside of the pool was all rocks, no tile at all. I stayed out here for an hour or so just staring at the full moon through the trees, thinking, contemplating, and working out what to do with myself for the rest of my life. I was over the joy of my freedom from Joe a bit, and was settling into the inevitable uncertainty of who I was without him, and the options that were once closed to me began opening, not in an excited way as before, but in a thoughtful planning sort of a way. Europe I decided. Europe was a closed door with Joe, and now it was a path I would travel along without him. This, I thought, was a good note to go to sleep on.

I showered up and headed for the "nap room." I had to have the guy at the front desk lead me there again because I got lost and all the signs were written in Kanji (Chinese). Then from there he pointed out the security guard who he told me would be waking around checking up on the rooms every hour. "Arigato" I said, and then went inside. There were about 15 women in bed now, and they took up most of the "front" of the room where it was darkest, but there was still one dark corner in back, so I grabbed it up with my blanket, curled it up to my chin, and then fell asleep.

Have you ever woken up to an itch you needed to scratch, or maybe a limb that has fallen asleep over the course of the night, or maybe even a cat walking across your sheets? Well, when I woke up this morning (god, my heart is already racing even now, a year later as I write this), I felt my right breast sort of needing readjusting or something like that... and I opened my eyes, went to roll over onto my side... and there was a man, sitting cross legged next to my sofa bed, with his hand fully cupping my breast! My eyes opened fully in a wave of shock, and I bolted into a seated position. HIs movement followed in kind, his eyes opened wide, and he moved from a seated position to full up standing as he bolted out the door! I sat there for a moment, shocked, stunned, scared, alone, cold, shaking now, and completely clueless of what to do! I eventually stood up, and made my way outside the woman's nap room. The hall was empty. I walked down the stairs, afraid of running into him, not that I should have been, he should have been afraid of me, so with that in mind, I kept walking. The same kid was at the front desk, and I didn't know what to tell him, so I went to my locker in the woman's shower room, and I got my Japanese book.

"Sumimasen, demo..." "Sorry, but..." I began, not sure how to do this, still shaking a bit, and my voice following in kind. Just say it damn it!
"Chikan" "Molester" I told him. "Ohhhh?" He said. (Did she say what she wanted? Did she mean what I think she meant?) I could tell his thought process, so I got out my book, and I pointed to the word. "Josei no heya de chikan" "In the woman's room there was a molester." There was even a picture of a chibi man touching a chibi woman, there was no mistaking the accusation. I then flipped to the anatomy page. "Otoko no te" I pointed to the hand on the male half of the anatomy page. "Watashi no mune" "My breast" I told him, but I pointed to the woman anatomy picture rather than at my own. Eventually, his confusion did lead me to grabbing myself to make my point, as you can see, I was getting very frustrated. "Ohhhh!" finally the point seemed to get through. He got a bunch of people together, and I was grilled in Japanese. "Kare wa dono yōna monodeshita" "What did he look like?" At this juncture I was so ready to say "Anata!" "You!" But I curbed that instinct. I explained that he was wearing the same pajama's all the men were wearing, and that his face looked kinda like everyone else as well, however, he had a very American looking haircut. Explaining it was easy because there was a clothing page and a face page and a hair page, but just to be clear, I drew the worst picture of my life. Still, a man in Japan having very short hair, almost buzzed along the side of his ears, and then long and almost spiky above was very rare. Their haircuts were usually far less styled here unless they were younger, and I pegged this guy for in his forties, which probably make him 50 something, so I told them that too. The security guard apologized to me over and over, and then he went out on the prowl. They told me to go and talk it easy for a while in the woman's baths, and that there is no way he could get in there since the front desk is right in front of the male and female entrances. Since it was only 6 in the morning, and my bus to the train station didn't start until 9am, I decided to follow his advice.

I tried to relax as best as I could, but I was shaken. My first night alone without Joe (or a friend like June), and I get molested!!! I guess everyone wasn't being silly when they told me they were happy to know I was traveling with a boy. His mere presence kept me safe... fuck that! I regretted getting molested, but I was not about to give into needing a man in my life to keep me safe. Sure it helps, but I can handle this crap. I'm not sure if it was the nearly boiling water, or if it was just my hate making me warm, but my muscles were beginning to relax with the heat. When I finally felt calmed down I got out of the pools, showered, and then logged onto the internet from inside the woman's locker room. This many of the naked women wondering around found very strange, but I couldn't be bothered to care. "I don't want to go outside, bad man." I told one woman who asked me if I was okay. She wanted to know if there was anything she could do, but I told her that I was going to be fine, I just needed to stay in here for a little while. She smiled, and left for the hot pools. Not too sure on my Japanese on that one, I think she may have been smiling and nodding as you do when you don't have the slightest clue what was going on, but I kept saying "Dijobu des" "I'm okay" so that seemed to be enough for her.

