Tourists in the mist

Hoping to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji, we reserved the last seats available on the Shinkasen from Hiroshima to Hakone (in smoking) in anticipation of snapping our award winning World Press photographs. Sadly between the fag smoke on the inside and ground level mist on the outside we sped past for the second time arriving at Odawara photoless with heavy lungs and a smokers cough.

Never mind, I bouyed the team, we’ll get a great photo op tomorrow, high in the hills of Hakone. A toy train, a cable car, a gondola, a pirate ship across the lake, a bus ride, 34°, sixty million kids and chinese tourists, all in a misty rain so dense we had no hope of seeing our feet let alone Mt Fuji. 

We did happen upon one of those great serendipitous moments though when we jumped off the toy train at the Hakone Open Air Museum. It was a fantastic sprawling park with hundreds of outdoor sculptures from around the world – truly amazing! And of course we had the best photo op ever the next day at Odawara Castle – with the Princess, the Ninja and the Samurai – so all was not lost!

Peace and cranes

So we are on the bullet train to Hiroshima and an American guy asks if we can change some US dollars for Yen. Tony said no good to us mate, Sheryn dismissed him as bat shit crazy and I got chatting to him. He is on pilgramage to create and take 1000 origami cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Park to leave at the Childrens Peace Monument. He needed the yen to buy a bento box to make crane number 974. Newly blessed and with much new wealth coming from our Kyoto offerings, I donated to Crane 974 – click this 

Peace Park was very beautiful and very moving, refreshments were obviously required, so we frequented a little Italian cafe for mojitos on the parkside daily to reflect.

Our apartment was absolutely enormous, we just ran around like kids on arrival, it even had a traditional japanese dining room with tatami mats, cushions and rice paper doors.

Decided to throw in a trip at the last minute to Myajima Island, thinking it was just a couple of stops on the tram and would be nice and quiet….1 hour later we arrived at the ferry port, to find that the rest of Japan and their extended families were there to join us.

Kyoto revisited

Snuggly sardined into our new lodging in Kyoto we undoubtably have the world’s smallest bathroom. 1.2 metre squares includes bath sink and toilet – what it doesn’t include is leg room or head room. Even by japanese standards this is small! Still, the apartment is cute and we soon adjust to our little space. Albeit it is an open door policy with the bathroom…there was no room for the Saunders thighs in that space!

We buy good fortunes, Buddhist rosaries, tie up bad fortunes, buy incense, candles, and wooden prayer plaques. We pray, wash, clap and throw endless coins into wooden troughs (good luck, health and wealth does not come cheap in these parts), we feed deer, pat cats, and bow to foxes…finally over the course of 4 days we turn our lives and luck around – we are wealthy, healthy and wise and apparently I will be a better driver. 

It is a thirsty business bettering oneself, so one needs plenty of beer and whisky stops to reflect on ones new found fortunes – rooftop bars, back alley bars, basement bars and vending machines all go a long way in the rehydrating process.

Wrapped in plastic 

Blitzed the airport, the Narita Express and the Metro to arrive comfortably just outside of 8.00pm to a warm summer’s eve of 33°.  Three double beds for mama, papa and baby bear – and some serious apartment space by Tokyo standards (I booked ‘large’ anticipating Sheryn’s luggage, but was staggered to see only one bag thrown into the boot when we picked her up from home).
Desperate for a beer, we went to grab some from the vending machines that we knew and loved from the last trip – only to find that with the impending 2020 Olympics the Japanese government are cleaning up Tokyo…the bras, knickers, toys, food, booze and the thousands of other crazy items you could previously vend, have all gone! Only green tea, water and soft drinks remain. Our local Lawsons, Family Mart and 7 Eleven have a large amount of our yen instead. 

So Tokyo is being cleaned and renovated. This already immaculate city is getting an extreme makeover: train stations are being renovated; sculptures and fountains, scrubbed and cleaned; temples and tori gates wrapped in plastic and scaffolding; copper roofs are being polished. The only unkempt thing in the city is the inside of Sheryn’s suitcase.

So after lots of laughs, a few fails, much scaffolding, much plastic, many trains, a boat trip, surviving the metro at peak hour with luggage and many hours of dehydrating with cold beers watching people – we are now sitting on the bullet train heading south to Kyoto.