Friday, February 4, 2011

Post Three: the first few days

The Takahashi House and my abode for the duration of my stay!

Several days in Japan have been most wonderful in terms of new experience and excellent company. My first morning I arose from dreams of jetlag and confusing time zones, dreams which consisted of Star Wars references and it somehow being 1pm already (it wasn’t yet of course). In these dreams I had missed the most important event (unknown) for which had been one of the primary reasons for my dream self having traveled to this country. Not to worry, they were merely dreams. I had slept well and felt ready to greet the day. Masa and I went for a walk around the neighborhood, I saw gardens, cemeteries, houses, a small shrine, two schools and the athletic fields nearby, as well as a friendly children’s rugby tournament and softball practice. The weather was clear and crisp but held up nicely for our morning walk and I was able to see the beautiful mountains in the background, behind which was mount Fuji itself rising a snowy peak in the sapphire sky. 

The next day Masa and I traveled by bus and then by rail to Kamakura to see the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine. It was an amazing piece of architecture located on the side of a hill that provided the beautiful backdrop against the red gold and brown structure. I was intrigued by the wishes written in Japanese and hung near the shrine—anonymous ones that people had left in hopes that they might be granted. One little boy wished to be the best at everything he did…a modest request to be sure. 

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu entrance (and Masa)

The Torii

Wash and cleanse before entering

a smaller shrine to the left up a hill from the main building

After seeing the shrine and sitting at the edge of a pond listening to preschoolers at recess and watching some older girls set up a surprise birthday we walked through a local footstreet filled with little shops selling clothes, food, and all manner of souvenirs. It was well past lunchtime at this point and Masa had decided that this would be a lunch of traditional Japanese food, I certainly did not object and happily looked at the pictures outside food places to see what was served there (pictures = the universal language). Eventually we wandered into a sushi place, one where each sushi option was made and placed on a conveyer belt, customers then could grab the dishes at a whim while each plate passed by our table. Items I tried included octopus, salmon, tuna, fish eggs, egg with seaweed, and some sort of silver skinned fish. All were quite tasty, though perhaps less so for the fish eggs. I would say that my favorite was the silverfish, but everything was delicious.

Finally, we returned to Atsugi in the late afternoon, we then went for a quick run in the cooling afternoon sunlight. What a place. Each house is similar in design but totally unique at the same time. The gardens are trimmed with orange trees and pink flowers, the narrow roads are shared by cyclists and cars that are taller than they are wide, I did notice that there were not many walkers, people choose instead to ride the busses or use wheeled forms of transportation; though on our run by the river and soccer/softball fields we did see a few people enjoying the last bits of daylight, all under the watchful eye of the mountains.

View from the train, Mt. Fuji in background
Day three we woke early. Masa had an upcoming tryout with a hockey team in Hachinohe, the far north of Japan, and we needed to catch a taxi, a train, and then two bullet trains. Our trip would last three days, two for travel (there and back) and one for the tryout. We traveled again by taxi to the station and then from there we took a few local trains to the Bullet train departure. All through this journey Masa continued to make sure we did indeed have our train tickets (bullet train tickets are expensive, thus one would not want to lose them). I finally mentioned that—the more times he checked to see if we still had these tickets…the more chances we had to lose one of them…to this I received the look that the comment deserved, and a laugh to go with it. Nevertheless, we made it to the train (tickets in hand). High speed rail is an excellent way to see a country I have to say. We quickly left the city areas as we traveled northward. We began seeing snow and even shot through a snowstorm as we whizzed through a mountain pass.


The tryout day (Wednesday) also began early, we needed to be at the rink by 8:30. I am perhaps biased and since my knowledge of hockey is limited I am not a good judge; but I would say that it went exceedingly well, and that Masa was (as always) darn good. I watched from a vantage point inside the (thankfully warm) viewing area as I listened to the exploits of one of my other favorite literary characters; Ms. Amelia Peabody. That night we went out with one of the English speaking hockey players for dinner and learned more about the social life in Hachinohe.

Hachinohe from the rink location
Our stay in the up-north of Japan was concluded by one more practice for Masa and a long mountain walk for me. I managed to find my way without difficulty as I wound around the mountain roads. It was quite peaceful, I think I only saw a few cars and one or two people in my excursion.


  1. I'm so glad that you are writing this blog! LOVE the photos. Best of luck to Masa.

  2. What a beautiful spot on this whirling world! Thanks for sharing the pictures and the adventure with us. --Kathleen