Sunday, 8 April 2018

Autumn Aurora in Japan - Day 14

Fujiyoshida                                                                                 Japan

Monday 17th October 2016

What an absolute dreadful morning this was for me. The rain was relentless all night and my tent couldn’t cope with it anymore as water would begin to drip into the tent more so than before. The bad news was that it was only 6am but I had no other choice but to evacuate my tent and pack everything up quickly to avoid important items being damaged. I thought I was the only one suffering but funnily enough, as soon as I exited my tent, so was Craig doing exactly the same thing as me.

We rushed down with our rucksacks to the BBQ shelter that was close to us and what a relief it was to be sheltered from the rain, luckily with nothing damaged.
We spent a while repacking our bags especially me as I was intending on leaving my camping gear behind leaving more room in my rucksack. I couldn’t believe how much lighter my rucksack was once all the camping gear was out of it but Craig couldn’t do the same as his gear was borrowed. Instead of leaving my tent erect, I decided to dismantle it as quickly as I could and pack everything up the way I originally had it and leaving it at the BBQ shelter.

With everything finally present and accounted for, we took our leave-saying farewell to Hirayu camping ground; for only a brief moment, it would provide fond and harsh memories. The wet walk to the bus terminal was long and hard as it was still pouring with rain. To keep warm we would often walk through the steam billowing out the vents from the hot springs that was beautiful but short lived. It felt great to get shelter from the bus terminal and retrieve our bus tickets back to Takayama. We waited for a while watching a man sweeping the water down the drains thinking that he was going to be there for a while trying to clear all the water away. It was only a short amount of time before the coach arrived and soon realised it was full of people on board.

An hour’s drive was ahead of us but steam covered the windows to provide us a view from the outside world. We eventually arrived to a wet Takayama ready for the next leg of our journey. We were heading to our next landmark of beautiful Japan at a place called Fujiyoshida, so we headed straight for the train station. Our plan was to head to Nagoya which was south of our location to board other trains to get to our final destination. However, when we were just about to go through the checkpoint, we realised they weren’t ready to board for another hour at least. We had no food yet because of the evacuation in the morning so we decided to a walk around Takayama looking for places to eat. The next 40 minutes were in vain for us, as we seemed to be wandering around aimlessly in search for food.

Back to the train station, we went hoping they were ready which of course they weren’t. We ended up grabbing a few snacks for the journey then sat nearby the checkpoints ready for the doors to open. Another 20 tireless minutes went by until finally people were called through. We were both rushing slightly to the platform resulting in us being at the front of the queue for the train to approach.

Speaking of which, the train had arrived and we were on the front carriage; I was happy because this train had full view of the front of the train. We were determined to get right at the front seats and so with everyone clambering on, we did. What a fantastic feeling it was as we could see the tracks in front of us including the sight of the driver too. It definitely brought out the 10 year old boys in us both once the train began to move; we were smiling pretending we were driving the train.

The views were breathtaking too cutting through valleys, hills and forests along the tracks. My favourite parts were the bridges and tunnels as this was something new to us both and exiting the tunnels with the low clouds was truly amazing to me. We sat there eating our snacks as though it was a home movie. Watching the actual driver perform his cabin procedures pointing ahead then checking his list, speed and signals was very interesting to see.

This went on for the next two hours but as Craig decided to fall asleep, he missed something quite special. On a straight bit of track, I noticed something on the tracks; the driver was honking his horn and as we drew closer, Japanese macaques scurried their way from the tracks and looked as though they were shouting at the train that I found funny.

A very long time passed until the city life returned to our sights that looked very weird to us both. As we stopped at the station before Nagoya, we prepared ourselves with our rucksacks. The train began to move only this time, we were going backwards and it was even weirder watching the city shrink in front of us and the tracks moving away from us. It was short lived though as we finally pulled up at Nagoya station.

Off the train we went heading immediately to the Shinkansen area where we would board a train bound for Tokyo except we were getting off the train far sooner than that. We were heading for a place called Shin-Fuji and because we were shinkansen Jedi now, we figured out what platform we needed to be at. 10 minutes went by until the monstrous but elegant bullet train pulled into the station. We soon entered the train and took our seats for the smooth and fast journey across Japan.

Once we left the city area, I received a most brilliant view of the Japanese Alps and foothills far to the north along with a low cloud brushing against the trees. What was even more fascinating was a great shot of a rainbow flowing along the hills finishing off the perfect picture of Japanese countryside.

A very long while of gliding across the tracks brought us to our designated station; Shin-Fuji. Once again, we stepped off looking for information regarding transportation to our final destination of Fujiyoshida. It looked quite tough to get to by the map and worse yet, we had to walk to another train station one mile or so away. Therefore, we took the walk outside expecting beauty with Mt Fuji at its centre. However, we witness a beautiful sight of industrial factories billowing smoke out.

