May 30, 2005

Just a quiet walk to the countryside

I'm getting the impression that Ibaraki-ken is the nice holiday destination of Japan, but is for japanese people, not those evil smelly gaijins. Its got beaches on the coast, and a few mile inland, some nicely forested mountains. And fairly warm compared to other parts of The Kanto region.

Anyway, for our first day in hitachi, we look at wonderful map, which has now been dubbed "the cartoon map", because its more of a not quite to scale sketched representation of the area with caricatures of local landmarks and "tourist destinations" scattered on it.

We (Well, Helen does) decide to walk to what appears a short hike into the mountains past several shrines and temples and statues. Luckily we sleep in (yes luckily...). So we decide to take a bus to the last temple, and walk back in the afternoon.

So we walk down to the train station/bus depot and I try very badly to communicate with the tourist office to determine which bus to catch. He says its a 40 minute bus ride to Higashi-Kawa-uchi, and then a 10 minute wlak to Tamadare shrine. I then ask him how far to walk back, and he burst out laughing and speaking rapidly in Japanese, but I guess the gist was "not on your nelly, that is quite a ridiculous idea".

So we decide to still catch the bus, which arrives in an hour. And then catch the bus back. We go find the beach (which we attempte dto find last night, but instead ended up having an evening tour of the streets around Hitachi's industrial plants). The beach is actually quite nice, despite a beachside highway under construction on its northern edge. There was also a nice coffee-place overlooking the ocean (that pretty much looked like a house, just with a lot of outdoor tables, apparently it does have an English menu according to the previous English Teachers, but didn't have it then).

Anyway, upon arriving back at the station, we waited for the bus while having a snack. Then got on the bus and were quite confused, because you enter the rear door without paying, and then exit the front door paying as you leave. And then, I checked with the driver that he was going to Higashi-Kawauchi, he said, no, he's going to Higashi-Ota. Crap.

After a bit of muddling about, and finally getting the tourist information guy back out, we work out that while Higashi-Ota and Higashi-Kawauchi are diffferent places, both are 'near' Tamadare shrine. This was a lot worse than it sounded. With the bus driver first telling us to wait for a later bus. Then not knowing where Tamadare shrine was (and also not helped by me pronouncing it Tamadari). And I also managed to kick my strawberry milk across trhe pavement under the bus. This is a great start to a journey.

We do eventually take the bus. And the bus driver is kind enough to point out where other interesting tourist places were, like Oiwa Shrine, the big worshipped tree, the slippery slide park, and leisure center. When we get to the final stop, a high girl on the bus is kind enough to offer a lift to the Shrine we wanted to see.

We have a semi-English conversation with her. Turns out she does English school with Nova. I was tempted to jokingly suggest maybe she should change to AEON, but I don't think that humour works with Japanese. She and her mum drop us off at the temple, and wish us a nice day. I give her a small furry koala toy (never know when they come in handy) and we say goodbye, and thank you very much. Helen and I then turn to the temple, and notice its seems rather small, rather empty, and decidely fenced of and closed for Sunday :( .

However the scenery in the mountains is utterly breathtaking, there are nice shrines by the roadside, a beautiful waterfall next to the shrines, a small river in the valley, and rice fields literally everywhere, and beautiful forest. Real forest with trees that have leaves, green leaves.

So we decide to go for a bit of hike along the hiking trail, and catch the bus closer to Hitachi. We find some sort of mountain path and decide to risk it. Helen then gets 'attacked' by a frog and screams "FUCK!" on the top of her lungs. Very hilarious, there was a man walking his dog further along the path. But I don't think he understood English. We ask him if this is the path we wnat, and he directs us back to the road. So we decide to stick to the road then, as apparently it is quicker.

One thing that does strike you walking along the highway in rural Jpan, that in stark contrast to the streets of the major cities, there is actually quite a lot of litter about the place. Namely PET botttles and empty coffee cans (coffe comes in cans like soda). Normally in you find that the countryside is clean, and the cities are disgusting. But Japan just has to be different.

When its starts to rain we decide we aren't going to make it to Oiwa so catch a bus back into Hitachi. That night we meet up with the two previous English tecahers for dinner at a nice Italian-inspired surf restaraunt called Windansea which has a selection of Japanese-Californian-Italian fusion fare. Apparently Ibaraki (and I think Chiba) is cool Japanese Surfing Territory. Though I think the surf may not even be as good as Yeppoon.

All in all a good exciting first day in a new city.

And all nice and sufficiently worn out to start work tomorrow.

PS - The hike was also rather bad idea, I had decided to wear shorts. It was very cold. And Japan does have snakes.



At Mon. May 30, 07:45:00 pm AEST, Anonymous john cowart said...

Thanks for introducing me to a different world. The koala toy gift is a really neat idea.

At Sun. Oct. 02, 12:04:00 pm AEST, Blogger jon said...

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At Sun. Oct. 02, 05:05:00 pm AEST, Blogger Steve Austin said...

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At Mon. Oct. 03, 02:01:00 am AEST, Blogger jobs123 said...

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