Archive for category Shizuoka
My parents, The Penpal, and her parents spent the night at the beautiful Hanabusa ryokan in Izu Nagaoka. Izu is filled with ryokans, but one of the reasons we chose Hanabusa over the others was that they offer pottery classes. After a delicious breakfast we went to the pottery classroom to learn from the resident pottery master.
There is a long history of pottery in Japan. I had been to a pottery class with The Penpal a few years ago with a sad looking teacup to show for it. I was looking forward to getting a second chance to test my skills as a potter.
The pottery area was in a large room with long tables surrounded by shelves with cups, plates, and vases in various states of completion. Our families were the only ones in the pottery room, so we got the full attention of the master, who was a friendly, energetic older gentleman. The Penpal translated as he guided us through pounding, rolling, spinning, and shaping our cups.
Thanks to the expert instruction and hands on assistance, we all did reasonably well. My mom’s cup actually turned out fantastic, and mine was far less terrible than my attempt two years earlier. We all finished our cups, and the master promised to glaze and fire them, then ship them to The Penpal’s house.
My parents absolutely loved their time at Hanabusa! It was a far different experience than simply staying at a hotel somewhere. Getting to stay at the ryokan with The Penpal and her family made everything even better; they were just as excited to share their culture with us as we were to learn about it.
After checking out, we drove around Izu in the rain before returning to Numazu. The Penpal’s family dropped us off at the hotel for the last time, where we learned that my parents had been given a free upgrade to a suite as a thank you for spending so many nights at the hotel.
If you need a hotel in Numazu, stay at Hotel Miwa located conveniently close to the north side of Numazu station! It’s convenient, reasonably priced, and the service is fantastic!
We said goodbye to the Penpal’s family, and my parents started getting themselves ready to return to Canada. I can’t believe their visit is almost over!
Today was the start of two days of family togetherness in Izu. The Penpal and her family were taking my parents and I to a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Izu Peninsula.
I met my family at the hotel, and we were picked up in our two car convoy by The Penpal’s parents. Once again the men were in my future father in-law’s car with me translating, and the women were in The Penpal’s car with her translating. Their car was smaller but had a much better translator.
We hit a few sightseeing spots in Izu to show off the beauty of the mountainous peninsula before heading to our destination – Yado Ryokan Hanabusa in Izu Nagaoka. The “yado” is for pottery – one of the features of our inn was traditional pottery lessons; we’re doing that tomorrow.
The landscaping around Hanabusa was beautiful, with cherry blossoms, rocks, and those beautifully crooked old trees that seem to be everywhere in Japan.
Each family got their own room complete with sliding wooden doors, tatami floors, low tables and cushions, and a fantastic view of mountains and trees out the window. My parents enjoyed the traditional decor, but were also happy that the room came with a modern, non-threatening bathroom.
After unloading our luggage, we went to the dining room for one of the most amazing dining experiences of my life. The food was kaiseki ryori, which involved a lot of fancy, small dishes that looked more like art than food. We weren’t really sure what we were eating most of the time, but everything was delicious. My mom specifically asked about a soup containing tender, flavourful white fish. The Penpal informed her that she was enjoying fugu, the poisonous blowfish that was made famous by Homer Simpson.
The only food that wasn’t to everyone’s liking was uni, raw sea urchin. Uni is one of those foods that people either love or hate, with no middle ground. My dad bravely took half of a bite into the meat that had the same colour and texture as something you might cough up when you have a bad cold, said “no way”, and offered the rest to me. I ate it, and then got to eat almost everyone else’s uni as well, which was fine by me.
Other than the uni, everybody loved all the food they ate. We moved from the dining room to the lobby to chat for a bit. There was a piano in the lobby, so we all convinced The Penpal to play a song for us. She played Moonlight Sonata beautifully which attracted a small crowd of other guests. After a few songs she tried to leave the piano, but the guests and hotel staff wouldn’t let her until she had played some more. Yes, my future wife is awesome!
We could have ended the day at this point and considered it a success, but we still hadn’t tried Hanabusa’s onsen yet. My dad didn’t yet understand what I was getting him into…
After doing some shopping and wandering in Numazu in the morning, my parents and I were trying to decide what to do in the afternoon. On my parents first trip to Japan, my mom frequently complained that she had never gotten a chance to see Mt. Fuji. This trip she had much better luck, with almost daily views of the famous mountain from Numazu and Mishima. Since she was still excited about Japan’s most famous landmark, I decided to take my parents to the Gotemba Premium Outlet.
We took Gotemba line from Numazu station, which is one of the most scenic train rides I have been on in Japan. The train goes through smaller towns, mountains, valleys, Gotemba station, and eventually connects to Kozu where you can switch to the Tokaido main line. If you are trying to get from Shizuoka to Tokyo and have some extra time, take the detour on Gotemba line and have your camera ready!
