Categories
Japan Travel

FROM THE MOUNTAIN TO THE SEA

My friends live in a small and quiet town, and go to work by bike, the house is surrounded by rice paddies. Odawara is a city in Kanagawa Prefecture with 200,000 people west of Tokyo.

As it was Sunday, he was off duty so we went to Lake Ashi by car. There we took a boat across and headed to a mountainous and touristic region called Hakone, famous for the sulfurous hot springs. Due to the sulfur, the smell of rotten egg dominated the environment, we took a cable car to the top. The only view I had from Mount Fuji was from here, a little far away, but at least I could go back and tell everyone I saw the mountain. One ritual of tourists was buying eggs cooked in the hot springs and eat on the spot, due to the sulfur the shell was black and the egg tasted like even eggier. They were not very cheap – half a dozen eggs cost $5!

The traffic was very bad, single lane and steep, it was a parade of cars. There were many big and beautiful cars for a country so lacking in space.

We had western food on the way to the beach and went to Enoshima, an islet between Odawara and Tokyo, 4 km in circumference. The place is beautiful and pleasant to ride, with some surfers on the beach. We crossed on foot the 600 meters long bridge to the islet full of shops and typical foods and climbed a tower. There was a temple on the islet and a procession with about 50 people, probably Shinto.

That day wasn’t as hot as yesterday. After we dropped another friend off near her house on the way to Odawara, we stopped to eat noodles at a local restaurant. “Ramen-house” is very abundant here and the food here is better than the Japanese food in Brazil.

Categories
Japan Travel

The Impersonality of the Technology

In the morning I left the hostel before any employees has arrived but, as instructed, I paid my fee through a machine. Nothing more practical – but nothing more impersonal either. Technological life makes human contact as little as possible.

The heat was unbearable, about 38ºC and very humid, giving you the feeling of being in a sauna. I have never sweated so much! It was the worst heat of my life, I was wet with sweat all day.

I met my friends at 10:00 a.m. in Akihabara, also known as Electronic Town for its hundreds of electronics stores. They were a couple of friends who moved to Japan with their daughter to work. We went to buy a camcorder that had not yet been released in Brazil and was well priced here compared to other countries. I have done some research on the internet and knew this was the best place to get it. I bought one of JVC that was turned out later to be over the USD 500 customs limit in Brazil.

After the purchase, we went by subway to have lunch near Ueno park, one of the most famous in Japan, in a beautiful and chic Japanese restaurant, Bambo Garden. After lunch, we met another friend from Brazil, and we went to walk in a park which was very green and had a lake and annexes such as zoo, cemetery, museums and temples.

In the middle of the afternoon, we went to Harajuku, the meeting point of young people and teenagers, there were many strange “types”, young people dressed as dolls, cartoon characters and “punks”, today I know it is called Cosplay, I found everything very artificial.

After walking a lot we arrived in Roppongi, a neighborhood known for the nightlife, with another public, more mature. We strolled a little through the neighborhood and said goodbye to my couple friends who were leaving for another city, to Otawara, northeast of Tokyo.

I had a dinner at a restaurant with those sushis and sashimis on a conveyor belt at the counter, like luggage at the airport, just choose what you wanted to eat and grab it! After the dinner, we took the train to Odawara (almost two hours from Tokyo) and went to sleep at another couple friends’ home. Makio came to pick us up at the station at night and we went to eat again in a “ramen house” (noodles).

My friends’ house, like any Japanese house, has a “tatame” and it was not a big place, but it met well the needs of the couple who spent more time working outside.

Watch some videos of my Japan Playlist in Youtube: