Posted by Heliocentrism on January 31, 2016
Thursday, December 24 – Friday, December 25, 2015
No Big Trips this Winter
This year we checked the bank accounts and decided to save some money. Instead of taking a big trip, like we did last year, we will take a smaller non-over night trip. But, that wouldn’t happen until after New Year’s day.
Look at this awesomeness
For Christmas eve, we spent most of the day talking about money and how much longer we wanted to stay in Japan. We agreed to stay for maybe one more year. Then we will find another country to explore. We like Japan, but it’s hard to move around here.
In Korea, everything was at most a 4 hour bus or train ride away. In Japan, a 4 hour drive is refreshingly short. We haven’t been to Hokkaido, not because we don’t want to go. We just aren’t willing to put in the effort to getting there.
On Christmas eve night we drove to Shobara, the next town over, to view their Winter Illumination. It was very pretty. I took pictures hoping that my camera was capturing the beauty I saw first hand.
It’s the traditional Pegasus pulling the winter pumpkin carriage!
Mark and I don’t exchange gifts for Christmas. There is no real reason for it. Around November I would ask him what he wants and he’d say he doesn’t really want anything. Then he’d ask me what I want and I would say that I don’t really want anything either. Then we would take a trip somewhere. I guess travel could be considered our Christmas gifts to each other.
The next day we went out for Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The place had a ‘greasy-spoon tackiness about it. The waitress was a bit rude.
In Japan, when you enter a restaurant, shop, or any type of business, the people there go out of their way to show you how much they appreciate your just showing up. When I first got to Japan, I found this disturbing. I would be walking down the aisle of some grocery store looking for olive oil or the like, and an employee would say, “Welcome!” or “Thanks for coming!” At first, I didn’t know how to react to this. Was I suppose to say something in return? Should I have brought a little gift?
So we walked into the Chinese restaurant, and no one welcomed us. The waitress shrugged at us to say, “Sit wherever. I don’t care.” There was one other group of diners, but they were just about to leave. We sat in the booth behind them.
We ordered our food and the waitress seemed overly unimpressed by our selections. “Does she know something we don’t about these dishes?” I asked Mark. He thought the waitress was slightly rude, for this being Japan, but he was not bothered by it.
When we got our food, I noticed that it did not come with rice. So, I ordered a big plate of rice for Mark and me. The waitress looked at me and in Japanese said, “You know that’s 350 yen, right?” Did she think we couldn’t afford it? That’s like 3 bucks! “It’s okay. It’s Christmas!” I replied. She was still unimpressed.
The food, however was pretty good. During our meal two more groups of diners came in and sat in the booths near us. Across from us, there was a family of 3 adults and 2 kids. They looked through the menu and were now ready to order.
They press the button to call the waitress, but no one came. We heard loud arguing in Mandarin coming from the kitchen. “I think someone had a date for tonight, but was called in to work,” Mark whispered to me. “The most romantic night of the year…” I said as if I were the cook, “Finally, Yoshihiro asks me out to see the Winter Illuminations in Shobara, and I get called into work to cook for losers who can’t get dates!”
Meanwhile the dad at the next booth was feverishly pushing the call button with one hand, waving the other one in the air, and shouting “excuse me” as politely as he could. We saw two waitresses look in his direction and walk away. We were dying with laughter. This never happens in Japan!
When a waitress finally came over, she seemed very bothered by the existence of this, now very hungry family. Mark and I started doing what we thought was their dialogue.
Me as the waitress – Whadda ya want!?
Mark as the dad – Um, some chili shrimp, dumplings, kim chi rice, tofu stir fry, pork bone soup, and 2 cold noodle salads… if… if it’s not too much trouble…
Me as the waitress – Any of you bitches want rice with that!?
Mark as the mom – Oh, no. That would be way too much trouble. We couldn’t ask that of you. No, we’ll just eat rice when we get back home.
Me as the waitress – Good choice.
Mark as the dad – But, you can still charge us for the rice.
Me as the waitress – already did…
After dinner we walked around the little strip mall. There was a store that sold toys, geriatric equipment, and two motor bikes. The other store was a video rental.
There are many video rental places in Japan. I’ve always wondered how much business they did. In the US video rental stores are a thing of the past, killed by Netflix and torrents.
We went into the video store. It was like walking into the nineties. They mostly rented VHS tapes. All the movies by the window like, Kindergarten Cop, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the old Star Wars movies were faded. There were some whose covers were almost white, bleached by the sun.
We walked around the store, which had two employees. They seemed to be both busy and not really doing anything at the same time. “How are they making any money? This must be a front for some illegal operation,” Mark said. “It must be,” I replied. “We should probably go and let them get on with their real business; it’s Christmas after all.”
The employees watched us go as they thanked us for coming and looking around their store even if we didn’t rent anything. “At least someone was glad to see us.”
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.
Bihoku Hillside Park
(Government Operated Bihoku Kyuryu Park)
- Coordinates 34°50’23.6″N 132°59’48.5″E
- Park: 0824-72-7000
- Auto camping: 0824-72-8800
- Bring ID to prove age
- Children under 5 enter for free
- Scooters ￥100
- Regular cars ￥310
- Large cars ￥1,030
- Free with Year Passport for scooters and regular cars.
- They have bikes of various sizes, but the electric bikes only come in 26 inch.
- You can bring your own bike instead of renting one of theirs, but you must keep to the bike path.
- Admission stops 1 hour before closing.
- Closed on Mondays (If Monday is a holiday it will be open, but closed on Tuesday).
- Closed Dec 31 – Jan 1
- I think this park takes up half the area of the city of Shobara.
- There are many classes that kids can sign up for, from making soba noodles to pottery and woodworking.
- The cost for classes range from ￥100~500.
- There are many restaurants and cafes in the park, but you can also bring your own food. You can also bring your grill and have a BBQ in one of theBBQ areas.
- There is a camping area for day camping and overnight camping.
- You must make reservations to use the campsite area.
- There is a coin operated shower.
- They have a coin laundromat in the auto camping area.