Friday, May 15, 2009

Japan - hurray!


I have only spent 2 weeks in Japan now, but it is already on the way to become on of my favourite countries. So much has happened, that I really don’t know what to write about first. Maybe I tell you 2 little stories that will show how friendly people are here:

After John and I had arrived in Osaka airport, we had to take a train to get to downtown Osaka and to our pre-booked youth hostel. We left the train and had to assemble our bikes to ride the last km to the hostel. But what to do now with the empty bike boxes? It was already very late, there was no place in sight where we could deposit them and therefore we reluctantly decided to leave them at the station - but we removed the airline name tags before. When we had eventually settled into our youth hostel room, we received a phone call from reception at midnight. “Did you by any chance leave 2 bike boxes at the train station?” We were totally confused. How could anyone trace 2 bike boxes without name tags to guests staying at a youth hostel 1 km away from the station? And even worse: Would we be fined for littering now? We were very relieved when we were told: “The station master found these bike boxes and wants to know whether you want them tomorrow or whether he can throw them away. That’s all.” What a wonderful introduction to a country where people seem to care for you.

10 days later we were sitting in a supermarket stuffing our faces with cheap crappy cream cakes when an older lady approached us and asked us in broken English whether we were hungry. We thought that she was referring to our food attack and told her that we were indeed very hungry. This prompted her to go to a nearby food stall and buy us three stacks of sushi and meat. I was a little bit embarrassed when she gave us the food and left immediately with “God bless you” - but it tasted great for lunch.

New Romantic
We started our trip in Osaka where we could only stay for 2 nights. Due to the "Golden Week", Japan's main holiday season everything was fully booked. We were lucky to get a room in the youth hostel but for that we had to assure them that we are really married.... unmarried couples are not allowed to share a room! We could not do much sightseeing in 2 days, especially since we had to buy maps for the rest of our trip, but we were lucky enough to witness a fantastic drumming festival. Drumming seems to be a big pass time in Japan and various different drumming groups were perfoming a combination out of percussion and dance. We also discovered the subway stations were Japanese youth hang out dressed up in fancy "New Romantic" costumes or playing with their band. Unfortunately the latter activity is so popular that one band was located next to each other and everything ended in one big noise.

Koya-San
Our first bike ride in Japan was supposed to get us to Koya-San - the weather was horrible but we were discovered by an American expat who invited us to his home. His Japanese wife took pity on us and gave us our first supermarket tour: She very patiently explained what your are supposed to do with all that weird stuff and how it tastes. After this extremely enlightening experience we continued uphill to Koya-San - of course all in constant rain. Koya-San is famous for its Buddhist temples, but after a while we were more concerned about where to camp! This was our first free camping experience and we had no clue what to look for. When we asked in one monastery we were directed to an obscure spot outside the town on the map. We doubted that this would be a suitable campsite but we went there nevertheless. And the monks had been spot on- there were even remnants of an old camp fire. But we even found a better spot close by - and stayed for 2 nights as the weather was so bad. No big surprise: This was the rainy season....

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