Thursday, January 03, 2008

Japan: Day three

"From this angle, the water in Wakuike pond appears black, however the natural spring water from Mt.Fuji radiates a vibrant clear blue color."

No matter where you go in the world, traffic is there. This was the case Thursday.

I met my third guide, Mamoru out front of the Shinjuku Washington Hotel at 8:30 a.m. without knowing what we would be doing.

He informed me since he had his car we would could go see Mt.Fuji. I thought that would be awesome, since for the next two days I will be on my own in Tokyo. It would also be a chance to see somewhere I probably wouldn't be able to with paying a lot of money for a bus or train.

The day was clear and as soon as we got on the express way I could see Mt.Fuji from a distance. As we got closer and closer, the temperature dropped and the mountain got bigger and bigger.

Our first stop was to a natural spring of Mt.Fuji. Water from the mountain is pumped from the ground to a little park nearby. I got the chance to put my hands in the crystal clear, cold water and also take a drink of it.

There were additional ponds, in which, the water was so blue and beautiful and filled with fish. I had never seen anything like it before.

After hanging out for about 40 minutes, we got back into the car and drove up the street to Lake Yamanakako, one of (I believe) five that surround the massive land form. This was a quick pit stop, but I made my favorite image of Mt.Fuji there.

Again, we continued driving, this time up into the mountains. I have never experienced roads such as the ones we drove on. They were continual 90 degree turns and steep upgrades. Americans would be crashing every 10 feet. But Mamoru was a very good driver and did a great job piloting us up to a couple of different amazing lookout points.

Throughout our drive, I got nearly 10 unique views of Mt.Fuji.

But our original destination was not the lookout points, but rather some hot springs. However, an hour of standstill traffic in the mountains, due to visitors at a shrine, forced us to make alternate plans.

Mamoru thought I would enjoy the Odawara Castle Donjon as a replacement to the springs and he was right. Getting a taste of Japanese history was every interesting and extremely picturesque. This castle was around in the Edo period, which was 1806-1867.

From there, it was growing late in the day, so we agreed to start heading back toward Tokyo. Little did I know, this 45 minute car drive would turn into a three hour adventure of traffic and back roads.

Since the New Year is a very special time for Japanese, they have the first three days of the year off. But on the fourth, they all return to Tokyo over crowding the trains, planes and highways. The closest analogy I can come up with is combining Thanksgiving and Christmas traffic into one day.

It's funny. Spending nearly 12 hours in a car sightseeing can be as draining as walking around for 12 hours.

Every night I am exhausted. When in the states I can work or go to class all day and stay up until 1 a.m. Here in Japan, with the 14 hour difference, I have yet to stay up past 10 p.m. I have never felt so tired every night when I go to bed.

I am going to try and get some extra sleep in the morning.

Tomorrow is my first day on my own in Tokyo and I think I am going to Ginza for the better part of the day. Also going to try and find a Tempura restaurant.


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