Ohhhh readers readers readers… WHEN will I learn to save my drafts properly??? Was very close to publishing this week’s instalment when Windows updates decided it was time to swoop in and take over my laptop. The result is an unremarkable set of interface adjustments and a completely deleted blog post. WAAAAAAAHHH.
I shall crack on and attempt to recover all those nice turns of phrase from my memory, but apologies if this post carries a hint of frustration between the lines. I shall do my best to keep that at bay and get my news down as though for the first time… and will be pressing that save button feverishly throughout.
ANYway. Yes. This week. I’ll start with the most recent news, the star of which is a rather slippery old fella named Fuji…
Alaina and I were up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, jumping on an early-morning bus from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko: one of the five great lakes surrounding Mount Fuji. Our spirits were quite literally dampened upon arrival at the station where, in place of the emblematic, majestic peak, we were greeted by sheets of driving rain and billows of low-lying cloud. Not a mountain in sight. Fuji-san had decided to play (very) hard to get.
Rather bedraggled and unable to find our hostel, we trudged up a landmark-less road and eventually enlisted the help of a lady walking her dog. With our few words of bad Japanese, we managed to extract a few hazy instructions, and after gesticulating a lot and head-bobbing apologetically, the lady continued on her way. Several more fruitless minutes passed, and we were about to completely retrace our steps and start from scratch when we heard an engine revving its way towards us. Visible between the swiping of the wipers was none other than the lady from the road, who stopped the car, beckoned us to climb aboard and proceeded to drive us all the way to our destination! Such kindness. I thanked her so repeatedly and profusely she probably decided I was a bit odd. But oh well. LEGEND.
Perhaps the weather and/or Fuji-san had been watching this scene of heart-warming benevolence, as within minutes of us bidding farewell to our saviour, whose name it turned out was Hanako, the rain stopped, the sun scorched its way through the cloud and the mist moved off to reveal Mr Fuji himself, towering right over us, retaining some mystery through a swirl of cloud which remained draped over his summit like a pashmina. Absolutely breath-taking, and the most wonderful surprise after having reconciled ourselves with the fact that he might elude us completely.
Other activities over the weekend (and we crammed in a fair bit!) included:
Woodland and water-side walks. Much of the first day involved taking in Lake Kawaguchiko while Fuji-san looked on from on high. The second day also saw us move a little further afield to Aokigahara – an infamous forest beside Lake Saiko known as the Suicide Forest due to the shocking amounts of visitors who head there to take their own lives… chilling stuff. I am pleased to report, however, that I found the dense woodland beautifully peaceful rather than threatening, which was no doubt helped by the fact that we stumbled upon precisely zero bodies. My only regret is that our visit wasn’t in a couple of weeks’ time; we are teetering on the very brink of autumn here now, and the trees were showing just the most tentative signs of preparation for momijigari (autumn leaf-viewing – can we just take a moment to appreciate the fabulousness of the fact that this in itself is one of the most significant, culturally-embedded activities in the Japanese year? Thank you. Yet another reason I am speedily falling in love with this country). Still, the cinnamon-like sprinkle on the leaves was hopefully a sign of a glorious autumn to unfold in the coming weeks…
Much munching at Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba. We stopped twice at this charming thatched village located by Lake Saiko, and left with full bellies on both occasions. I have noticed that free samples are both abundant and generous here in Japan, and so we were able to load up on candied ginger, fruit pieces, wasabi pistachios, grilled fish, corn on the cob and many other bits besides. Feeling it was high time we actually paid for something, we ordered steaming bowls of houtou, a tasty local udon dish, which filled us up good and proper for the rest of the day. I also found new friendship in the form of a lady with the most gorgeous creasy smile, who ended up inviting me into her kitchen and feeding me a bowl of rice with seaweed and sesame chutney! Food and friendship really are the most natural of allies, it seems.
Birthday suits at the onsen. We decided to wind down from our day of discovery at one of the lakeside hot springs, known as onsen, and bloody lovely it was too. The semi-open-air bath was piping hot and deeply relaxing, although the experience was made slightly surreal by the fact that everyone has to be starkers, and you have to squat on little bamboo stools together and have a proper shower before you get in. I also had to assist Alaina in covering up her tattoo with plaster tape. Fun fact: tattoos are seriously taboo here in Japan, as they are still associated with gang culture. Gotta cover that ink if you don’t want to be silently judged (at best) and ejected from the premises (at worst). Ooof.
Sake brewey. A major highlight. We were treated to a tour of Yamanashi Prefecture’s leading brewery by Ide-san, whose family has been brewing sake there for 21 generations! As well as sampling a few different varieties of crisp rice wine, we were shown further delights out the back of the brewery. Ide-san told us it was there that prime ministers past came to discuss important matters while being inspired by an immaculately designed and maintained zen garden and tea room, complete with crane-embossed canvas screens, highly-polished tatami table and ceremonial katana blade sitting proudly on display at the back. I was so struck by the place that had Ide-san asked me to move in there and then, I would not have hesitated in the slightest.
After one last glorious sunset over our man Fuji-san, it was back to the station where we boarded our Tokyo-bound bus. Arrived back fairly late last night – thank gawd for my cheeky day off today!
There’s a ton more I’d like to write about, but perhaps I’ll save my non-Fuji news for another update later on in the week… I’ll leave you with some more photos and a wee teaching anecdote, which illustrates the need to give unambiguous instructions:
Me (modelling a role-play on phobias): Chun, I need your help! I have a fear of water, what shall I do?
Chun: Hmm. Maybe you should try… drinking some?
Have a wonderful week everyone! Sending golden, sparkly, autumnal wishes out to you wherever you may be 🙂
Trina x x x x x