Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Refreshing Warmth

I’m currently typing up this blog in our room at Marukoma Onsen Ryokan (丸駒温泉旅館)! We’ve just finished a wonderful outdoor bath, and are now sitting in our yukata on tatami while waiting for them to bring us dinner. This trip to Lake Shikotsu has been such a relaxing experience!  

Yesterday we grabbed (a delicious) lunch at a ramen joint before heading out. The place was playing Top 40 (lmao) and they had a shelf of old manga that you could read while waiting for your food. I was a fan even before I got my amazing bowl of baisen miso ramen @_@ The chashu was so tender it practically melted in my mouth, and the noodles soaked up the flavor of the thick broth well. Anyway, we left the shop, and after a subway ride and train ride, we boarded a bus bound for Lake Shikotsu! I ended up sitting next to a nice old lady who chatted with me for a good portion of an hour, asking me about where I’m from, my family, my plans for post graduation, etc. Turns out that her daughter went to Penn State and is now teaching Japanese in Boston! What a small world. I think her short term memory was a little off though because she’d bring up the same questions multiple times, and be delighted at the answers again and again. She was so cute! The ride passed quickly and we arrived at Marukoma Onsen Ryokan! We immediately changed into our yukata and went to take a bath. After washing ourselves at the little washing stations, we toweled up and went through the doors to the outdoor open air bath. The view was amazing; You can gaze out on the lake and its surrounding mountains as you soak in the onsen. Steam slowly rises from the bath and you can feel slimy moss on your back, which at first was kind of freaky, but after a while felt pretty good haha. Dinner was an experience.  They come to your room and move your table out of the way.  Then they set a large tray in front of you, filled with a billion little compartments and tiny dishes. It’s kind of overwhelming. Check pics below to see what I mean. After dinner we entered a state of vegetation. We basically were laying on the ground unable to move. It was a pretty pathetic sight. Eventually they came, took away our trays and laid out the futon. I’m not really sure what happened after that since I was fading in and out of consciousness, but somehow I got ready for bed and made it back to my futon. 

The next day I woke up at 6:45 (sans alarm) and went to take an early morning bath. It was clear and bright, and the feeling of stepping into the steaming water while it was still chilly outside was AMAZING. I sat there gazing out into the lake until my head got foggy. Then I joined Sophie for a buffet style breakfast (they call it viking style here!) and after missing our first shuttle, caught the next one to Lake Shikotsu! We were planning to bike 11km to a mountain and then climb it….but the people at the information desk politely told us that was a bad idea and suggested a smaller mountain that was closer. THANK GOD we took their suggestion. Going up the mountain was a struggle, and so was coming down. (Today my hips are really feeling it lol) Just imagine if we had done the other mountain… @_@ But even though I was super out of shape, I still very much appreciated the beautiful scenery along the way and the awesome view at the top. The environment was calm and serene, with the only noises being us, cicadas, birds, and the occasional old Japanese hiker. Seriously, there were so many elderly people hiking that thing! I hope I can be that active when I reach that age. Kudos to them. We grabbed some lunch once we finished descending (Katsu curry!!!) and went to check out the lake. They had these hilarious things called hydro-bikes which were basically two bikes on top of three giant yellow banana-shaped floaters. Naturally we had to try it out. IT WAS PRETTY AWESOME. Definitely bananas > swans. All those couples in their little swan boats were probably teeming with jealously. I don’t blame them. Anyway, we eventually peddled back to shore and grabbed some ice cream (meeelooonnn) before browsing the shops. Once we got back to Marukoma, we hit the baths again (is that even good for my skin anymore?) and returned to our room to wait for our second dinner. That’s when I technically started this blog post, but that was two days ago lol. 

