Sunday, June 21st, 2009.
Today, we decided to take it easy. Tourism can be very demanding, and in our excitement we probably pushed ourselves too hard the first several days. Hence the leg injury, right? :}
Even though it is a fasting day for us, I couldn't pass up another delicious breakfast at the Green Age Inn. I was sad to go and leave the bed and breakfast style location behind, but it was now raining heavily in Nikko, the first real rain we've seen since our arrival (lucky, since it's rainy season here), so even if we hadn't seen a ton of it already, touring it in the rain would be unpleasant.
So, after a relaxed breakfast, we caught the bus to the JR station and spent most of the day on the rail heading to Odawara. I don't think I mentioned it before, but riding the JR train makes me realize several things. The first is that cutesy music in Japanese video games and shows must be normal here; at every JR stop and some other stops, a tinkly tune that reminds me of a magical candy land plays. In America, it would be cheesy, but here it seems very common-place. The second is that men here have less to fear in the ways of possibly appearing homosexual. Whereas in America, girls would be the only people you would catch with a fan, I've mostly seen men carrying them here, fanning themselves when coming on the train from a humid stop. I've also noticed ever since we got on the airplane to come to Japan that the way that people dress in movies and in cartoons is not that far off from real life. In fact, I can hardly see a lapse at all most of the time. I am impressed that the information we have on Japanese culture seems to be so accurate. Then again, perhaps I would change my mind if I understood more.
Today was interesting, as if we leveled up. Gradually, I've been remembering more and more Japanese from our studies, and I think we'd have to be pretty ignorant to not pick up a few things, especially travel lingo. If buses weren't so noisy most of the time with other tourists, we could probably find our stops by ear now! Sugoi! Also, even though I've worried that the next inn in line would be disappointing compared to the ones before it, the Green Age Inn was definitely great!
And now, we've reached our next destination in Hakone! We are staying at the Ichinoyu Houkan, which is our very first ryokan! After accidentally getting off at the stop before it (some stops have similar names, add or remove a word), we passed some beautiful scenery and arrived at the hotel, which looked exactly like its picture. As I walked in, I admit I felt momentarily intimidated. This is clearly an upper-class location, and I have a feeling that we didn't look like the type of clientel they're used to getting, especially hauling our luggage in. We switched into slippers and locked up our shoes in wooden lockers, and were led to our amazing “room”. I say room in quotes because it's really several, incredible rooms!
First, you enter a hall where I've read you take off your slippers before entering the main room, which we did, locking the outside door behind us. The next room is empty with a tatami floor and sliding doors on all sides. One is a closet which has our traditional, real yukata (the last two inns had bathrobes like modern yukata, but weren't the real thing like here!), towels, and toothbrushes all on a tray. On the opposite wall is where the futons (not like American futons, which are crap; these are traditional, old-style futons which are for sleeping on the tatami on in the next room).
Finally, opening the sliding doors across from the hall that was left behind (which is sealed off by its own sliding doors), you enter a dining area. Strange, because there's a restaurant to eat at, until you realize they've set us up with a great variety of tea and a few sweets on the table, and traditional floor chairs. There will be pictures on Flickr, but once again I am without an internet connection to work with. :/ In fact, I'm going to have to unplug something in here just to be able to charge this poor thing! Anyway, the room is beautiful. When we sleep, we move the bed aside. It should be noted that there are no “regular” chairs in this room, just the ones on the floor with the low table. There is a TV, a safe, and a few other discreet odds and ends including a water heating thingy.
Then, another sliding door! This leads into a patio-like room with a window to our PRIVATE HOT SPRING BATH! :O SUGOI DESU!! There are wicker chairs here (the regular, American kind) and a small table so you could take your tea or whatever else you have and eat while gazing out to the pretty area. Even though it's an outdoor, private bath, you can see trees, a spring, etc. This is just like the onsen, but a hot spring instead. Additionally, there is a refrigerator in the room for storing food and drinks (the hotel has its own store of sweets and treats, so I'm sure this will come in useful. :)
The next room is the shower. There is no American-style bath as there has been in the last places we stayed, so it's purely for showering. Soap, shampoo, and conditioner are provided. It's a traditional, old-style Japanese shower, so there is a little wood thing to sit on and a bucket for pouring water over yourself. It's very pretty, and I can't WAIT to use it. Adjacent to it is the exit to the outdoor bath. In the opposite direction is a bathroom, not to be confused with the Japanese “furoba,” but specifically a tiny room with its own slippers for going pee. Heated toilet again. Sweet! It really does make a difference in comfort. :}
That's it! It's the biggest, coolest space we've had so far. I can't imagine feeling more spoiled than we do now.
Since we only have a few hours before dinner, we're going to go walk around the area and see what there is to see. :) Talk later! 3:38pm Japan Time.
6:36pm Japan Time
Terinati and I headed out and started walking, but then decided to hop on the bus and see where it takes us because Hakone is lacking in sidewalks. As we rode the bus, Terinati read in our tour guide and we realized the bus would take us to the Venetian Glass Museum, which I thought looked gorgeous and wanted to see. So, we rode the bus, heard the stop for it (which isn't the stop they tell you to use in the tour guide, but is right at it! We're proud of ourselves!), and it was worth the money to get in and see it all. Gorgeous, romantic . . . I highly recommend it to any couple looking for a romantic place and to girls seeking a princess-y destination. Trees that glimmer with glass willow leaves, a bridge shimmering with colors of the rainbow as the sun sets against it, and a lovely garden . . . But, there was more than that! The museum itself is a must-see, and were we not traveling so far, the souvenirs to be purchased would have been highly desirable. Even the foods looked really tasty, but are mostly things we can find in the states (though, these may have been better quality; not sure).