When I came out fully packed and ready to leave, the man told me that it was going to be 2,800 yen. "Oh?" I said, expecting to get the night for free since I got molested and all... but I couldn't be bothered to argue with him, so I just handed him my credit card. After I left the place I felt used physically and financially, and the feeling didn't leave me all the way walking to the train station as cars would drive by, splashing last nights rain all over me.

Posted by - Rain 18:07 Comments (3)

Shiretoko National Park

(知床国立公園, Shiretoko Kokuritsu Kōen)

Unfortunately today was a cloudy/ rainy day, so most of my pictures were overcast and not too appealing. But you get to see Shiretoko in all its beautiful glory because I looked up most of my shots from the internet or got some off of friends who also visited. I do have a few photos I took myself, and I know I didn't label which Sapporo pictures were mine, but I felt that they all blended so well that it was almost like I was there taking those other photos. But there is a big variety here, so I will label when a photo is mine.

The train ride there (These photos I got off of my friend Zeke who came to couchsurf with June as well):
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Those purple flowers were just everywhere lining the tracks on the way to Shiretoko.

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Almost the entire ride we got to stay on the waterfront, while the car traffic was on the other side of the hill, obscured from our view. (Very lucky)

The bus ride there:
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Here are my first photos of the day:
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I thought the rocks looked like a turtle.

Googled photos:

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Side of the road waterfall:
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Hiking to my first location:
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Furape Cliff:
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In this shot you can see a waterfall with no river feeding it (because the river is underground!)
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View from the other side:
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My photos:
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Here there were deer grazing all the way up to the edge of the cliffs! It was so beautiful and peaceful, I stayed here for maybe 10 minutes, just listening to the rain on my umbrella and watching the seagulls play with the boats in the water, and the deer jumping through the tall grass.

Youtube video someone else took (very long):
2:40 - my 2nd favorite spot in Shiretoko, the Furape Cliffs.

Around the 5 minute mark you'll hear bells jingling. Those bells were sold everywhere for you to put on your bags to frighten away the black bears. Also, if you watch the whole thing, I didn't go on a boat, but I do recognize some of the locations as placed I hiked to.

Hiking back to the main road:

My photos:
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Back to google photos:
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Here is my favorite Shiretoko video (from youtube, since I could not take video myself due to my limited storage space on my phone):

go-ko (five lakes) is my favorite part of Shiretoko.
Also, this video is really good because it looks like it was taken in summer, which was when I was there. I think I may have had a bit more snow on the mountains, but other than that.

Bus group:
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Go-Ko (The Five Lakes):
Entering the trail there were already signs warning of black bears:
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Here is a shot of the main lake out of the five, with it the ripples on the lake from the high winds that were going on that day. So many of these pictures where you get to see the smooth lake are not what I got to see, but you would get large circles of calm, as ripples would blow in her and there around them sometimes, so best of both worlds right?

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Here are some photos I took with my phone:
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Here, I stood for a long time, and was once again inspired to write:

A place where you can watch the great spirit of the wind blow glass into shards of crystalized ice that dance into thousands of twinkling stars before settling into ripples of snow speckled mountains with peeks massaged by soft mist.
~ Vanessa chan

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Back to google photos:

(This appears to be the exact same spot where I stood and jotted down my string of consciousness)
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And all throughout these areas there were walkways built to curb people having to walk through the wetlands, and at the same time preserving them.

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Walking along the paths I found these two old people taking photos of each other. I thought of asking them if they wanted me to take a photo of them, but my Japanese wasn't so good, and the older generations especially had a hard time understanding me. These two looked old, like around 70, so I pegged them at around 90... def. out of my English speaking Japanese age range. But then here we were, at the highest point of the footpath, and the mountains with the lake in front of them, well, it was a shot of a lifetime... "Watashi wa anatagata no shashin o tote ka?" While I said this I pointed at the couple, then make the international sign for clicking a camera in front of one's eye. At first they thought I wanted them to take a photo of me, but I explained to them I didn't have a camera. Then they thought that I wanted them to take a photo of me with them, but I told them that I was just trying to help them be in the picture just the two of them, not for me. Then they finally seemed to understand that here, this lone, lost tourist was trying to help them out in their own country... as amusing as they found this, they seemed grateful. I took their photo, then they felt obliged to talk to me some more, not just move on with their day. The old woman wanted to know where my camera was, and I told her that I lost it in Nagano. "OHHHHHHHH!" she said as she nodded as I explained to her my story in 5 year old Japanese. I told her to not worry though, and that I would be going to pick it up tomorrow. "Sugoi!" she exclaimed in excitement. But then she worried that I wouldn't be able to have any photos of myself here in Shiretoko! What to do!?!? "Ahhh!" she told me, and she set me up to have my photo taken with their camera. "Interneto!" She told me her grandson knew how to use the internet, and he could give me the photo over the internet! She handed me her notebook, and flipped to a blank page. Okay, I thought, what the hell, so I wrote down my name in Japanese Katakana " ヴァネッサ " and then my email address " vanran@gmail.com " This was the best I could come up with.

