Since I started letting my plans about this trip, people have been calling it a vacation. It never felt like that to me. I guess it’s one of those call-it-what-you-want things, but to me vacation has always signified frivolity on some level. I felt like I had some higher purpose to what I was doing. If I wanted a vacation I would have gone to Florida to lay on the beach. I wanted an experience. I wanted to meet myself.
It’s still early to do too much introspection in that regard. But Nozawaonsen is a good place for it. It’s a peaceful ghost town, a snow town but all the snow gone and just me here. I’m like a stray cat blown in from the mountains. The streets are empty but water flows through them. I slink between streams silently.
I found a shop today, searching desperately for any kind of food. I was looking for a grocery store, but I found the shop. An old man and woman were sitting inside. They welcomed me and had me way with them. It was unexpected. I picked through bamboo shoots and other vegetables, asking for their names. One strange pickled stalk was nozawana, “from Nozawa”. They called the mushrooms kinnoko, “children of the trees”. We wove wicker rings and they put them in a bag and gave them to me.
Here there are flowers everywhere. I’ve taken pictures of the prettiest ones. So many of them are unrecognizable. The frogs sing at night and the carved faces of strange gods stare from doorways. The mountains loom green and remind me of home. I feel like I can relax. Nothing to see or do. Just trees and flowers and water and sunshine. I go to the hot springs tomorrow. I probably could have gone today but I wasn’t ready.
So I guess it is a sort of vacation after all.
This may be the last time I have wifi but I will try to keep you updated. After this, if you care to follow on a map, I will be staying at a ryokan for one day. Then I will be in Shizuoka for one night. After that I will be with Miho in the Kansai area before we set off on a brief road trip south.
Well by the time this is posted it will probably be the end of my stay in Tokyo. I can’t say I will be disappointed, not that I haven’t seen some amazing things here. I will be posting pictures whenever I finally get Internet on my phone. Right now I’m using my limited store of purchased megabytes to bring you an update.
I’ve never been one for big cities as you may be aware, fair reader, but I greatly love two things about them: museums and food. I freaking love museums. And food. The latter of these loves, at least, I was prepared to let go of. Everything I’d heard talked about the food desert that is Japan as experienced by vegetarians. It’s like starving and staring at a set of plastic fruit. Really realistic plastic fruit. You know better but every time you pick a piece up you expect it to be real. Then you bite into it and promptly spit said bite into the sink.
Still, despite being prepared for my inevitable malnourishment, I was not prepared to lose my enjoyment of museums.
Perhaps that is too blanket of a statement. I still enjoy the museums somewhat. The Tokyo National Museum was great. It was also primarily artwork. I could appreciate things without know who the artist was and that was pretty cool. It’s definitely on my list of must-sees (a more comprehensive one to be posted end of trip). But yesterday Victoria and I went to the Nature and Science Museum and, while some exhibits were pretty English friendly, a great portion of them had no English whatsoever. I spent most of the time staring at taxedermied birds and kanji. Not even the name was reliably shown in English.
The exception to the rule here is the Tokyo-Edo Museum. They have made a pretty uniform attempt to show their exhibits in English as well. I still feel like I’m missing things, but it’s evident that the curators are far more interested in catering to foreigners.
I know that I am in Japan and should expect things in Japanese. Believe me, I’d normally be okay with Japanese everywhere. I just find myself frustrated, knowing that this knowledge is all around me and completely inaccessible. Whether in bookstores or in exhibits or restaurants, I miss home.
A more positive post to follow, lovelies. I have good news. (^_^)
It’s official. I am the queen of the cat nap.
I woke up yesterday about noon on the east coast of the USA. My boy and I sort of napped and puttered about until around seven or so. There was much cuddling and discussion of a potential three-way marriage to the Dalai Lama. It was a lovely day outside. We went to our favorite grilled cheese place and a movie he didn’t particularly want to see. Then we cuddled and napped some more.
At 2 pm we set out.
I will spare you the mushy details but suffice to say I boarded this plane a little teary eyed. I am now hovering over the Rocky’s preparing to descend to LAX. I’ll be posting this when I once more have reception and my ears function again. In the meantime here’s a picture.
After this it’s a four hour layover and then an eleven hour flight to Narita. Wish me luck!
On Friday I made my last major pre-trip purchase. My JR Railpass cost me 718 dollars, but by all accounts it’s worth it. As long as I travel on JR lines, I will be able to go anywhere in Japan. I have unlimited train access for the entire 21 days I will be on Japanese soil. Exciting, yes?
In other news, I bought a rain cover for my pack this weekend but I unfortunately was too hasty and bought the wrong size. I can take it back of course but I’m a little bummed about it. Not that I mind going downtown again. Here are some pictures from yesterday!
I bought some gorgeous irises for three bucks and wandered around taking pictures. It was a gorgeous day before it started raining. This is the camera on my iPhone and I was testing it out. Good, yes?
Alright, time to go be productive!
It is not a town by the sea,
but, like all towns, it has
one in it. A quiet sussuration
of wishes that ebbs and flows
like the tides. A city really,
with spreading lights that extend
for miles. A cold wind blows if you
are uncareful, cascaded across the waves
to catch your hair, and so severe
it may startle you, for this city is warm.
It is warm the way the Atlantic is warm
which is not too far from here,
only a few hours, and salty with
the earth and the gulls hang thick
in the air and sing their gull songs.
It is green like the water and flat like the beach
until you reach the waves of mountains
rising up and up, unstoppable. What
I am saying is, this city, so full of breathing
minds, holds a thousand worlds, like a tidepool
or a deep, but I have found myself dreaming…
On Friday I made my way to the lovely streets of downtown, where my friend Diana was holding my pack at her work. It is an Osprey women’s pack, Ariel 65, and usually runs about $270 or so. I got it for $150, because Diana’s store was running a sale.
65 indicates that this particular pack will hold 65 liters of stuff, i.e., 65 liters of my life which I may wander about Japan with. It’s not the biggest possible pack, but I’m not the biggest possible girl and don’t really foresee needed to live out of it quite as thoroughly as if I were on a true backpacking expedition. Still, I must admit I’m panicking. True honest panic. My boyfriend-of-awesome-outdoorsy-skills promises that we will go on an overnight sometime within the next couple of weekends to help alleviate some of my distress and teach me how to pack the damn thing, which is apparently an art. It is sitting in my hallway and I haven’t touched it.
It doesn’t help that I’ve been totally unproductive, minus my pack acquisition, for several days. My apartment may have possibly gotten less clean this week? The boyfriend is out of town tonight for a Chili Peppers concert in Greensboro, so I am hoping to use this as an opportunity to fix that by cleaning! Soon, my apartment will be appropriate to receive visitors, and one less stressor will weigh upon me.
Oh, also, this week is the week I talk to my boss.