M i s t e r F U J I
We left on Friday the 23th. May
I was a little bit nervous and I was glad when Franco, Pascal's younger brother, showed up to bring us to the airport. We left at 10.00 a.m. There was not many traffic, so we arrived early. We already checked in our luggage the night before only one suitcase for the both of us, so we could go in straight ahead. After saying goodbye to Franco, we went through the passport controlle and because we still had some time left, we took a small breakfast.
I wasn't nervous anymore because everything seemed to be just fine. Our flight: KL 304 departure from ZUERICH at 12.15 pm. arriving at 13.50 pm. in Amsterdam. The flight was nice and it took 1h35min.
The flight to Tokyo Narita Airport with KL 861 departed at 15.15pm., so we didn't have much time to look around. It was a quiet flight. Flighttime was eleven hours.
Pascal had brought something to read and I took something to embroider. I was having a window seat. Pascal was sitting next to me and to his right side was a Japanese lady sitting. She didn't speak much english, but we exchanged some food to try out. Actually the plane was almost filled up with only Japanese, so we had the feeling we were in Japan already!
Two movie's were on our programme. "Daylight" with Silvester Stallone, which we both hadn't seen before. The second one we did already see: "A perfect day" with Michelle Pfeiffer. We didn't see the end now, because we both slept a little.
It was funny somehow about the day and night thing. Why? Well...we left on Friday morning and we arrived the next day, but we didn't have had a night. I mean that it hasn't been dark on the whole flight! That has been really weird.
Oh no! We couldn't believe our eyes when we arrived on Narita-Airport on
Saturday the 24th. May at 9.00 a.m.
It was raining real hard! Not so nice to start a holiday! Well...anyway. First we had to show our Passports and then we had to pick up the luggage. O no! So many people! It was so crowded! But finally we managed to get our suitcase and we even managed to get out of this place. Whaaa!
Makiko Nakatani, a Japanese friend of us, wanted to pick us up together with one of her friends. Because we arrived a little bit earlier, we had to wait a while. It was so nice to see her again after five years!
We met her friend Yumi, which we found quiet tall for a Japanese woman. She could speak english well, so that was nice to find out.
We already had our luggage picked up, so all we had to do was bringing it through the pouring rain to the car. They couldn't remember where the car was parked, so we had to search a little. Yumi was driving the car. Pour Yumi, because it was almost raining all the time. It is very weird in the beginning to see them drive at the left side of the streets. Pascal fell a sleep in the car. I did too, but only for a very short time.
We stopped ones to make a "peeh-peeh break". So we went to the toilets. O boy, were were those toilets funny, because they are not like those we know! You cannot sit down. You have to go through your knees and peeh like that. We also took this little break to eat something. It was something like a MacDonald, but then with Japanese fast food. It was nice to observe the people while they were eating. They are so good in using those chopsticks! And they were eating their meals while it was really boiling hot! We couldn't do that.
We continued the trip. Tokyo was already way behind us and mountains were in sight. Unfortunately we couldn't enjoy the landscape because of the pouring rain. It took us a few hours to get in Hakone, where we stayed at a typical Japanese hotel. It was in the middle of the green. A lady showed us our room, after taking off our shoes and putting on the slippers that she had given to us.
It was so exciting! It was just like I had imagined it would be. In the middle of the room was a small table and four big green silky pillows around it on the floor. A mirror on the wall with another pillow in front of it and at the other side was hanging a typical Japanese painting and a floral tribute was standing on the floor in front of this painting. And that's it!! No bed!? Ah yes...behind two doors there was another small "room". Like a winter garden. Only two chairs and a table & closet.
The lady of the hotel gave us some green tea. Makiko and Yumi stayed with us to enjoy the tea. We gave our two friends the presents that we brought from Switzerland. For Makiko a "Swiss"purse and visiting-cards, made by Pascal. For Yumi a pin of edelweiss and Swiss chocolat. They were both happy with it. Because Pascal and I were really tired, we slept for maybe about two...three hours. Then we went to took a bath in the hot spring, which was in the hotel itself. Men and women separately of course. Well, Pascal went and I wanted to, but it was so awful hot that I just couldn't go in.
By the way. All hotel guests become a kimono to wear while their staying. Makiko had told us that dinner would be served at about 17.00-17.30 p.m. and we were prepared for this...we thought. We were clean and "dressed up" and on time. Then Makiko came back to tell us that she forgot to say that the dinner will be served at our room and that the people normally wear their kimono's. Okay. No Problem for us. We just changed back in our kimono's and after Makiko and Yumi joined us, one lady and one man started to bring all the food.
