What you'll find on Storybook Days

The Home page displays all my musings on life in Japan and a few other things (baseball and children's books are distinct possibilities). For highlights only: "A Day in the Life (edited)." "Tabemono (Food)" is exactly that. "Big in Japan" is my completely biased and oversimplified list of what is popular in Japan, and "Kimono Count" is a day-by-day record of the people I see in traditional dress. "Editor's Delight" catalogs the unintentionally amusing and apparently quite complicated world of Japanese-English translation. "Uncle Tucker" tracks our sightings of a certain cat following us around Japan.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nikko: Day 2, Part II

Hop on the Bus, Gus

We stood in the rain for 30 minutes waiting for the bus to take us up the mountain to Lake Chuzenji.  Okay, actually I stood in the rain for 30 minutes; after the disastrous bus no-show the day before, I was completely insane about catching the bus.  I was NOT going to miss any bus that passed by.  The fact that the bus was not due for 30 minutes meant nothing to me.  It could be early, right?  Frank and the boys took a more reasoned approach and stood under the awning at 7-11 eating chicken skewers and dumplings.  (7-11 is very popular in Japan.)  Twenty minutes into the wait, two students from Thailand joined me.  They had spent their morning at the World Heritage Site, too.  Twenty-five minutes into the wait, a group of European and American students joined us, also World Heritage refugees.  They had raincoats and umbrellas.  Smartypants.  Either the bus would come, or there would be an international uproar over it.  We waited.  Chotto matte kudasai (please wait a minute)....

Remember the last scene of "The Graduate," where Ben and Elaine escape from Elaine's wedding and jump on the bus, riding off into the afternoon with that "what's next?" look on their faces?  That's kind of like our bus ride to Lake Chuzenji.  We hopped on the bus, escaping the sopping-wet streets of Nikko and then settled into our seats with "what's next?" on our minds.  Rumor had it (from Frank), that the higher elevations often had sun when Nikko had rain.  We'd have to wait until we got off the bus at Lake Chuzenji to know for sure, because the windows of the bus were completely fogged in.  Frank and I took seats in the far back, by the college kids.  The boys set up front (near the locals) playing brotherly games and making a low racket.  (Who are those American children?  Certainly they were not with us.)

Thirty-minutes later, behold, Lake Chuzenji:

Lake Chuzenji and Mt. Natai
Actually, I only know that the lake looks like this, because I took this picture off the Nikko Perfect Guide website.  Here's the (cold, wet) Nikko we saw, which looked more like a Steven King horror movie set in Podunk, Maine:

We FINALLY bought rain gear!  It was from the local "French" coffee shop by the lake, where we also got ice cream (ignoring the cold) and the world's worst cup of coffee. I almost bought an "I Love NY" t-shirt.  Seriously.

As creepy and bizarre as it was, I loved it.  There was just something so fitting about the scene and the arc of our trip generally.  Into everyone's life a little (or a lot) of rain must fall.  I guess we were just due.  Besides, if the weather had been nice, the place would have been mobbed with tourists.  Somehow, I don't think these swans would have looked nearly as good in the unforgiving light of a sunny summer day:

We ducked into a little wood carving shop, where the met a very friendly older woman (she is in the background of the photo below) who ran the shop with her husband.  Her husband had carved these canisters from cherry wood (we bought one, and also some wooden sake cups):

In addition to carved items, the shop sold lovely pottery and some textiles that she had woven on a loom.  (Sorry, no pictures.  I was just too wet and tired by this time.) 

Next was a 5 minute walk to see the famous Kegon (pronounced Kay-gone) Falls.  Even in the rain, it did not disappoint:

Kind of a "Gorillas in the Mist" vibe, no?

Americans are all wet.

By then it was time to take my monkeys home.  A 30-minute bus ride back down the mountain to our warm and cozy ryokan.  This time I would take full advantage of the onsen.  But that's a story for another (part of the) day.

And for those of you who read to the end, I'm bringing you full circle with a couple of Paul Simon treats:  First, a funked-up version of "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" and then a vintage 60s version of "Sound of Silence" from The Graduate.

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