Tuesday, August 7
Obon (summer vacation) rolled into Tuesday. I woke up bright and early and took a train out of town. Plan: hiking.
Tuesday would be my first ever solo hike.
I had my phone, water, a bag, a map, and a plan. I took a train down the line and hopped a bus north into the mountains. I started the trail at 9 AM alone and confident. I finished 20 km (12.5 mi) south seven hours later. I was a machine.
During my hike I contended with deer, rain, and leeches. Yes, actual land leeches.
I documented my entire experience in the video below. And remember you can always find the link under the “Media” tab.
Thursday, August 9
Summer vacation demands some time at the beach. On Thursday I went with the boys down to Enoshima beach. Sugar, Ryota, Trevor and Trevor’s brother from out of town. We set up shop near the shore and alternated between swimming, sumo in the sand, and a lot of beer. We stayed until the sun went down and we somehow found our way back to the station.
It was a successful day and I had a successful tan to prove it.
Saturday, August 11
Saturday morning I awoke far from home, in the Izu peninsula. Mari and I ate breakfast in our lovely Japanese B&B (民宿). This weekend was the overlapping period for our staggered holidays. We had decided to move south for a vacation and visit some beaches. Izu is very popular with Tokyoites. It offers beautiful beaches and is little more than three hours from central Tokyo.
Bags packed we hit the door early. And it was raining. I enjoy rain but not on summer vacation. We decided to skip the nearest beach and we caught a train further south. We arrived at the terminal in the town of Shimoda (下田). Shimoda is famous around the world for the arrival of Commodore Perry and his Black Ships. This was the US expedition that opened Japan after 200 years of isolation.
We did some sightseeing in the late morning and thankfully the weather cleared up. To the beach!
We visited Shirahama (白浜). This beach had the whitest sand and clearest water I’ve ever seen. Mind you I’m only familiar with ponds in Nebraska and the Gulf of Mexico. That said it was still a sight to behold. We staked out some territory near the lifeguard tower and slathered on our sunscreen.
To the water!
The water was chilly but welcoming from the now sunny skies. We splashed around in the water and took a walk along the shore. Feeling adventurous we returned to the water. The waves were big. Easily 2.5 m (8 ft) they were the biggest waves I’d ever seen. We bobbed in the water the best we could and had a good time. Until the big one. Due to the undertow we had been pulled out right to where the waves broke. Mari sat in a floatie and I treaded water next to her.
A massive wave came rushing at us. I realized it was going to break on our heads. I took a deep breath and went under to swim under the wave. I tried. The wave was too big and it pulled me along with. I was dragged along the bottom for several seconds before being able to stand up.
I stood up and spat sea water from my mouth.
“Whoa yeah, that was awesome! And I’ve still got my sunglasses too! Mari, check it out! Look at my shades! Mari?”
I saw her bent over coughing up sea water. I ran to her. Checked on her. She was in bad shape. The next wave was coming at us fast. I slung the floatie over my shoulder and threw my arm around her waist.
We returned to the shore safe from the waves. I turned her towards me. Her eyes were red. Her skin white. Hair messy.
“大丈夫ですか。 (Are you okay?)”
“Good. Let’s go sit down.”
We returned to our camp. I dried her face and gave her water. She recounted her story. After I had swum under the wave crashed right on top of her. She was beaten by the weight of the water and dragged through the sand. It was her first time in a wave. Now she was in shock.
As time passed her senses returned. So too did the rain. We packed up and caught a bus back to the station. The rest of the evening passed in a blur. A cafe. Another bus. Another B&B, dinner.
Before long it was nine o’clock. We had taken a bath and were relaxing in our tatami room with the air con blowing. The Olympics played on the TV. We rolled out our futons and drifted to sleep.
Sunday, August 12
We were up early and ate a fabulous traditional Japanese breakfast in our room. We paid the bill and caught a bus out of town. We rode to the southernmost tip of Izu. We locked up our bags and bought a boat ticket.
Hirizohama (ヒリゾ浜) is a very famous place for snorkeling. It’s a small island just off of mainland Japan. It was my first time snorkeling and I was not disappointed. I spent the first ten minutes learning the basics. How to swim slowly, keep a tight seal with my mouth, and stay submerged for a long time.
The next two hours was incredible. I saw hundreds and hundreds of fish. Sea snakes. Submerged boulders, beautiful sea flowers. The whole area was the size of football field and provided lots of rocks to stand on so you could catch your breath. Perfect for a beginner.
We caught another bus and spent the afternoon at a second beach, Yumigahama (弓ケ浜). In Japanese this means “bow-shaped beach.” I thought all beaches were bow shaped? 😛
We swam about in the water. It wasn’t as clean as Saturday’s water but the waves were much gentler. As the sun set we packed it in and went back to the station.
Near the station the traffic came to a halt. The Emperor of Japan (天皇) was coming to town. When Mari and I visited Kyoto (京都) the Emperor was also in town. We’re being stalked by royalty! The bus stopped moving so we got out and walked the rest of the distance to the station. The summer sun set slowly behind the mountains. Perfect.
We took trains home and said goodbye at the station. It had been a short weekend. But another successful vacation with my girlfriend.
Tuesday, August 14
Emma came back to town.
I met with Emma, her boyfriend, Daniel, and Moto in Yokohama. The drinking began immediately.
Karaoke: 1 hour & 1 beer.
Rooftop beer garden: 6 hours & countless beers.
Karaoke: 5 hours, 2 beers and 3 hours sleeping.
It’s always a treat to see my old friend, Emma. We had a good time catching up and talking about the old days. Our partying carried into the night and we missed last train. So went rented a karaoke room. Despite my best attempts to sing all night I fell asleep to Daniel serenading me with Cher’s “Believe.”
I’m not sure when I’ll see my Kiwi friends again. But I hope it isn’t too long.
Thursday, August 16
Back to work. Play hard work hard.
Sunday, August 19
I finally did it. I convinced my girlfriend to sit down and begin watching LOST. Four hours in two days. The addiction has commenced. Excellent. Excellent.
Here’s a cultural bit that I love about Japan. The simple but polite consideration of others. Stopping for a moment to think about the other person. That’s a trait very rare in much of this word. But the Japanese have got it down. And I love it.
In Japan it’s very important to be aware of those around you. You have to be aware of their thoughts and feelings without them saying so. You need to know that the person sitting across from you needs their beer refilled. You should know when someone in line is behind you waiting. You should know when someone is having a bad day. Basically, you should always “know.”
Aways knowing can be mentally exhaustive. I occasionally long for directness. Someone to tell me what their thinking. Cut to the chase. Japanese business is certainly slow to react because of this expected innate “knowing.”
But for its drawbacks it does offer a lot to society. It’s nice to feel cared for. Looked after. Of course I have to consider others. But that’s not so bad.
I give “polite consideration” two thumbs up.