Friday, February 24, 2006

Toyko to Lake Kawaguchi to Hiroshima to Koyoto...

We got up early on Monday and sorted out repacking all the bags (one at a time in our tiny room!) before heading out to Shinjuku Station to get the bus to Lake Kawaguchi - a bargain at 1700 yen. It took about two hours and after an hour we noticed when the bus stopped it was actually snowing outside.. By the time we got to Lake Kawaguchi it had been snowing for a good few hours and therefore our chances of getting to see a volcanoe that is some 3000m plus were very slim, especially as it was looking misty on the other side of the road. Undeterred we went down to the lake in the snow (with umbrellas!) and although the photo's didn't come out too good - the view was stunning. Mountians raised up behind the lake all covered in trees covered in snow - very pretty.

After returning to the room (japanese style - make your own bed from stuff in the cupboards and d.i.y. tea ceramony - see photos) we stupidly turned on the heat to warm the room up abit. i think after about 10 minutes we were both asleep - and we woke around 9.30 feeling very hungry (and warm)! I think the whole area (Fuji Five Lake District) is a bit 'come and visit in the summer' as there really wasn't anywhere open to get dinner. We finally settled on a feast from 7 Eleven, which definately compared favorably to most of the meals we've eaten so far, even in the restaurants!!!

We woke up this morning to more grey skies. No sign of that big mountain anywhere - so we gave up on the idea and headed to the station to get a bus ticket south to meet the bullet train we planned on taking to Hiroshima. The bus journey was about two hours and after we got to the other side of the mountains range we could see that it had actually only snowed on the side we were on. Dry roads, no snow on roofs etc. Better than that we could see Mount Fuji - well the bottom of it anyway, the top was in clouds. Luckily after another 20 minutes the skies went blue, the clouds moved and there was Mount Fuji!! Clearly the highlight of the trip so far! It only lasted for a few minutes before it clouded over again but that made all the effort of getting to the Five Lake District totally worth it.

Anyway - four hours and two Shinkansen (super fast bullet trains) later we arrived in Hiroshima. Home of the A-bomb attack August 6th 1945 (yes, rob dragged me to a museum to educate me) and one of the three beautiful sights of Japan - the Torii in the sea on the island of Miya-Jima. The ryokan we stayed at was very nice - small room but the woman who ran it was very sweet and it was in a prime location. It was about here a theme started to appear. We go specially to stay in a nice ryokan to see mount Fuji and it snows so we can't really see anything.... and when we looking for dinner on that first night it seems that Tuesday is the night to close your restaurant. I waved away the feeling that we were mildly cursed but it crept back the next day...

So up early and the sky was grey but it didn't matter too much - the sun was breaking through occasionally and it was much better than snow. It was MUCH warmer down this end of Japan too so that helped. Anyway off to Miya-Jima; a comination of funny trams (imported from Germany - used) and a ten minute ferry and we were there. The first thing we see out of the ferry terminal? A deer. A real one. Now, whilst i had read about the tame deer upon the island, i hadn't quite prepared myself for them being outside the station and walking along the pavements with the people, i.e. us. I think i giggled for a good 25 minutes after arrival.

After a good old look at the five story pagoda and the torii in the sea we set off for my personal highlight of the island (apart from the deer) - the scarey 1.7 km cable car up to the top of Mount Misen... ooooo. Hum. well, as we approached we keep seeing signs and then less and less people. Yes, the stupid cable car was under construction. When till? Feb 17 - 22. When we there? Feb 22. So no cable car - definitely a theme. Anyway - throwing caution, and possibly sense, to the wind (and slight drizzle) we decided that we would walk up the silly mountain. The trail was (from the bottom) 2.6km. That's not far. Except that it appeared to be (and was in the end) 2.6km of steps up. No real break inbetween. Time was taken to reflect on how we are so young, and yet so unfit. But - far be it from a little mountain to beat us, especially as it was our first 'trek' of the trip. So we kept going to the top - even when the drizzle turned to rain and we were getting a bit wet.

The next morning we packed up our stuff and headed for the a-bomb dome. This is one of only very few buildings to have survived the A-bomb. There's the obvious shape of the building and then one of the main bits is still there and on top is the metal frame of the dome that was on top of the building (hence A-Bomb Dome). Of course, becuase we were visiting they were doing some sort of sounding test on the building and therefore it was covered in scaffolding so you couldn't really see it that well. The theme continues. After there we walked throught the peace park and to the Peace Park Memorial Museum.

And from there to pick up our bags and head back to the station to catch our next shinkansen to Kyoto - home of old wooden houses and Giesha's and Gion, where the whole Giesha thing kicked off....

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