There were so many different plates and pots and it looked beautiful. But most dishes were with fish and seafood and if there is something I don't like to eat are fish and seafood!
But we knew that this could happen, because we read many books about Japan's food before we went. So I tried to be brave and tried at least a few of those things. I was happy when dinner was finished. Pascal didn't like it to much either, but he tried many things too. It was a very nice experience and we enjoyed the evening. After the same man and woman took away all the dishes. The man came back to put the table on the side and prepared our beds in the middle of the room.
Makiko and Yumi left about 22.00 p.m. Their room was right next to ours. Pascal dropped on his bed, still with his kimono on and fell asleep as soon his head was touching the pillow. I didn't want to wake him up and went to bed also.
Breakfast was served the next morning in Makiko and Yumi's room on
Sunday 25th. May.
Luckily Makiko ordered some different things for us to eat, because there was fish on the table again. Before breakfast we went to take a bath in the hot springs. This time I really went into the tub, because Makiko was also there and she put cold water so it would be better for me. It's incredible how the Japanese can stand the heat. But with the cold water I really enjoyed it a lot. So after the hot spring bath and breakfast we took our things and it was incredible, but the weather was just perfect. The sky was blue and the sun was smiling at us. Great!
First we went to the hot springs nearby mountain Fuji. There were many people. We had to wait in the car a while. The hot springs are very nice too look at, but they smell awful! (sulphur)
Anyway...when we turned around we saw the big mountain Fuji, peeking through some clouds. Wow. Quite impressing. There was snow on the top. Of course we made some nice pictures. A speciality you could buy were boiled eggs. Boiled in hot springs of sulphur, so they turned black. We didn't tried to eat them. Then we went back to the car and on our way to the lake we saw how many people were waiting now to go to the hot springs.
A long traffic jam! So we have been lucky to be there early. The weather was changing. More wind was coming up. We drove around the lake and our two friends brought us to a very nice place where there were some buildings and shops.
We bought a few things there and we made a visit at "The Hakone check point" with traditional costumes. We ate in a very nice restaurant. The good thing was that they had a photo of all the food/plates they had. Well... you could see it everywhere at every restaurant. We invited of course our "Tourguides". At the end we wanted to pay the bill, but they didn't wanted! Okay. It's like a game. They say "no", we say "yes we do pay the bill". They say "no" again and we say "yes we are paying the bill today!". At the end they allowed us to pay. A bill with japanees karakters. But we knewt about this ceremony.
We did some more sightseeing.
Because we still had a long way to go back to Tokyo, we left about four o'clock. Now we could enjoy the landscape and it was beautiful. We had to stop very often on our way to Tokyo to pay for the road. We are lucky that we do not have this system in Switzerland, because to drive around in Japan is very expensive. And because you have to drive slow every time to do so, you loose time and there will be an traffic jam more often.
We had a quick stop to check out were the hotel is. Makiko and Yumi left after we got in our hotel in Tokyo. We said goodbye to Yumi, because we would see her again on Wednesday and Makiko would spend 2 more days with us. We were very happy that Makiko had two days off work to spend with us.
Sawanoya hotel is nearby Nezu subway station. It is a small family hotel and we liked that. We were on room no. 23 second floor. On the first floor was the bathroom, which had a big, big bath. It was so relaxing to sit in this tub. The room was not big, but typical Japanese again and that is what we wanted. The beds were always in the room and again we had a small table and pillows. We could make tee anytime we wanted on our room, because we had cups and hot water. The kimono and slippers were waiting for us again.
Wearing a kimono is very comfortable, but you have to get used to change these slippers all the time. You don't wear them in the room. You put them out and leave them in the small hall in your room. In the toilet you have to change your slippers for those which are mend to wear in the toilet. Everybody can use these. Pascal and I went out to explore our neighbourhood a little. It was already dark outside, but we felt safe in this city. Weird huh? When we were standing in front of a subway map, there was a man who offered us to help. As I said before: Japanese are very kind and helpful. We bought some things to eat on the room, like bread. Hmmmm. Then we went to bed. I slept well, but it was quite noisy in the morning.
Wow it's already Monday the 26th. May
We had a nice bath again. It's big enough to fit three people in it. We took our breakfast downstairs. Toast and fried eggs. Hmmmm. The manager of this hotel had a parakeet sitting on his shoulder all the time. Like a pirate. Very funny.
