Japan Day 9: Road Trip, Day 2

When we woke up the next morning it was pretty much time for breakfast so we quickly got dressed and headed on up to the dining hall. The breakfast would have been a lot better if I liked fish as it was very heavy in fishy foods. Those of us who like fish said that it was quite good, I personally just filled up on rice for the most part. After breakfast we checked out and that is when we found out how much the room cost. The 6,000 yen sign behind the counter must have referred to something other than the room cost because it ended up costing us each about 11,000 yen. More than I really wanted to pay but with the dinner we had last night it was worth it I guess. One thing weird about Japan is that they don’t seem to give you a break in cost if you buy things in bulk or if you have two people staying in one room. It’s just a flat fee of X per person or X cost per item, buying six individual cans of Pepsi would cost you the same as buying a six pack.

Since it was dark when we arrived at the Ryokan the night before I was more than a little bit surprised when I saw the view that was right outside our window. It was a very beautiful setting. I would love to be up there again when there is more snow. Here is the view from the front of the hotel.

Just down the hill from the hotel there was this amazing view of Lake Tazawa which was going to be one of our stops today.

After we left the Ryokan we headed off to see a Samurai village. The village was cool, a little on the touristy side but still quite neat. They had lots of their swords and other weaponry, the old buildings, the vault that had amazingly thick doors, some of their armor and clothing and other neat samurai things. I took some pictures where I may not have been allowed to, there was a sign that was in japanese and the only word Scott could make out was camera so we aren’t sure if it said no cameras allowed or something silly like go happy camera.

Right before we got to the village we saw this old man selling paintings in front of a building and Scott and Susan decided to buy one. It was about 10 in the morning at the time and the old guy was drinking a beer as he worked. He was about 407 years old and drinking beer and smoking cigarettes at 10 in the morning, I love this country. Scott and Susan picked out their painting and the old man turned it over and we thought he was going to sign it, he ended up doing another painting on the reverse side so they got a two for one. We were talking to him as he worked as he had some English and it turned out that he lived in San Francisco for 18 years. He was a neat old man.

Here are a bunch of the pictures I took in the village.

After the Samurai village we headed off to check out Lake Tazawa which happens to be a caldera lake and the deepest lake in Japan. The lake was pretty, nothing out of this world but nice to see. Here are a couple of pictures from the lake.

After the lake we headed off to another area of japan which was going to be a considerable drive. At the town we were going to was a castle which was going to be our final destination, we figured by the time we got to the town that it would be dark though and the castle closed so we headed off with the plan of finding a Ryokan to spend the night in, going out for some dinner, and going out in the town for a night of fun. First things first though, we needed some lunch.

We found a nice little beer pub that overlooked lake Tazawa and had some interesting food. I got a couple of sausages, Scott and Ian got pizza and Susan got a nice chicken dish. All the food was good but a bit odd for Japan.

As we were headed to the castle we saw a couple of neat things along the way. The first thing we ran into was a giant dam. According to Scott japan has over 30,000 rivers and all but four of them are dammed. The dam was pretty neat though so we stopped and took a look around and we shot some pictures. It was extremely cold and snowing so we didn’t linger.

Hell Valley (Jigokudani) actually called Tamagawa Onsen

The next thing we found was really, really cool. There are tons of hot springs in Japan but this one seemed special. We could see tons of steam from the road and a couple of us really needed to use the restroom so we decided to investigate. I stupidly didn’t bring my good camera with me because I was mostly getting out of the car to use the restroom, I figured there wouldn’t be much to see figuring the steam baths would be out of site unless you paid to bathe or something along those lines. I was wrong.

There were many steam vents in this place giving it an alien landscape like appearance. It really stunk badly, very strong sulfur smell, but it was a fascinating place to see. Apparently the Japanese think these have some sort of healing power because there were many people lying on the ground near the vents taking naps, it was a bit odd. I did have my little camera though so I took lots of picture, I even shot some video.

Here are the pictures from this really neat place.

Here is a video of one of the vents just pumping out steam. It was pretty funny, Scott was standing about 4 feet away from me but I couldn’t see him because of all the steam, he couldn’t see where he was going either.