Long story short, we had another beautiful dinner and breakfast (oh, and another bath lol) before setting out on a bus to New Chitose Airport. Bought more ice cream at the airport and before we knew it, we were in Tokyo!! 5 hours after we got to the airport, we finally got to my apartment in Shinjuku. Jesus lord the lease signing process and public transportation took forever, but it was also further exacerbated by my terrible sense of direction (sorry Sophie D:) After changing into other clothes (the plan was to hit clubs) we made it to Shibuya for a delicious 11pm yakitori dinner. Food has never tasted so good at 11pm. Then we ventured to Shinjuku where we were planning to hit up Tokyo Loose. While we cluelessly stared at a map, a really nice stranger asked us if we needed directions, and ended up walking us to Kabuki-cho. He was a cook and we made small talk about life in Tokyo. He told us that club-goers here don’t usually get super dressed up, and that we should definitely be careful in that area. He seemed quite concerned and I suppose I can’t really blame him.  Although our internet resources claim Kabuki-cho to be “fairly safe”, we were a bit skeeved out by the random guys who approached us. One black guy came up to us twice and said gross lines like “lookin’ good babe” and “just my type”. I was so disgusted. We decided to not go to the club after all because we felt sketched out by the guy standing in front of it who waving and whistling at us, so we decided to hit up a karaoke place instead. Sang for two hours, went shopping for toilet paper and shampoo, and grabbed a taxi back at around 3. Also note that peach sake is mad delicious. Oh the wonderful things that Japan has @_@

The next day, (now yesterday) was Sophie’s last day with me :( after lunch, we went to the station and grabbed some delicious desserts (strawberry tart and mango jelly.. parfait) before saying a tearful goodbye (okay there weren’t real tears involved, but it was still very sad). 

The following passage I wrote later that day:

Sitting at a tendon tempura fast food joint near Shinjuku station, waiting for my first meal as a live-alone intern in Tokyo!  I think the grammar in that sentence was a little off…but regardless.  I spent forever today buying random things for my apartment but it’s so hard to choose between different brands and kinds (for example toothpaste and face wash) since everything is foreign to me.  Hopefully my choices don’t end up majorly sucking.  I also went to Akihabara and almost bought an expensive mouse that only works with Japanese operating systems…awkward.  Ended up getting a good ol’ logitech in the end even though they’re boring looking- at least I can be assured that it works with my laptop!

Anyway, tomorrow marks day one of my internship! I’m so damn nervous. 


...and that is when my food arrived and I immediately stopped typing and started eating. Fast forward 12 hours or so, and here I am, sitting at the office! Currently awaiting actual instructions of what I’m supposed to be doing (they spent the morning talking to me about various projects) so I thought finally finishing this blog post (fucking novel) might be a good idea. Will blog more about actual work later! Now I will post this before it gets even longer. 

Taking a (pensive) walk after a wonderful first bath. Getting served dinner. Taking pics of taking pics of dinner. DINNER. My delicious roasted garlic miso ramen from earlier and the manga I tried to read.
Pics of the lake and the outdoor baths! Sophie told me to take a pic of her gazing out into the lake, I swear lol. 
More views of the lake! Some are front our ryokan, some are from the mountain we hiked! But basically wherever you are in Lake Shikotsu, you can take a scenic picture haha
At the top of the mountain! Eating katsu curry after our hike @_@ On our hilarious hydro-bike contraption. You can't read it, but the sign says Shikotsuko Lake. During the (painful) mountain trek!
Beer-chan, my new phone charm. Melon ice cream + green tea ice cream. Giant-ass raven right as it flew from the lamppost. The ravens here are HUGE, i'm obsessed! Panoramic from the top of the mountain :)
Last dinner and breakfast at Marukoma! On the bus with all our luggage. Deadfish faces on the train from the airport to Shinjuku!
Hittin up Shinjuku! Notice how the top middle picture is mad filtered...hahaha. Eating delicious yakitori dinner at freaking 11pm.  Sophie thought that taking a liquor picture was a great ideas lmao. Steps outside 747 Karaoke!

1 comment:

Thank you for reading :)