Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 4 - Nikko

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Friday, June 19th, 2009.

This morning, Terinati and I woke up later than usual. It didn't seem like a big deal until I asked, “Hey, how and where do we need to be to get to Nikko today?” Soon after, we discovered that we had less than an hour to pack up and leave to get to our train! Yikes!

I didn't have time for a final shower, so I just did my hair and washed up and packed our things. It was a little sad to me to say good-bye to our very first hotel in Japan. As I slipped off the slippers and put on my sandals and went to take the key and its stick out of the wall slot, I bowed and wished the room good-bye. I'm pretty sure we had the best room at Toyoko Asakusa Inn, and will miss it there. We made it to the station (with some friendly Japanese help!) just in time to catch the train prior to its departure. On the way, I read about Nikko, because I had trouble finding information about it online previously.

Once on the train, we worried about what to do with our luggage. I determined that since there are luggage services to send your luggage ahead of time, surely the inns would be able to hold the luggage for us while we toured around until it was check-in time. I was fortunate enough to be correct! Huzzah! So, screw paying approximately $20 to ship luggage ahead of us. It proved to be unnecessary.

Nikko was described as a place with temples so gaudy that it would cause artistic stomachache. Apparently, I have a stomach of steel because it seems beautiful here to me! Trees everywhere, it is very different than Tokyo. Tokyo wasn't like New York or Los Angeles or anything, but it did have a sort of city feel. Although I feel like I had gotten into the rhythm of Tokyo very well, it is refreshing to feel like the area is less busy around us. When we return to America, it's probably going to be like information overload for a while. :/

While we were waiting for check-in time at 3pm, we managed to use up four hours touring all of the temples and shrines in the surrounding area. They were beautiful, and I picked up a Nemuri Neko (sleeping cat) charm in the process. Unfortunately, my knee is still giving me trouble, so the going was slow and rough. We're stretching more and trying to take things easy so that we don't cause more damage. It is improved from yesterday, so there is hope!

We have checked in to our inn, the Green Age Inn, and it does not appear to have internet of any kind. The entire place is pretty rustic, so this blog will have to be posted the next time I have access to the internet. That's somewhat scary because I need to get online at some point to accept my courses that I'm taking when I get back. EEK. :} Perhaps I will find internet in a cafe somewhere or something. I want to go on a hunt for apples since we haven't had much by way of fruit since we got here and I think both of our stomachs are starting to notice. There's food everywhere, but I haven't seen a grocery store once yet! Perhaps I am looking for the wrong thing.

Anyway, since I didn't get to shower yet and we want to use the Onsen downstairs later, I'm going to clean up (I know you can do it in the showers before the bath itself, but my hair... well, it's a lot of trouble if not properly maintained and put up, so I'd like to wash it up here first), and Terinati will either continue his nap on his new bed or perhaps he will go out apple hunting for me. :}

A note on the room we have: it's big, getting close to the regular size of an American hotel room, but still closer quarters than normal (the furniture is closer together with small pathways). Even though this hotel has an English feel to it (Terinati and I both think it's princess-y with it's flower patterns and chandelier right in the little dining area of the room), there are still slippers and the little step up to the bathroom where you take off the slippers again. I'm very much used to these customs after only a few days and know it's going to feel strange to not have to follow them when we return home.

I also miss our cats. :( I want to hug them both, but especially Stardust. I don't feel homesick, but I miss them and our other loved ones very much.

More to come later! 4:12pm Japan Time!

Saturday, June 20th, 2009.

The afternoon yesterday was pretty delightful! On our way back to the hotel from visiting the temples, we saw a bus full of school children. Several of the boys shouted hello to us in English as we passed by and waved, and we smiled and waved back, saying, “Hello!”

Terinati went in search of fruit while I took my shower. The sink and shower use the same pipe, so there's a little knob to switch the valves. There were two bottles of “Refresht” products, and after I was in the shower I figured out that the Engrish on the side indicated that one was a body wash and the other was a shampoo/conditioner combo. As in Toyoko Asakusa Inn, we were provided with toothbrushes and toothpaste to use in the bathroom, along with a shower cap which I may need to use in the Onsen.

Dinner was the next event, and it was fantastic. At first, I wasn't sure about the Green Age Inn when I saw it. The building is a little run down, and even though the bedroom makes me feel like a princess, it also comes along with the creepy feeling I have in any place that is clearly old and not necessarily as well kept up as a modern hotel. This is a kind of atmosphere I generally enjoy because it instills visions of adventure and romantic fantasy, but the bathroom water pressure and fixtures left something to be desired, so it needed a little bit more to make it worth being here versus somewhere else in Nikko. Dinner went above and beyond what was needed. Screw fancy hotels and their perfect features when you have the hostess serving you dinner at a fancy dining room.

As a preface, Terinati and I generally came to Japan with the notion of wanting to try as much authentic local food as possible. However, an English meal at the Green Age Inn is a must. When you sit down, you have the most proper table settings with gorgeous plates with etched rims and real silver silverware. And no, not just the spoon, fork, and knife, but the whole shabang as they say. There were more forks and knives than I could name, and a wine list if you choose to pay extra for the extravagance. Considering that the dinner is included with the stay, it blew my mind that we were served so many courses. I honestly lost count. We had tea, water, freshly made bread, fish, squash soup, orange duck (I think; it was some kind of poultry), salad, and some other thing that I know came from the sea but am not sure what it was. I was so full, but then there was a dessert of flan and frozen yogurt as well! Even though it was a fasting day, I was glad that I had not missed that.

During dinner, we discovered there was only one other guest at the hotel. It was creepy knowing we had so much space to ourselves. After dinner, Terinati and I decided to use the private Onsen which is also included with the hotel stay. Fancy, ne?! For those who don't know, Onsen is a bath that is part of a Japanese bathing ritual. In this Onsen, you enter a room and lock the door. In this room is only a mirror and a sink, and then baskets on the opposite wall. We assumed that you use the baskets to put your clothes in. Leaving all clothing behind here, you go into the next room which includes the Onsen bath, a separate entrance into a restroom if you need it, and two showers on the ground. The Onsen is always full of steamy, hot water in a large, wooden bath, so the next part is important. Everyone who comes in must wash themselves thoroughly in the shower. After that, you can enter the Onsen and relax. It was fantastic, and I could tell that it helped my knee. It was so refreshing, and I'm glad that we tried it. This Onsen is cool because it locks, so it's not like public Onsen, which we haven't tried yet. I'm shy! * hides *

After that, we went to bed, and I had the best sleep I've had for a long time with romantic dreams.

More to come in another blog!

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