I hadn't realized that something missing from this trip thus far was me feeling feminine again. I really felt like a lady or a princess exploring a beautiful castle. There's also a restaurant there, but we did not partake.
There was quite a bit of traffic on the way back, which we suspect is because it is Sunday evening and most people are probably ending their trips in Hakone. I tried to access the internet by paying 100 yen for ten minutes of service, but the connection was very slow compared to connecting at Toyoko Asakusa Inn, I had to use their computer which forbade cookies (and, consequently, my ability to accept comments on my blog). I managed to briefly check my e-mail though, and more importantly, accept my classes! Yay! But, blogging will have to wait until we leave Hakone, it appears. :(
For now, I sit and type with a beautiful cup of tea (it is white with little pink flowers) and Terinati in view, enjoying the bath (he said it was extremely hot, so he had to use the focet for cold water to be able to even get into it). In a short while, we will go to dinner and then have a massage that we paid for in the room. I'm a little nervous (strange people touching my body in a foreign place! AHHH!), but it is our honeymoon and I'm looking forward to this. :)
P.S. - The machine next to the refrigerator looks like a dehumidifier for the bath. To anyone else who is staying here, don't be like Terinati and turn it off! :}
Talk later! 6:46pm Japan Time
Monday, June 22nd, 2009. 6:52pm Japan Time.
Well, the perfection couldn't continue forever yesterday. :} We went to dinner, and . . . well, it was kind of disgusting. Not in a, “Ew, how can you run an establishment like this?” sort of way, but in a, “I'm sorry, but no matter how open-minded I am . . . this tastes like crap.” Perhaps I was spoiled by the Green Age Inn, but the dinner was trouble in many ways. First, it was a fasting day, so I wasn't even hungry. I only went because it's included in our payment for this hotel, which I could tell was expensive. So, I wasn't in the mood for eating but was hoping to be pleasantly surprised as I was at the Green Age Inn. Second, the food needed instructions for us to know what it was and how to eat it. We've had sushi before, and other Japanese dishes, but these things were as foreign as you could get. I imagine that there are people in Japan who don't know how to eat this stuff because it came from so long ago. Third, as mentioned before, it didn't taste good and there were truck-loads of it. So, in addition to feeling guilty and ashamed for not knowing how to eat whatever it was, there was tons of it surrounding me and it was too disgusting to make it disappear. :/ Fourth and finally, you could serve yourself drinks (weird, because the place is so fancy that this part seems absolutely bizarre and non-sensical to me; if you're getting served food, you should get served your drinks as well), but you're only options is what they have available for you. If you bring in your own drink to enjoy, it costs $10 a drink! :O WHAT?!
So, I didn't enjoy it, and feeling embarrassed for not enjoying it (they worked so hard!) made me feel queasy. I thought that a dip in a private, awesome, outdoor onsen would make me feel better before getting the massages we reserved, however I was in for another surprise.
As I went in to the sink room and saw Terinati's towel from his earlier dip askew and lying in a fashion that would make it hard to dry, I adjusted it. I had just set down my yukata and towel in a little basket so that I could have them when I was done and was about to head in the shower. However, as I moved the towel a cockroach (no, not those little roaches like what I've seen all over Maryland, which are the length of a pinky tip; this was the REAL thing, nearly the size of a mouse) had climbed into the basket and was about to get into my clothes! AHHHHH!! =^><^= Like the girl that I am, I screamed. After all, my trusty Stardust wasn't here to eat it, and I rely on my cats for protection from icky things like this. Terinati was not helpful. “It's just a cockroach,” he said. “They don't bite.” :} Entirely not the point!
I escaped the sink room with my things unscathed, and Terinati chased it back to “its hole” and thoughts reeled through my head such as the notion that where there is one roach, there are bound to be more, and they make their home in the walls of buildings, so this thing could pop out anywhere there was a space just big enough for it to emerge . . . possibly even into the area where we would be sleeping on the floor. Thoroughly creeped out by the idea of thousands of roaches crawling over me as I slept and into my mouth (yes, I know it's ridiculous, but I have a very vivid imagination), I begged Terinati to let someone know the situation.
Poor Terinati. They don't call them roaches here, and we're not sure what the word is. In the end, after much gesturing and trying to explain, he brought the man to show him. The gross part? As soon as he pointed to the tiny sliver of a hole in the wall that it disappeared to, the guy knew exactly what he was talking about and came back with roach spray. :| He sprayed the area thoroughly for us and left the spray for us to use. That's not what bothers me; I'm bothered by the fact that he knew there were roaches.
I pondered this for a while. How does an establishment close down to deal with that sort of problem? Is it worth dealing with since the rooms are right next to the outdoors? Then again, aren't all houses next to the outdoors for lack of anywhere else to be? In the end, I got up the courage to shower and use the onsen, though I did it with quite paranoia and did not relax as much as I would have liked.
The night redeemed itself with the massages. OMG, they were the best thing EVAR! If you come to this hotel, you MUST get their massages. The price is absolutely worth it. I drooled, I fell asleep, and I felt AWESOME.
Anyway, after pondering it for a long time, I think between the not-tasty food (at least, in my opinion; someone else may enjoy it) and the roaches, I wouldn't want to come back here again. There are too many other ryokan and hotels in Hakone for me to believe that I couldn't do a little better. Still, the experience was exciting and enlightening. :) Now I know there are roaches in Japan! :}
Time for another dinner now, so I'll be writing about today after that in a separate blog. Ja mata!