Makiko picked us up at 9.00 a.m. We went by subway to Otemachistation. Here we got out and we walked to the Tokyostation. Here we went to look for the bankcard-machine to get some cash. It is not easy to get money in Japan. And we weren't lucky today, because the machine was out of order! From here we went by JR-Railway to Kamakura. It took us one hour. It was funny to observe the people. It wasn't even that crowded as I thought it would be. Eight of the ten people were sleeping. Not only this time, but always when we used the subway, most of the people were sleeping.
When we arrived in Kamakura we saw many children who were going to school and they all were wearing uniforms. Every school has it's own uniform. If you are not used to this then it's an interesting thing to see. And they all looked very sweet.
Kamakura is a very old village with many, many temples. We went to see a few of them and we liked it very much. We have seen many "sake" gifts that people offert at the temple, all wrapped up very nicely.
We took a cup of tee at a small cafe and it just madness how much you have to pay for a coffee or tee! On our way to another temple we had to go to a toilet. We asked in a small restaurant if we could use their restrooms. No problem. Makiko and I took a seat outside. The people who worked there were very nice. A lady brought us two photo-album which were full with pictures of cats and dogs. There was also a squirrel next to where we were sitting. Sweet. One lady talked to us. Guest were smiling and waving to us. It's very weird for me how some people react as they see us European. But I guess that some children haven't seen many people with blond hair. I felt special sometimes when they were waving and smiling to us. Japanese people are very kind and helpful. We noticed that quite a few times.
After seeing the last temple, which was again great looking, we went back to Tokyo. I didn't feel so well. Maybe because we hadn't eaten so much today. Now it was more crowded and we had to stand in the beginning. Makiko was very sweet, because as soon there was a place available she told me to sit down. She and Pascal got a place a little while later. Again all people were sleeping. We got out at the Tokyostation. It's unbelievable how many shops there are at the Tokyo station. You really can get lost there. And almost everything at the subway is written in Japanese, which we can not read. Believe me. But Makiko and Yumi tought us a few words...
arigato = thank you dozo = please sumimasen = excuse me hai = yes kon nichi wa = how are you doing sayonara = bye bye itadakimas = enjoy your meal
Not bad huh? But don't ask me how you have to write it in Japanese! We walked back to the Otemachistation where Makiko took another metro to go home to. We only had to go four stations and we managed to find the hotel without any problems, after buying some food again. We took a nice bath at the hotel. We spend some time in our room before going to sleep.
Thuesday 27th. May
After taking a shower and a good healthy breakfast, we were ready to face the new day. Makiko came to pick us up again at about 9.00 a.m. We walked to Uenostation which took us about 20 minutes. The Zoo with a park is nearby Uenostation, but we didn't want to go there. At the Uenostation we made a reservation for the train we had to take back to Narita Airport. It was good to have Makiko with us to organise those things.
By the way: Tokyo's streets are so clean! We were quite impressed.
Afterwards we went to Asakusa.
There was a long street which was filled with typical Japanese souvenirs.
At the end of this street there is a big beautiful temple.
Makiko and I took one of these wish notes. You buy them for only 100 yen. You take a number and search for this number of one of the many boxes. Take the note out of your box and if you have a note which means luck / happiness you keep it and when you picked one which wasn't so lucky you leave it on a tree or a special place for this. We both had one which we could keep.
Then we went by boot to a park. We have seen the building with the Philipp Starck sign, which is a big golden flame. While we were on the boat a class of children took from us and we took from them pictures.
We passed many different bridges (14 bridges). Then we arrived at the Hamarikyu-Garden. I thought that it would be a typical Japanese garden, but only a small part of it was in this style. We made a small picnic, unfortunately the sun disappeared behind the clouds, so it got a little fresh.
We decided to go back to the hotel. On our way back we made a short break at a new Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant which was full with only women and hardly any men, which Pascal found was nice. Makiko went home. It must have been nice for her to have at least a little bit time for herself after spending four days with us and the day after she had to go back to work. It started to rain on our way back to the hotel, but we were inside just on time, because it rained real strong with lightning and thunder. I love that kind of weather (when I can stay warm and dry).
Wednesday 28th. May
Later that day we went to see the Imperial-palace. It was the first time that we went by subway without Makiko and had to look for ourselves how we had to come at the places we wanted to go. But I am proud to say that we didn't have any problems with this matter. It was warm and sunny. Very warm and sunny.
We were disappointed about the Imperial-palace, because you can only see a little of it. It's not open to public, makiko informed us later that the palace is only once a year open to the public, so instead we went to a nice park called Hibiyapark which was next to the palace.