No, I never ended up getting these photos V.V;
But it was a shot in the dark anyways.

I seemed to be making some sense to the woman, that, or she was just really good at humoring me. The old man didn't seem to be able to follow my conversation, or just wasn't interested, so I thought I should let him get back to his tour at least (typical man and woman behavior in Japan). "Saionara" I said, letting them go after an overly long conversation. I had no more Japanese in my back pocket, I was spent. Then, as I stared into the mountains in my solitude, enjoying the absolutely breathtaking feel and look of it all, I herd someone speaking English. "Excuse me," Normally I wouldn't turn around to someone saying that from so far away, but who else could this person be talking to? I turned around, and on the other side of the observation deck was a tall Japanese kid, probably in his early 20's, and his mother seemed to be pushing him forward to converse with me. "Yes?" "Are you lost?" I thought he might tag on "little girl" at the end of it, but luckily, he did not. "Ie-eh" I said, no I was not, "Ushinawa arimasen desu" "My mom wanted me to talk to you and make sure you were okay, she saw you talking to the older couple before, and she thought you might need help." I explained to him what I was actually doing, and then he translated to his mother. "Oh!" she exclaimed, and seemed very happy. But then her worried face came back. She spoke very fast to her son, and I couldn't follow. "She wants to know if you are here alone." "Yes, I am." I left it at that. This seemed unacceptable to her. "How did you get here?" I wanted to say by eagle, but they were being very nice and concerned for me, so I told them that I took the bus and the train. "Far!" she said in Japanese. "Abashiri" When I told her this, she got really excited. "Really?" It turned out that they were from Abashiri too! She insisted that she drive me all the way home, but I told them that I really couldn't impose. "She wants to know where you are going next, and how you plan to get there." I showed them the waterfall that my buss passed when I first arrived, and I said that I wanted to go back there and take a look around before heading back to the train station. It was going to cost me another bus ticket, but I had decided it was worth it while I was still in Japan to pay to see the places I wanted to see. Basically her next words were that they would drive me to that waterfall, and that was that. I told her thank you, and then the 4 of us continued walking the trails together until we had seen as much of the 5 lakes as we could.

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We didn't get to see all of the 5 lakes because the path to the 2 other lakes was closed off due to bears, so rather than making a full circle we had to turn back at one point and head back through the lakes we already passed.

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After this hike the family I met took me into the gift shop and the father bought all 4 of us soft serve strawberry ice cream cones ^_^*

Heading home:
This was where I was going to have the family drop me off, but the waterfall area was closed because of heavy water flow from all the rain they were getting (yeah, I know), so they apologized over and over to me, and said now they really had to drive me all the way home, because I wasn't going to get to see the Oshinkoshin Falls! (Still got to drive almost right against them, so I saw, I just didn't get to hike).

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(By the way, that is the same waterfall from the side of the road that was at the start of this trip, only this picture depicts what the waterfall looked like when I was there a bit better.)

On the way back the scenery wasn't as good, but I got to have a really cool conversation with the son. Then, halfway home we got to move to the front as the father and son were switching drivers, so they forced me to move to shotgun so we could continue talking. He lived in Australia for a few years, knowing no English when he started classes there, and then gradually picked it up. We talked a lot about what it is like there as I was heading there next. In Australia he was one of the chemical engineers at a firework plant that made Japanese fireworks. He said that one night the owner's wife and kid were closing up late, and there was a fire... luckily they got out just before the fire alarm went off, and shortly after that all the fireworks started blowing apart the building! They were very lucky to be heading out just before the place went all to hell.

He told me that someone caught it on youtube, and that I should look it up:

At our bathroom break the mom looked around the gift shop and kept holding things up to me for her to buy for me. "Thank you, but I have too much to carry!" I had her son translate that everything I had I had to carry everyday, so I couldn't get any souvenirs. She settled for buying me a drink from one of Japan's many vending machines.

In Abashiri they dropped me off practically at June's front door to her apartment complex, and wasn't going to be satisfied until they saw June get me, but thankfully their son convinced them that I would be alright, and we parted with plenty of daylight for me to explore this small costal town at the top of Japan. The only thing north of us were the islands that Japan lost to Russia (one of the reasons Japan likes America, common enemy).

Here is the last video of Shiretoko, now I went in summer, so the ice scenes weren't there:

Posted by - Rain 17:59 Comments (1)

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