As I sit down to write this update, I am already sensing that the result will be a bit of a higgledy-piggledy amalgam. Life is certainly not quite one thing or another just now, what with waiting for term to start and not being able to travel far due to being ‘on call’. I’ve been doing some quality pootling, however, trying to make the very most of this down time before the hubbub of term time sets in. The self-administered French top-up is simmering away nicely, with my Japanese knowledge base growing steadily alongside. I was especially chuffed to unearth a French-Japanese vocab book at Koshigaya library the other day during a study date with Yasuko, which is serving my dual-language focus marvellously!
Other than forging ahead linguistically, this week I have been fortunate enough to discover the following:
- the best udon in town: Mayu and I slurped our way through two vats of chewy wheaty goodness at Tsurutontan last night, successfully overcoming my previous association of these super-sized noodles with worms. Thank god for that.
- the best inari in town: Yasuko led us to a superb lunch place in Koshigaya where the chef prepared me a delectable spread of mountain veggie ramen accompanied by two generously-sized inari (rice balls in sweet tofu jackets). He emerged mid-meal to check we were enjoying ourselves and, on hearing I was British, gasped with glee and launched into a feverish description of his life-long obsession with The Kinks. After presenting us with a stack of veggie tempura on the house, our chef friend returned to his kitchen, whence Waterloo Sunset rang out on a loop for the rest of the meal.
- that Shameless series 1, 2 AND 3 are on Netflix (Joe Rattue you are both a legend and a sod for getting me re-hooked!)
- that the good folk at my local Lawson 100 have reduced their apples to ¥49 EACH. What with around 80% of my monthly salary going on fresh produce due to Japan’s bizarre pricing system, trust me that this is a big deal.
- that there is a toilet in Shibuya that not only emits fake flushing sounds to disguise the inevitable tones of your no.1s and 2s, but goes a step further and has options to add a waterfall effect, birdsong and/or zen music over the top of your tinkling. How very thoughtful.
- wasabi ice cream: glad I tried it. Might not go back for seconds.
I’ve also had time for many pensive riverside walks here at Ichinowari to indulge in some quality boketto (a Japanese gem of a word meaning to gaze vacantly into the distance – SUBLIME). Plus a splendid little coastal jaunt to boot! So much for down time. Interludes of boketto aside, turns out I’m not particularly good at relaxing. Might try and work on that.
Izu. After navigating the bewildering labyrinth that is Tokyo Station on Friday morning, Amanda and I took our seats on a south-bound service to Ito on the Izu peninsula, a spa town and favoured getaway spot of overworked Tokyo-ites in need of respite. We were greeted by noticeably fresher air, the thrum of the capital replaced by the occasional lazy squawk of a seagull, the tallest features in view now palm trees instead of sky scrapers. All very pleasant indeed.
In an unusual departure from the majority of my travel experiences, our hostel turned out to be the town’s stand-out highlight. A gracious receptionist showed us around the immaculately-kept tatami (straw-floored) rooms and private onsen (thermal baths) of the traditional ryokan (guest-house – lots of Japanese vocab required for this description apparently!). Seriously, but for the dorm-style sleeping quarters and laughably low price, the place was quite unlike any other hostel I have parked up in, and feel it needs its own accommodation category really… the comparison with some of the hovels I have ended up in in the past had me chuckling I can tell you (*cough dog kennel cough*).
I spent a good portion of the first night slooshing about contentedly in steaming spa water, visualising the natural minerals nursing my skin, infusing my straw-like split ends with magical silkiness (never did go for that haircut). This was followed by a feast of bento in the living area of our glorious digs, during which I guzzled on a few sugary alco bevs and became quite expansive (and Amanda was subjected to her first Katrina Rant, which I must say she dealt with admirably if fuzzy memory serves). Rosy-cheeked, onsen-cleansed and frankly quite drunk, I shuffled off to my futon and was out for the count by midnight.
Mercifully sans hangover, the next morning we kicked off two days of hiking with an exploration of the Jogasaki coast, followed by Mt Omuro and Kawazu’s Seven Waterfalls; impressions of these stunning scapes are probably best relayed in photo form (see below). Am very much anticipating Heather Dyson’s “It’s quite like Scotland isn’t it” comment, which she manages to apply to most places I visit: Mum, on this occasion you’re not wrong! Said superb hikes were also fuelled by a few interesting gastronomic discoveries, including the aforementioned wasabi ice cream (just not sure spicy soft scoop is the way forward…) and wild boar soup (Amanda fielded that one, needless to say) for which the region is renowned. We returned to Tokyo on Sunday evening, suitably refreshed by Izu’s coastal air and rugged splendour, and deciding how best to go about getting a private onsen installed in our match-box apartments.
I’ll sign off here for now, dear reader – don’t want to saturate you. I know that life is busy and short and sweet posts are the order of the day! Plus I seem to have inadvertently gone to town on the Japanese vocab in this post, so will allow you some absorption time. Leaving you with hike photos, as well as a few snaps of the week’s wanderings, socialisings and gastro delights 😉
More love than ever my dears,
Trina x x x x x x x