It's incredible how many homeless people live in these parks. Sad. There was a big band playing and many people were watching. We took a cool drink at a nice restaurant. Because you don't have to give tip (when you pay) in Japan, we brought some little Swiss chocolate along and this we gave as tip. They liked this very much.
We went to Cinza, which is a famous shopping part of Tokyo. Here we bought the stuff we need for a tee-ceremony which we want to take home. Pascal asked the lady to pack it in very well, so we could send it to Switzerland. It took a while until she understood what we wanted, but at the end we had a package which we send home later that day.
Then we went to Akihabara, better known as "Electric Town". Pascal wanted to see if something new was on the market. He noticed that the prices are interesting but not cheap and that they have products that you never will see in other countries because the displays are in japanese...It was still warm and to walk with so many people on the street, this noise of radio's, electric stuff and so many lights wasn't pleasant. We brought our package at the post office. We didn't buy anything in "Electronic Town". We just ate good pastries there. At 19.00 p.m. we had planned to meet Makiko at Hibiya station, but we phoned her to meet her nearby the Hibiyapark, in front of a Swissair office. We were a little bit earlier so we relaxed in the park until it was time to go. First we met Makiko at the Swissair office and later we met Yumi at the restaurant where we later were going to eat. It was a very interesting restaurant. It was full with people and we had to wait a while until we got seats. It was very warm inside and we got the place next to the kitchen, which made it even warmer. We ordered many different plates which we shared together (Chinese food). It was very good and of course we had to eat with chopsticks, which isn't easy, but we managed. A quick coffee at another cafe and then we had to say goodbye to Makiko and Yumi, because they both had to work again on the next day and we had our flight to Honolulu in the evening. The weather was much colder now. Very windy.
Today it's already Thursday the 29th. May.
It will be the last day we will be in Japan this holiday. We packed our things together and we could leave this at the hotel until we had to go to the airport. We went to the postoffice and sended three packages with souvenirs like kimono's and chopsticks back home to Switzerland. It is easier that way for us to travel, because then we do not have to carry these things around in the States.
It took us some time to do so, but at the end, everthing worked out well. We walked to the Uenopark, but when we were there, we weren't in the mood to walk around anymore that day. In the park were many homeless people and pigeons.
We went back to Asakusa where I wanted to buy another small thing. We walked through some other shopping streets as we had been with Makiko and went back to the temple were we sat a while on the stairs just watching the people pass by. This time Pascal got one of the wish notes. He asked a girl to help us finding the right number because it's all writen in japanese letters. He had a good note, so he could keep it also. Four girls wanted to be on a photo with us, so we have done so.
We decided to go back to the hotel. Here we changed clothes and called a taxi. We went to Uenostation where we had to take the Skyliner to Narita Airport. Because we arrived earlier then we had planned we could take one earlier. We got in this train and there were about 14 other people in the same wagoon. We were the only non Japanes. It was possible to turn the chairs if you didn't like to drive backwards or the other way around. Funny. I was really tired and fell asleep. A pity, because I would have liked to see more of the landscape outside of Tokyo.
Well... I still have must been VERY tired after I woke up and had to go to the toilet, because this is what happened. I wanted to open the door, but nothing happened. I tried to pull it open. Nothing happened. Was it an automatic door? Well, I was already standing really close to it and it hadn't opened, so... maybe I have to push the red bottom right next to the door? So I did. Big mistake. Huge!!!
It was the emergency-bottom!!! Oh Noo!!! When I saw the broken red plastic parts and hearing the alarm going off, I never felt so awful and ashamed in my life. Everybody looked at me. Pascal was laughing because I was turned red like a tomato. The train was going slowly and the guard was running in my direction. I was trying to give him a sign, but he kept running my way. Then I told him with a red head what had happened. He must have hated me, but he kept being polite. Thank god it happened in Japan. I bet in any other country I would have been in trouble. "Stupid tourist", micht he tought. He came closer to the door and the door went open!!! Bloody door!!! Why didn't it work when I was close at the door? Whaaaa!!
Luckily we were at the Airport so I could disappear between the crowds. I tell you, this has been the worst moment of this holiday. Awful. Anyway. I survived getting of this train and we went to the check-in counter. We changed our money from Yen into Dollar. We got on the plane at 20.30 p.m. with UA 822 NW. We slept and read on the flight. I cant remember what movie was on this flight. Well...The flight took about seven hours nonstop. We arrived at 8.30 a.m. at Honolulu. It took some time until we could go off the plane, because a Japanees family behind us became sick and they were picked up with an Ambulance. We went to Budget to get the rental car, which Holly, Kim Stuarts sister, organised.