Last time I checked in I was staying at the Buddhist temple in Nima, getting out of populated Japan and into the countryside. I left on a beautiful morning to go to a town Matsue, where I checked into a Japanese Royokan, a traditional Japanese Inn – the owners were very friendly, giving me the scoop on the town. It was this day that I decided I was done with sightseeing for a bit, and rather than go ‘see the castle’, I was going to go drink beer in the park outside of the castle. To the dismay of the Swedish guy I met at the inn, “How can you not go to the castle if you’re here? Only one day here? But there is so much to see!” I stuck to my guns and threw back a few Sapporos on a beautiful afternoon in Matsue. I once again saw what I thought was quite interesting. A crew of about 20 guys came in with brooms and shovels and a a truck and sweep and rake in rapid style, in a beautiful rhythm cleaned the entire park. Every guy has a job – sweeper, bagger, etc… Its not quite what I’m looking for career-wise, but I was considering it for a few minutes 🙂
I moved onto Japanese whiskey and enjoyed a beautiful sunset from another park along the lake, taking a short walk and then racing home to beat my 10pm curfew. The next day I found myself looking at what I never thought I’d see in Japan – BEAUTIFUL sandy beaches and surf breaks. The train in northern Honshu runs along the coast, through tunnels and little towns nestled between cliffs. It felt a lot like the Oregon or Northern Californian coast. I stopped off at Higashihama, where the train stops 100m from the ocean. I spent the day reading, wishing I had a surf board and relaxing. Eventually ( I debated camping out there), I jumped back on the train for a few stations to find a hostel my guide book recommended. After hiking up a huge hill for 20 minutes to find a complete deserted hostel I walked back into town and began aimlessly searching for the hostel I didn’t realize I had walked right past 100 yards from the train station an hour prior… As I strolled around a guy on a bike walked up to me (I stick out like a sore thumb) and said “are you looking for the hostel? Follow me, its in my house.” Easy enough.
After cleaning up I found the only restaurant in two towns (a mile walk) that was open – I Chinese place in the next town, and to my excitement had pictures of the food outside in the window! A few minutes I was literally writing in my guide book how I love getting off the beaten path into the middle of nowhere but an experience in a place like this is limited w/o communication. As I finished up that sentence, the owners son (Hiyato) told me he spoke English and that’s where the fun began. They were extremely curious about me and America – as is typical of us lofty Americans, I knew very little about their politics or much of anything about modern Japan. It really didn’t matter as the stereotypical old guy at the end of the bar kept buying drinks for me. We had some great laughs and Mom even brought me some fresh strawberries – a DELICACY after what I’d been eating the past week. In the end Hiyato drove me back to my hostel so I could once again make my curfew.
Sorry for being so verbose but I’m on a 5 hour train-ride to Kyoto and am killing time! After moving every night this week I’ve decided I just want to stay put – Kyoto is supposed to be the best place in Japan and I’ve heard great reviews about a hostel I’ve reserved for the next 4 nights. I’m looking forward to slowing down, buying groceries and cooking, meeting other travelers and not riding a train for a while!