Yesterday was the last day of the university summer holidays, and therefore I was back working today. However, I spent the last two days of my holiday on a slightly spontaneous 2 days and 1 night road trip to Nagano, which is located pretty much in the center of Japan – around 350 km away from Tokyo. A girl I initially met online on a language-learning website (lang-8.com) invited me to join her and a few of her friends to go to an Onsen (Japanese hot spring) and see the stars (you cannot see the stars in Tokyo). I didn’t think I’d get a chance to go to an Onsen so soon, so I was really happy! And going somewhere with other people surely is a lot more fun than sightseeing on my own.
We had agreed on meeting up at a station I didn’t know, and it wasn’t a metro station in central Tokyo, so my metro app (tokyosubway) on my phone didn’t include this station. So I found a different app (Japan Trains) which includes other trans as well, however this app didn’t show the direction of the trains (at least I couldn’t see it). Therefore, I left a lot earlier than necessary to make sure I would be there in time. When I got to Waseda station, however, the trains were not moving. The train personnel person said that there had been an accident, and that the trains wouldn’t move the next 30 minutes. Despite this, I managed to get to the “new unknown station” just in time (ギリギリセーフ^^). When I arrived, however, I received a message from the girl who invited me, that now there had been another accident and her train wasn’t moving so she’d be late.
As I hadn’t met her friends before, she sent a photo of her friend to me and vice versa, so we could find each other. I was standing next to someone who was looking at her phone when I was receiving the photo. We both looked up and around and then we looked at each other, back at our phones (with the image), and at each other again… And when she asked, “are you Kristine?”, and I responded “yes” we were both really relieved that it was not the wrong person (that would have been awkward ^^).
So far so good, now we just had to find the guys who were going to pick us up by car. Only one problem; you see, the girl who was late was the one who knew me, the other girl, and the guy driving the car (we didn’t know each other). The other guy was a friend of the driver, and therefore me and the other girl had not met the guys before and we also didn’t know which car they were driving. In addition to that, they were late due to traffic jam. Despite this, we did manage to find each other without much problem, and it was quite funny that everyone went “hajimemashite” (nice to meet you) to each other when we entered the car. The idea from here was then to pick up the last person at the station she was stuck at, but it took around an hour to get there due to traffic. But well, in the end we got on our way to Nagano – slightly later than planned though.
Tokyo-Nagano is around a 3-4 hours’ drive, so we had a few stops on the way. In the car we played the Japanese game called “Shiritori” where you say a word e.g. めがね (megane; glasses). Then the next person has to say a word starting with ね(ne), for example ねこ(neko; cat) and so on. If you say a word which ends with ん(n) e.g. かばん(kaban; bag) you lose the game since no word starts with ん. I was struggling a little bit, since the game of course was in Japanese, but I think I did somewhat okay and I already knew the rules as well. However, just as they confirmed that I knew about the way you lose the game, and I firmly said that I already knew that, I went with きん(kin; gold) and realised my mistake immediately, but too late. I even managed to do it once more with せきにん (sekinin; responsibility), and here it took me a lot longer to realise why they were looking so surprised at me. But oh well, what can you do ^^ It was very good Japanese practice anyway! In addition most of the conversations were in Japanese, so I spent most of the time in the car focusing hard on following the conversation (it was very difficult, but good practice).
When we arrived to Nagano, I was pretty exhausted from focusing so hard on the Japanese (and getting up early). Our first stop was the Zenkou-ji Temple and it looked so old and awesome! I think it had much more charm than the Meiji shrine in Tokyo. And there were turtles and carps in the water! Oh and a ninja store (selling ninja-like tourist items like rubber shurikens ^^) and even a store which only sold origami paper (Japanese paper folding thingies).
(Click arrows for more images)
The evening afterwards included the Onsen experience, dinner at an isakaya, a night in a cute guest house, and a late night stroll searching for a nice place to take photos of the stars – not to forget sun flower watching the next day! However now it is really late and I have work tomorrow, so for now….
…to be continued. おやすみなさい！(Oyasuminasai; Good night)