Hoping we were heading in the right direction, we took the walk and then we came across signs pointing to the station, which was a relief. Suddenly, a young man approached us realising we needed a bit of help. We accepted his kindness and so, he took us along the main road not at all sure if he was actually taking us to the station or taking us to Mt Fuji itself. He then suddenly ran off ahead of us with me unsure what his intentions were. Craig informed me that he was getting his car thinking where he was taking us. He was actually planning to take us to the train station due to the fact it was still quite a long way away for us to walk with our rucksacks. We rushed in his car and drove off only for a few minutes until he pulled up outside the station. What a humble person he was and kind enough to offer us a lift so we thanked him just before he drove off into the streets.

Now at Fuji station, our next goal was figuring out how to get to Fujisan station from here. Straight to information, we went in the hope for some good answers. Luckily, there were some trains heading in that direction. However, we would need to board two more JR trains and then a private train to get there. So, off we went to the designated platform and straight onto the train for Numazu station. It seemed like a very long time ago since we were on those busy trains again amongst passengers staring into their phones. The train was also rattling like mad and it sounded as though the wheels were coming off.

A short journey brought us to the station already rushing to get to the next train for Gotemba station. The platform was completely full of workers and school kids returning home at a dark evening. At this point on the journey, it began to rain just slightly but nothing compared to this morning. We decided to skip that train as it looked as though there was no way of getting on without knocking someone out with our rucksacks. We had to wait for another 30 minutes at the quiet station until it was time to board. I think by this point we were growing tired of riding trains all day but this wouldn’t dampen our spirits.

Another 30 minutes went by rocking away on the train finally arriving at Gotemba. Craig was getting tired at this point with his heavy rucksack so we made our way quickly to the information desk to find out what train we needed next. Unfortunately, we received the wrong information at Fuji station about the private train to Fujiyoshida. Instead, we had to board a bus that we sarcastically thought was fabulous. More bad news came when we caught sight of a closed ticket office as well as a bus route and information not helping us one bit. We had to ask a bus driver for any help when he pulled into the station who was very kind to help us after his long shift of driving. He informed us that our bus would arrive in 25 minutes time so we spent the time in Subway across the road finding a small bit of peace and relaxation from a difficult situation.

It was short lived though as we had to be back at the station. We didn’t have to wait long for the bus to arrive and like always, we were the only foreigners on board but thankfully it would take us to Fujiyoshida. We finally sat down not at all sure how long it would take to get there or how much it would cost us. In the pitch black, we rode along the Japanese roads and at times feeling as though we were riding up Mt Fuji with tight turns and steep inclines. It was quite nerving not knowing how far we had to be but after an hour or so of long tireless driving, we finally pulled up to Fujisan station with relief now in our hearts.

It was dead silent when the bus pulled away but our next goal was getting to our hostel called Fujisan YOU. We had no choice but to ring the hostel manager called Marino to help us out as it was close to the check in time expiry. With luck, she answered the phone and was very happy to help us out and meet us at the station. We couldn’t believe we were finally here after the treacherous day we had getting here and all we really cared about was a bed to sleep in.

A small time passed until she approached us and welcomed us to the hostel as though we were returning home. We walked into a spacious area full of Fuji posters and pictures and I soon realised this was my first time in a hostel type accommodation and I was looking forward to this experience. There was another guest sitting in the lounge area who was from Oxford named Ross. We all greeted each other as Craig and I headed to the shared dorm.

What a fantastic room we walked into as it was a classic bedroom dorm with three bunk beds and cosy pillows and duvets. The smell of pinewood lingered in the air from the bed frames and I couldn’t wait to fall asleep on the top bunk. After acquainting ourselves with the room preparing our beds, Craig headed into the lounge area speaking to Ross where as I headed straight to the toilet. However, this was not like any other toilet, I had witnessed the most futuristic toilet during my time in Japan. As soon as I walked in the room, the lid lifted open automatically and then a light show began with a type of water feature. It was truly a magical moment especially for me.

Anyway, I joined Craig and Ross in the lounge area already joining in on the conversation. We all spoke about our individual travels, where and when we started and it was surprising to know that this was Ross’s first trip travelling by himself which was pretty impressive given the fact I started mine 2 years ago on a coach trip. Ross seemed like a great person to talk to causing the conversations to last for the next 2 hours despite our tiredness.

Tiredness however got the better of us both so, it was time for bed realising we had been travelling across Japan for 13 hours to arrive here. As soon as we all entered our dorm, and settled down, I wished everyone ‘Itadakimas’ that was my favourite word to use in any situation; its meaning, ‘enjoy your dinner’. How cosy it was when I sank into a nice bed with a heavy duvet cuddling into me. It was very different from last night’s sleeping arrangements but still thoroughly enjoyed my time in Hirayu. Now it was time to think of sleep wondering what tomorrow would bring.
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