I had been to the outlet before, but usually as a part of a trip to the nearby all you can eat restaurant. The stores at the outlet are interesting, but for me the highlight is the sunning view of Mt. Fuji.
We finished our day by stuffing ourselves silly at Gotemba Kogen Beer’s infamous all you can eat, all you can drink buffet. If you leave hungry and sober, you really did something wrong. It was a good way to end another fun day of my parents’ visit, and another day that made me forget that I would eventually have to go back to work in the near future.
My parents and I spent the better part of the day with The Penpal and her family. They dropped us off at Numazu station after our visit to Mishima Taisha so we could spend the evening together.
Today’s sightseeing included a lot of walking around (again), so my parents were looking for a relaxing evening activity. I suggested a movie, so we took a short walk over to Joyland (best name ever) to see what was playing. Fortunately for us, Japanese people prefer subtitles to dubbing for foreign movies. This makes it possible to enjoy Hollywood movies. We ended up choosing the Chronicles of Narnia, which was pretty good.
After the movie I was starving, but my parents still weren’t hungry after our ginormous lunches. Suddenly I had a good idea: beer! I took my parents to Uotami, the classy izakaya located conveniently across from the south side of Numazu station. Like most izakayas, there was a good selection of small orders of food in addition to delicious beer.
I was describing how Uotami was known as the classy izakaya among English teachers because of it’s sunken tables and glass floored entrance way built over a small zen rock garden. As we approached the entrance, we saw a very drunk man trying to help up a very drunk woman who had fallen over right outside the front door. Having been in Japan for a while, this was not as surprising to me as it was to my parents. My mom started to get concerned about what kind of place I was taking her to. I reassured her and asked her to trust me, hoping that the very drunk couple didn’t have a group of very drunk friends stumbling their way out as we went in.
We were taken to a table incident free. The tables at Uotami are all separated by tall wooden slats, which gives a bit of a privacy while still allowing you to feel like you’re in an izakaya. The huge, colourful menu was filled with pictures of food and drinks, complete with English descriptions. Even if I wasn’t there, my parents would have been able to order by pointing at the pictures. Uotami has a really good selection of food, beyond the standard “meat on a stick”, and a nearly endless cocktail menu. My mom ordered a cocktail and my dad and I ordered large bottles of beer so we could drink Japanese style from small glasses.
An izakaya visit turned out to be just what everyone needed. We enjoyed spending time together and trying a bunch of different items from the food menu. The non-stop sightseeing was great, but tonight was probably my favourite night of my parents’ visit so far.
Disclaimer: UPS is the nickname of one of my friends visiting Japan. This post has nothing to do with United Parcel Service.
After lunch we went to Mishima, which despite being a small town does have a few interesting places to show off to tourists. As we were walking away from the train station we passed a cigarette vending machine. UPS was surprised to see that smokes only cost about 300 yen per pack, which is around $3 CAD. In Canada the government taxes cigarettes heavily, and the average pack is about $10. UPS told me that on his 4 month long trip of Japan, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos that he had a few goals. One of the goals was to pick up a bad habit and quit before going back to Canada. With that in mind, he fed 300 yen into the vending machine and bought his first pack of cigarettes.
UPS was very proud of himself, until we realized that neither one of us had anything to light the cigarettes with. We walked into a nearby convenience store (which itself sold cigarettes), and bought a lighter. When we got out, UPS lit up his first of likely many cigarettes on his Asian vacation.
We continued on down the street and explored the nearby Rakujuen park and a few of the small stores in the area. UPS happily puffed away through most of our walk, happily adjusting to his new addiction.
Today was my second time working in Fujinomiya. You can read more about the first time here.
The Nova branch is in the middle of a mall. It serves both as an English school, and cheap babysitting so you can get your shopping done uninterrupted. Instead of telling you about my day, I present some haiku inspired by the Fujinomiya teaching experience.
Foreign teachers watch your kids
You can shop in peace
You can sing the alphabet
20 times a shift
Long train ride from Numazu
But the food court’s great
The front of the branch is
Open so everyone can
See how bad you teach
What am i doing
This isn’t my usual
School – no more shift swaps
Today I got to work an early shift at Fujinomiya school.
Fujinomiya is a “small” city of 131,000 just north of Fuji city. Despite having the population to make it a city in Canada, it has a small town feel in Japan. The NOVA branch is located in the Jusco department store, which is the central shopping mall for the city. There are a huge number of kids classes at Fujinomiya NOVA, likely because they provide 40 minutes of child free shopping time for parents.
It’s always nice to interact with some different students. In addition to meeting some different people, it allows me to recycle some of my lesson openers and voice class topics, which makes for an easier day.
Early shift is great because I have my entire evening available, as opposed to my usual shift which ends at 9:00pm. The only downside to an early shift is working one right after a late shift. Otherwise, early shift rules!