From the hot springs we headed back out onto the road in search of Ryokan near the castle. When we finally got to the city we were headed to Hirosaki Scott had the brilliant idea to go to the train station and talk to the information booth about a good place to stay. They totally hooked us up. They got us a Ryokan that was within walking distance of the castle, a great location for food and entertainment, no curfew and inexpensive. They even called the Ryokan for us and made our reservations. Due to Japan not giving you any breaks for having two people per room, Ian and I got separate rooms this time which was nice.

It was a really neat Ryokan, from the outside it looked quite small but once inside it was huge. Two stories and just lots of hallways leading all over the place. Another nice aspect of this Ryokan was that we each had our own bathroom which is fairly unusual for a Ryokan from what I gather. It was also cheap, only 4500 yen each (around 40 bucks), but that price was without food, it was really pricey if you included food. The only bad thing about this place was that it was freezing cold, once you were in bed and under the covers it was fine but walking around the hallways it was so cold you could see your breath.

Here is what the place looked like.

The japanese style bathroom is quite neat. The shower and bathtub are actually a room unto itself and you are supposed to sit down while you shower. I did just that, there was a little stool to sit on so I sat down and showered. I rather enjoyed it, it’s nice and relaxing and it feels great. Here is my Ryokan’s bathroom.

The toilets here have what I think is a really ingenious idea. They faucet on the top of the toilet using the water that fills the tank after you flush. It is such a simple but brilliant idea, the water can be used to clean your hands after you do your business and then the same water is used again to flush the next time someone uses the toilet. Half the amount of water is used this way. The only drawback is that the water is cold. Here is a picture of what I am talking about.

After we were all checked in we all decided to take a shower before we headed out for dinner. That done we headed out on the town in search of some place yummy to eat. We hit the jackpot. The restaurant that we ate at was probably the best place we have been to so far overall. Some places that we have gone to have had better individual dishes but this place was fantastic all around. We even got a couple of free dishes.

Here are Scott and Susan enjoying our fine meal.

After our excellent meal we set out in search of a place for some beverages, once again we hit the jackpot. The place we found was called Pub Dai, and it was one of the best experiences of my trip. It’s always a bit strange walking into a bar here, since I have been here we have had good luck but Scott has told me sometimes they are told that they are full when they obviously aren’t or are asked to leave, most likely because they just don’t want to deal with the language barrier. So we walked in and you could sort of see a look of disappointment on the peoples faces but they let us in and we took our seats and ordered up a round of drinks.

We were there for a little bit when one of the bartenders came over and requested one of us to do some karaoke. This seems to happen at every place we go to, the Japanese love hearing us do Karaoke and no matter how terrible you are they make you feel like Pavarotti. So Scott and Susan each do a tune and things start to lighten up in the joint and they seem to like us.

Later a group of six locals around our age came in. We later found out that it was one of their birthdays and they were having a grand ol time. They really like having us there and we enjoyed their company as well. They were requesting lots of Karaoke tunes for us to do. Susan even did a couple of duets with the bartender/owner.

Here are our new friends

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the giant dildos. For decoration the bar had a small display of giant dildos, no idea why but it was hilariously disturbing. They also had some nudie posters and the bathroom was hilarious.

Here are the giant dildos, notice the one hiding in the bottom right corner.

Now the guy who ran the place was a blast. As I mentioned, he and Susan did a couple duets, they did a mean Endless Love. He came and sat with us for awhile and I asked him if I could take his picture, instead he took a picture of himself. I should also mention that we believe he is the same man who is pictured in some of the posters that were in the bathroom which you will see shortly.

Besides the giant dildos there were a couple of other strange decorations around the place and the bathroom was a hot spot for them. I, of course, had to take pictures.

The One Man poster I was really tempted to steal but of course didn’t, it was amazingly awesome though, here is a close up of it. Also, in the sex position poster, how in the hell are you supposed to pull off the one in the bottom left corner?

It eventually got really late and we headed back to our Ryokan. It was a hell of a day but it sure was fun.

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