Saturday, February 4, 2012

Japanese Adventure- Part I

Bullet Train

I'd heard about famous bullet trains in Japan since I was a kid, so I was thrilled that I got to take one of my trip.  I didn't want to stand out as a tourist (haha, I did anyway), so I initially refrained from taking a picture.  But, as we waited for the train, I noticed everyone else doing, and they were obviously Japanese... so I did too.   

Bullet trains travel at 140mph, so it was tricky to get any shots of the countryside as we whooshed by. 

Snow at the beach

We traveled to the Northwest coast of Japan as part of our business trip.  I had heard there was snow in the Niigata prefecture, but I wasn't prepared for the extent of snow we came across!
As we left Tokyo on our way to Niigata, the day was clear and crisp.  The trains are excellent so I snuggled in to watch the countryside fly by.  Japan is quite mountainous, so we passed through longer and longer tunnels.. As often happens to me on trains, I fell asleep.  The cozy, lulling dozing that feels good and has you waking refreshed.  
When my eyes opened, I am sure my jaw drooped.
Everything in my view was white.  Pure white... with blowing snow.  It was surreal.  It was like waking up in my very own Japanese Narnia. The snow just kept coming down.  We got to our hotel, famous for it's sunsets over the Sea of Japan.  I sure wasn't going to be enjoying a sunset that night.

Please wear the correct slippers
My room was a beautiful traditional style with a huge veranda for enjoying the scenery.  I must admit I just leaned out to take this picture as there was so much snow on the deck, and the beach.  Being a Puget Sound girl, snow on the beach is something we just don't see. In Murikami, the beach snow was about 8-10 inches thick... it was crazy to me! The wind and surf was roaring, but the snow managed to still fall, and stick on the sand.  Later, as we took a taxi to our meetings, the snow got deeper and deeper the farther we got from the beach.  The roads were all freshly plowed with up to 4 feet 'walls' of snow lining the streets.  I never saw anyone have any issues driving in the snow... not one.  So funny, especially when you see how 6 inches of snow can shut down Seattle.

The hotel is a traditional style resort for families to enjoy the beach, the sunset and the local hot springs.  I didn't partake in the hot springs this time, but I sure plan to on future trips.  The baths are segregated for males and females, and swim suits are not worn. I guess I felt a bit shy taking my big, white self to the baths by myself. There was absolutely no English on any of the hotel signs, or anywhere else... and besides being very short on time, I also was somewhat worried about making some crazy American faux pas.   

My room was beautiful, and apparently it was one of only three in the hotel with Western beds.  All other rooms have Tatami mats. I slept like a baby in my regular bed, but apparently I was supposed to get the authentic version and sleep on the mats.  I hear from co-workers who make the trip, that they are very comfortable, especially if you layer them up a la 'Princess & the Pea' style.

I had been warned about certain unique features of the room, but unprepared for the beauty and tradition that greeted me as I entered.  After unlocking the door, I stepped into a beautiful foyer with a raised platform and three sets of shoji screen doors.  I left my shoes at the door, and selected a pairs of sandals (and white toe socks) from the selection on the shelves near the door.  I have rather large feet, so I am pretty darn certain that I chose one of the 'guy' styles... oh well, a girls gotta do, what a girl's gotta do.

One by one, I slid open the screen and peeked into each door. Toilet on my right, bedroom and living room in front and bath and sink room on the left.  I had been warned that the slippers in the bathroom where "bathroom only" slippers and NOT to be worn into the common areas, or other areas of the room.  Pity... those slippers were by far the most comfortable.  

In each closet was 2-3 robes and a vest to wear over the top.  I'd heard that in seaside resort hotels it is completely acceptable to wear the robe, vest and slippers everywhere in the hotel.  I wish I had done it too, especially when I got to breakfast in the morning, and everyone, but me, was wearing theirs.  Next time, next time...

I was just going to say a little about the trip and share a smattering of pictures that I took.... but as I have written way more than I anticipated this morning. I will write and share more later, especially about Izakaya, which is Japanese 'tapas".  I hope I can remember all the details about the vast selection of beautiful and whimsical dishes we ate that night, I think I can, though there was a fair bit of sake involved that night...

Japanese Food Adventure 

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