Archive for category Shizuoka
Today the Penpal had lunch plans with one of her friends and the freind’s daughter. Instead of tagging along, I decided to go off and have my own adventure.
It was a rainy day, but I stayed mostly dry thanks to some expert use of my umbrella. I’m only mentioning this because I live in Winnipeg where many people don’t own a single umbrella, and the usual response to rain is to stay inside or run while outside in hopes of not getting too wet. I felt a sense of accomplishment in being able to get to the station mostly dry in the rain.
I took a short ride to Numazu station, and walked towards the Bivi building on the north side. Bivi was built during my last year of teaching in Japan, and houses a movie theatre, internet / comic cafe, Game Center, and a bunch of restaurants. Many of the restaurants had changed since the last time I was in Numazu, but everything looked good. After making a quick loop around I was drawn in by the delicious smells coming from Ohsama No Curry.
A Canadian walks into an Indian restaurant in Japan sounds like the start to a bad joke, but it was actually the story of a good lunch. The lunch special had curry, a choice of nan bread or rice, salad, and a drink for just under 1000 yen. SOOOO GOOOD!
After lunch I made a visit to the Game Center and played whatever the newest version of Guitar Freaks is called before shooting some zombies and checking out the claw games. Most of the machines have cute anime characters as prizes, but one of them had something a bit different for “ladies day”.
I’m assuming by the picture in the background that these were actually hand massagers, which would be very useful after playing too many video games. It is possible that they may have some other uses as well.
No, I didn’t play this machine. If I want a “hand massager” I’ll buy it from a specialty shop instead of trying to win one in front of random strangers in a place frequented by teenagers.
I returned to Numazu station and took the Gotemba line towards Gotemba station at the foot of Mt. Fuji in the hopes of getting some pictures. Unfortunately the rain kept getting worse as the train climbed the mountain. By the time I reached Gotemba it was a total downpour. I managed to snap a few rainy pics from the station, but didn’t trust my prairie boy umbrella skills in rain that the Japanese people were avoiding.
My ride back down the mountain was delayed by 15 minutes due to weather. Delaying a train in Japan is NOT something taken lightly, so the weather must have been really bad. Instead of being lined up on the windy, rainy platform, everyone was politely lined up in the enclosed stairway leading to the platform. For the record, politely is the default way to line up anywhere in Japan.
I ended up getting home about the same time as The Penpal. We both went out for lunch, but had very different experiences. I may be biased, but I think mine was better. When you are on vacation, even a quick bite to eat and a train ride can be an adventure.
Japan is a fascinating country to visit, with simply too many things to see and do. Most people who come to Japan for a short period of time will see the most popular sites – the bustling urban jungle of Tokyo and the wonderful temples and shrines of Kyoto. While those are both well worth the visit they don’t accurately represent much of the rest of the country.
The drive along the Numazu coast towards Izu Mito Sea Paradise is a good example of something that exists for the people who live there, not for the benefit of visitors. Numazu is famous for it’s fishing industry. The narrow road along the coast is lined with marinas, fishing supply shops, and warehouses. Trucks speed by taking the day’s catch towards local markets or even to the big cities. Fishing boats are docked along the shoreline next to fishermen with dark tans who are casting into the nearby waters.
There are no skyscrapers. There are no salarymen. There are no temples. There are just hardworking people whose lives are based around the ocean.
As we drove back towards our house, my father in law pointed out some spots where he and his older brothers went fishing for their dinner in the hard years after World War II had ended. These were likely the same spots where people had been fishing for hundreds of years before.
I really enjoyed the drive today – it was cool to get a little taste of non-tourist Japan.
This morning we drove to Izu Mito Sea Paradise, an aquarium in the south part of Numazu on Uchiura Bay. The first time I ever went to Sea Paradise was in 2014 with The Penpal on my first ever trip to Numazu, and I have been to a few times since. Tiny Dog (TD) has never seen the ocean or been to an aquarium before, so we were excited to show him something fun and new.
When we arrived, I noticed artwork for some kind of animated idol pop group all over the building. Since I hadn’t seen this on my previous visits, I assumed (correctly) that “School Idol Project” is probably one of those things in Japan that is massively popular for a while but then disappears suddenly. We must still be in the massively popular stage.
Sea Paradise has an impressive collection of aquatic life from near and far. Usually I take the time to read all of the signs and learn a bit about the animals on display, but this time I had an excited 3 year old dragging me to see the next thing. “So cool” he assured me as he spent about 10 seconds looking at the octopus before moving on to the jellyfish.
After a whirlwind tour through the main building, we went outside to kill some time before the dolphin show. TD fed some fish and then got into the kids wading pool where children can walk in knee deep water with small fish swimming around while their parents alternate between taking pictures and hoping the kids don’t fall because they didn’t bring a change of clothes. TD loved the dolphin show; he was excited and clapping every time they jumped out of the water.
The real highlight for TD was not the fish, the amazing dolphin show, the wading pool, or even the idols plastered all over the place. It was the kids play area in the gift shop that featured a ball pit and indoor sandbox. We could have come to the play area without even buying a ticket!! He was having so much fun that we let him play for almost an hour while I shopped for souvenirs.
Sea Paradise is a great place to visit in the Numazu / Mishima / Izu area. It’s a lot of fun for kids of all ages, but I would recommend that if you’re traveling with small children that you avoid the gift shop until end unless you want to hear “ball pit! ball pit!” for the duration of your visit.
For fans of the animated group Aquors, there are a bunch of cardboard models in the gift shop. I didn’t know anything about the group before I arrived, but I knew that I had to do what any mature adult would do on vacation:
This morning I took my 3 year old son Tiny Dog (TD) out for an adventure by myself. Our destination was Rakujuen park in nearby Mishima.
Rakujuen is a large park in Mishima which was built in 1890 by Crown Prince Akihito. As you can imagine, the park is beautifully landscaped with impressive thick forests and a beautiful lake. More importantly for the under 5 year old demographic there is a petting zoo, miniature train, merry go round, and coin operated rides and games.
Remember all of those coin operated rides for young children that you used to be able to find in front of malls and supermarkets? Rakujuen is the place where classics go to retire alongside some high tech Pikachu games.
TD was totally overwhelmed with his options and didn’t know where to start. We rode the train and merry go round and rode a few of the coin operated rides before he found the most exciting game in the entire park: Pirate Blasta.
The object of Pirate Blasta is to aim a water cannon towards different pirate themed targets to make them move. Up to 4 people can play at the same time, and there are step stools provided for the young children.
To say that TD loved this game would be a complete understatement. He ended up playing it 5 times in a row before I got him to check out some other games with the promise of snacks. I even got him to go to the petting zoo for about 3 minutes, but not even the opportunity to pet some adorable guinea pigs could keep him from dragging me back to “water game”. I reminded myself that we were on vacation, and paid for a few more plays. Thankfully it started raining which I used as an excuse to head back to the station.
I’m sure that Crown Prince Akihito never intended for his park in Mishima to become home to a bunch of children’s games, but I’m hoping that he would be happy that it has become a fun place for families to visit and leave with slightly lighter wallets. Highly recommended if you have kids under 5.
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