04/01-02/2024 Ughhhhhh!

Sounds like a horrible title doesn’t it? While the last two days weren’t horrible, there were many moments where we just said ughhhhhhhhh! The first, which has been par for the course, is the moans and groans when we wake up at 04:00 instead of a nice hour of, say, 7 am? Is that too much to ask for while on vacation?

The next was our tour guides.  While not horrible the last few days, each had their moments of ughhhh. So, just to catch you up on what has been happening, yesterday was April 1st (April Fools Day!) and it started out early at 08:15 to catch our tour to Mount Fuji and Hakone. The assigned seating in the bus was a novel experience and, surprisingly, everyone acted like good little tourists and complied with no haggling on where they would sit.  Next, we started off on a two hour bus tour to get to Mount Fuji. The tour began, not with a historical story about Japan or Mount Fuji, but with our tour guide with her strident chirpy voice belting out peoples lunch orders. This surprisingly took up a chunk of time, despite the fact that only 5 of the multitudes of people on the bus had not preordered. The slow plodding of the bus up the mountain gave Kathy some motion sickness; the first time that has happened in a couple of decades.  This was probably caused by the slow movement as the bus as it lumbered up the hill side. Finally reaching the highest station we could go to at this time of the year (due to the snow), we clambered out the bus to get our first look (“15 minutes only please!”) at the iconic Mount Fuji!! As we looked and looked and looked, yep – you got it, another ughhhhh! The mountain we had climbed was blanketed in cloud cover and nothing was to be seen from our vantage point high on the mountain. Time to turn around! Ughhhhh! Next stop was for lunch where a plethora of strange dishes awaited us. Kathy turned to Dave and said, “What is safe to eat with my shellfish allergy?” Looking as perplexed as Kathy we decided white rice was the best choice and she gleefully had three bowls of their delicious rice. No “ughhh” there as Kathy loved the rice and was happy to forgo some mystery dishes.  Best of all, no more motion sickness!

Now time to head to the town of Hakone.  We again lumbered along in the bus to Lake Ashi where we took a boat to the other side of the lake.  We took a “ropeway” – which is similar to a ski lift – to reach an iconic high mountain shrine.  We paid our respects at the shrine and then continued along the trail. YAY!! The sun had come out and we could see Mount Fuji in all its glory, well, when the clouds parted enough. What an amazing sight!!  The active volcano in a perfect cone-shape has snow on top year round.

The rest of the trip?  Well, all we can say is it was one big UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Our guide, in her chirpy strident voice, demonstrated to us how to insert the tickets in the subway.  Just in case we didn’t understand, she had us “practice” like we were kindergartners. Kathy was quite upset at her condescension while Dave tried to cut her some slack.  (Dave had plenty of practice with “tourons” – half tourist, half moron – when he worked for the National Park Service.) That patience was soon tested on his part when we got off the bus and were suddenly at the train station. She handed us the tickets and basically said “bye” and we were now on our own to figure out how to get back to our hotel from who knows where.  First, we had to take a Shinkasen (bullet train) to Tokyo Station, then the subway to our hotel area. Luckily, we had a nice young couple who adopted 6 of us and helped us navigate the maze of choices in Tokyo Station. We eventually arrived back in one piece and managed to snag some dinner on the way back home. Oh, and just in case you want to say it with us….”Ughhhhhhhhh!”  Dinner was at a 7-11!! As it turned out, it was the best dinner Kathy has had since we arrived.  They had real corn dogs and, man! was it good.   Fooled ya’ on that one. Happy April 1st!

April 2nd, dawned bright and early as we rushed down to eat breakfast before our tour guide picked us up at 07:00 to go to Nikko National Park.  Our guide, hmmmmm, was not Japanese, as he was a tall, hulking man who towered over us and didn’t look Asian at all. He was ughhhh, Pakastani with a low voice and very accented English that Kathy strained to hear.  He was incredibly nice, but very soft-spoken.  His stated goal was to ensure we had the best experience possible and we felt well taken care of.  Unfortunately, Kathy had to resort to repeatedly leaning over to Dave asking, “What did he say?” Giving up, she put in her earbuds for the long drive to the historic site. Upon arrival, our guide Hemmed bought a pamphlet for us and then sent us on our way to discover the site. Ughhhhhh, we wish we had someone who understood Buddhism and the relationship to the Japanese culture.  Periodically he would appear when it was time to buy another ticket and send us on our way. The Nikko is an ancient city that was built by the very first Japanese Shogun and housed thousands of samurai.  The buildings were magnificent and the artwork unique and even relevant to us 800 years later. One carving has the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. Another set of carvings has children playing Rock, Paper, Scissors!

After wandering the large complex we headed off to view a waterfalls, which was not quite what we were expecting. Yep, you got it, another ughhhh. While not the grandeur we expected, since we understood it was like Yosemite, it was still beautiful. (Sometimes things are lost in translation…)  After viewing the waterfalls, Dave started groaning, doing his own “ughhhh” because it was almost two in the afternoon and he had yet to have lunch! Phew, we finally stopped and Dave insisted we grab a bite to eat. Finding something okay to eat was a matter of keeping our fingers crossed. Thankfully, no ughhhhs occurred here, as there was no shellfish lurking in the bowls which could have caused a really big ughhh.

We next took a winding, hair-pinned road to visit a lake which was quite breathtaking. The water was a steel gray and the wind buffeted the water, creating beautiful crested waves. Due to the cold and wind, Kathy opted to stay in the vehicle. Dave stepped out to take some photos and came back to find us gone. (Apparently parking in a “No Parking” zone directly in front of a Police Station is frowned upon in Japan.) But just when he was going to ughhhh, we came into view and he hopped into the car. Deciding we had enough for the last two days we decided to head back to the hotel. We started the 2 hour drive back, then ughhhhh! There was an accident in front of us.  Traffic crawled and our journey went from two hours to three hours.

Sign of relief!  We got back, had a nice dinner, and are now just chilling and the only ughhh in sight is the sound of the traffic horns beeping down below the 32nd floor of our hotel room.  Good night all.

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