Tag Archives: Izu Peninsula

Water Everywhere

Back in Japan, I met my sister-in-law’s folks at Omiya Station where they handed off my nine-year-old nephew.

Hiromi handed me an envelope “for emergencies.”  Did it contain cash?  One-way tickets back to Tokyo?   An inspirational saying?

At the last moment, Fred pulled out a route map and suggested we take a different route to Shimoda than the one Google recommended; the one that had made me cry in exasperation the night before.  I could almost hear my blood pressure spiking.  Getting lost on my own was stressful enough.  The prospect of getting lost with my nephew was unbearable.

Fred handed me a pack of postcard prints of his paintings, which I tucked into a backpack pocket along with the emergency envelope.

“Bye!” we all waved farewell. “Listen to Anne san!” Fred called after Charlie as we dove through the turnstiles and on toward the platforms.

“Are we gonna take grandpa’s way, or the way we talked about last night?” Charlie asked as he trudged along behind me with his roller bag and gigantic backpack.

“We’re gonna stick with the plan,” I replied.

And we did.  I had a moment of indecision in Yokohama but after a quick consultation with Charlie found the platform for the Super Okidoro train.  It’s not a shinkansen but it’s very nice, with windows that arched over our heads so we got panoramic views.

I was thrilled that Charlie appreciated the scenery.  “Look, Auntie Anne!  The ocean!” he exclaimed.  I had expected him to be jaded, now that he was almost 10.

In a couple hours we reached Shimoda, on the tip of the Izu peninsula.  This had not been mentioned in any tourist books or websites; I was only here because the in-laws recommended it.  From the station, we caught a local bus to our hotel.  It was a bit frantic because we had to have exact change and Charlie was slow getting his together.  Not for the first time, I checked myself from grabbing his money and saying, “Here, let me do it!”

As I wrote previously, our hotel room was a lovely traditional Japanese room.

And fantastic views.

As I’ve also whined about previously, it only had internet in the lobby and near the elevators.

This turned out to be okay because we might have otherwise spent a lot more time in the room, especially since it rained almost the whole time.

We wandered around the hotel to check out the features.  It appeared we were the only guests.

There were male and female onsens and a family one, also with beautiful views.

I would have loved to have partaken but I wasn’t going to leave my nephew alone in a male onsen, and I wasn’t going to bathe naked with my nephew in the family onsen.  It turned out that the hotel charged 2000 yen per person (about $18) to use them, so that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

There was an entire floor of weird Korean saunas.  These were large rooms with wall-to-wall layers of gravel on the floors and wooden benches lining the walls.  The lights were off so I couldn’t take a picture, and I can’t find any photos online so I wonder if I imagined them.

Back in the room, I felt the need for a hot shower.  I ran the water.  And ran it, and ran it … then went down to the lobby to say our room had no hot water.  They explained that it took at least 15 minutes for hot water to reach us on the second floor.

While I waited I puzzled over the crotch-level mirror.  My sister-in-law later enlightened me, “This is for when you are seated on the stool to wash yourself before you get into the tub.”

And the retractable cover over the tub?  That’s so you can keep the water warm for the next person.  It reminds me of the pioneer days in America when the whole family used the same bath water.  Ick.  But in Japan, no one gets into a tub until they’ve scrubbed and rinsed from head to toe.  The tub is not for cleaning, only relaxing.

I still want to go first.

Anne in Shimoda

From the serene mountaintop monastery, I took a bus, a cable car, seven trains, spent one night at a Air BnB cum flop house in the red light district of northern Tokyo, and took two more trains and a bus to a sleepy seaside city called Shimoda.   Funnily enough, I had a Czech great grandmother named Anna Shimota.

I’m here with my nephew, who has chosen the pseudonym Charlie for when I mention him in social media.  I won’t be sharing any photos of him, so here’s a mental picture: he’s nine, with those just-grown-in adult teeth.  He’s got brown plastic glasses held on with an elastic strap that runs around his head and makes his big brown eyes even bigger.  Neither fat nor skinny.  Top him off with a thick mop of brown hair.

Charlie is not allowed to watch TV, movies, or play online games at home.  He’s got permission to do some of that on this mini vacation with me, and he’s like a radar detector for all opportunities to do so.  Forbidden fruit, I guess.

Charlie is somewhere between a kid and a teenager.  There is a child’s yukata in the room, and I was sure he would eschew wearing it because it’s got bunnies on it.  But he put it on right away.

It’s been raining all day.  We ventured out and Charlie spent 20 minutes throwing rocks into the ocean while I huddled in a bus shelter nearby.

Right now I can just see the top of his head and one foot as he lies on his futon watching TV and cuddling the stuffed dolphin he bought with his own money at the Shimoda aquarium yesterday.  There is a pile of snack wrappers next to his futon.  It looks like his suitcase exploded, spewing clothes everywhere.  I made him green tea and he promptly spilled it all over his sheet.

“You’re like that character Pig Pen, in the Charlie Brown stories,” I commented.  He grinned.

I’m not used to a TV constantly blaring, so it’s taken me forever to write this post.  Since I know only three words of Japanese, all the yammering on TV sounds alike, with lots of people yelling excitedly about who-knows-what.  There is lots of “Hai! Hai, hai, hai,”—which literally means “Yes” but is the Japanese filler word, like English speakers say, uh-huh, and folks in the middle east say, yanni.

Right now there is something on TV featuring people who are very excited about cantaloupe.  They’re buying cartloads of it at the grocery, and families are sitting around their tables, each eating half a cantaloupe.  As with most shows here, there are small screens in the corners featuring people watching and nodding their heads …

Charlie flips the channel: a news show with Shinzo Abe and other pols, all wearing yellow feathers in their button holes.  Why?

Next channel: A home improvement show, with everyone wearing slippers.

Next channel: individuals demonstrating gift-wrapping techniques followed by a demonstration of how to fold an origami water beetle.

Charlie is not the only Internet addict.  When we walked into the room I was enchanted by the view, then dismayed to find there was no wifi except in the lobby, three floors below.  The old lady at the desk shrugged helplessly and gave me a weak smile.  I’m sure she wondered what the big deal was.  Why does everyone get so worked up about this newfangled technology thing that will probably turn out to be just a fad?

My laptop (but not my phone) can detect a couple of free open networks.  I’ve been able to connect once.  Now the siren call of the free public wifi is just grinding away; tantalizing me with hopes of seeing which friend of a friend’s birthday is today.

Once again, maybe I need to accept this as a non-voluntary but healthful digital detox.

We did go down to the lobby this morning to Skype with Charlie’s dad, mom, and little brother.  Immediately as we got connected and were smiling and waving, the old lady came from behind the reception desk and announced she was going to vacuum now (Charlie translated for me).  Sigh.