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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Day Three, Ryokan

Done with Tokyo for a bit, we hopped a subway to a train to another train.

Sony P7

That took us into the Mt Fuji region. It's quite a different scene from the big-city chaos of Tokyo. The people lost that city vibe and the clothes toned down a bit. The buildings, while still small by American standards, got a little bigger, they spread out from each other and it started to look like rural anywhere - and mountains sprang up all around us - small ones, a few hundreds or maybe a couple-thousand feet for the big ones, but all with very steep sides. Rivers, rice fields and tea plantations lined the valleys. Very scenic.

Then, gradually, the sides of a gigantic mountain appeared in the haze. And then we arrived at our inn, in a tiny little resort town of Kawaguchiko, at the end of a lake, at the base of the northern side of Mt Fuji.

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

It's a little town that reminds me of Lake George, NY - there are tour boats, boat rentals, ice cream and souvenier shops, some touristy restaraunts, and nothing much else. End of March probably isn't high tourist season for that part of the country, so it was mostly empty.

Our inn was a traditional Japanese inn, called a "ryokan", with public baths, very sparse rooms, etc:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

The housekeeping staff would come and pull out the little futon-style matresses while you were at dinner. Nobody spoke any English. Our Japanese is limited to single words and a couple of complex phrases like "thank you very much" and "beer please". It was an adventure. The hot baths were great - public nudity! Same sex, though - so it was a bit like a gym, not like a scene out of Caligula. I'm pretty sure we got all the protocol wrong. Nobody yelled at us - and we wouldn't understand them even if they did. But, imagine taking a scalding hot bath in a giant hot tub with a view of Mt Fuji... ah.

Speaking of dinner:

Sony P7

Top-left to bottom-right: hot broth; beef and veggies on a little sterno-powered skillet; raw squid and veggies to cook in the hot broth (shabu-shabu!); a plate with dried fish (?) a snail, jello on a stick, some kind of root; a bowl of sashimi (raw fish); a cube of tofu; three pickled fish; sauce; pickled veggies; peach wine.

Except for the sashimi, this was nothing like the Japanese food we'd ever had in the States. We did our best, but left a lot of it merely tasted, if at all. Then they brought out a whole fish that had been filleted, then deep fried along with the fillets, presented with the fried fish carcass making a little bowl for the fillets to sit in. Luckily it was tasty. Then some soup...

Sony P7

That's a mushroom, a dumpling of some kind, a whole baby octopus and an okra.

The breakfast was more of the same thing.

It was still a good time. And, it was nice to see the countryside, and get a feel for what a traditional Japanese inn is like. And best of all, here's the view from our balcony:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

And in the morning:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Next day: Kyoto by bus, bus and bullet train.

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.