Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Autumn Aurora in Japan - Day 16

Fujiyoshida                                                                                 Japan

Wednesday 19th October 2016

I woke up from the most beautiful 8-hour sleep thanks to the bed. Again, I crept out of the dorm without making a sound and headed straight to the lobby going over what to do with our day. Kaori, the hostel receptionist, was already at the reception desk and I tried to say good morning to her in Japanese. Ross came in soon after me who was ready to take his leave as he was heading to Kyoto today. We shook hands and bid him safe travels and thanking him for a good night at the sushi restaurant. He didn’t look happy when he had to place his heavy rucksack over his shoulders and out of the door soon disappearing amongst the streets of Fujiyoshida.

I continued on thinking of ideas for the adventures of the Geordie idiot travellers. My plan was to take the trusty bikes to the next lake along Lake Kawaguchiko. What was interesting about this trip was that the lake was very close to a network of caves in the area all with unique names. What I found very funny was the name of the lake and how it linked to the first cave we would visit. The lake was called Lake ‘Saiko’ that sounded like psycho and the cave was called Saiko Bat cave; batman fans may understand this. The other caves we would visit also had very interesting names, which was called ‘Fuketsu’ (Wind cave) and ‘Narusawa Hyoketsu’ (Ice cave). It was too soon to go anywhere just yet and with Craig now in the lobby with Kaori and I, we all had a great conversation as well as Kaori showing Craig her origami skills. She made a beautiful crane as well as a ‘Shuriken’ also referred to as a ninja star. We were amazed by her skills praising her for her work that she really appreciated.

This would actually be the last time we would see her so we said goodbyes to her praising her once more for her work and friendliness she possessed every time. We paid for the bikes again for the day and headed straight to St. Cloud bakery; our new haven. It was a short trip and we soon pulled up with our light green hot rods and walked into the bakery casually. The bakers welcomed us but I felt there was a sense of disbelief of us coming back; the place was brilliant so of course we were coming back. We grabbed a few familiar baked goods and sat at the same table as the previous day as Craig fell in love with his food. Just as we were about to finish, a mother came in with her very young child who was staring at Craig and I. We smiled at the little girl and waving as she immediately became shy and smiled back.

Anyway, we took our leave heading straight for the bat cave. As we cycled, I felt as though we were Batman and Robin; “quick Robin, to the Bat cave”; “Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN”. This journey would be the longest amount of time cycling as it would be roughly 7 miles; it didn’t sound like much to us but the bikes we were on would make it quite difficult. Therefore, with our essentials packed, we rode the journey to Lake Kawaguchiko as it was the easiest route and more direct for us to take.

The cycle down was enjoyable to say the least and once more, the weather couldn’t have been better. Now, arriving at the lake, we had to make our way for Lake Saiko but we seemed to find ourselves lost going up wrong roads. Finally, we were on the right track but soon came upon a very steep incline. So we pushed as hard as we could to get up but we soon came to a stop as we stumbled across a nice and quiet shrine area called ‘Kifune Jinja Shrine’. The sight of a huge red archway at the entrance welcomed us and then, it opened out to a quiet cleansing pool and modern designed temple hidden at the back. We spent a short amount of time here admiring the place before having to pedal up the steep road.

It was horrible but we did it however, two more steep turns were ahead of us so instead of stopping, we continued as sweat poured down our faces. Finally, the ground levelled out in time for us to fly through a long tunnel and what was at the other end was truly magical. It was as though we had been transported to the Lake district in the UK; the area was extremely beautiful. The road we were on was perfect as it hugged the shoreline with winding routes heading towards the south side of the lake.

We were closing in on the bat cave as cool as that sounds again making a few wrong turns but eventually, there it was right in front of us. At the entrance site house, there were actually two figures of Batman so we were definitely in the right place.

What was also great was the cheap 300-yen price was to gain access therefore; we soon paid and received white hard hats as we made our way towards the lava cave.

We had to walk along a forest area on a fabricated track for the next 5-minutes until we arrived at the cave. It looked like a narrow entrance at the start, so we soon squeezed in already feeling the cold air as soon as we got half way down the stairs. It didn’t bother us though as we were used to cold temperatures. From here on in, excitement was in the air when we had to make our way through narrow and low tunnels and the sound of constant dripping water echoed the caverns with a bizarre feeling.

Deeper into the cave now, there was clearly no sign of any bats whatsoever which we found very funny given the name of the cave. However, there was a very strong smell of guano more commonly known as bat droppings. Craig and I decided to split off in different directions further in the cave both meeting at the other side. We also both had the same case of ducking and crawling our way through which added to the experience. A long while had passed until we couldn’t go any further and so with that, we head back to the exit.

As soon as we exited the cave, a great wall of humid air threw itself at us hard. Back to the bikes now, we decided to have a quick ice cream before heading to the next cave; the wind cave. Again, this route would be another difficult journey up a steep incline and my legs seemed to have no power whatsoever towards the end, as for Craig though he was far ahead of me. I cycled on though catching him up and once I did, we had arrived at the wind cave/ice cave area. What a relief it was to me as I couldn’t go any further and we soon parked up and made our way through the main pathway.

It was quite a lengthy walk before we arrived at a checkpoint area where we paid yet another small price of 300-yen. We continued along the pathway, which was leading us straight to the wind cave. We were welcomed by a larger opening into the cave but no less exhilarating to us as we stepped down into the cold abyss. The walkways and steps were very wet and so watching every step we took, we entered into the bowels of the cave. A few narrow tunnels lead us to a large area that was home to a very large chunk of ice. The cave was fascinating but I thought the bat cave was a lot more adventurous.

We made our way to the exit back into the humid air already making our way to the ice cave but not before retrieving our stamps for our collection. Once again, we found ourselves walking through more dense forest but what made this walk unique was the fact we were walking along a lava trail. Big and small lava stones scattered the area making it quite difficult to move forward smoothly. A long time had passed until we arrived at the ice cave area and once again, we paid our admission and received our hard hats making our way to cave entrance.

This entrance was different to the other two caves as this had a larger opening with a spiral type wooden staircase leading to the narrower end at the bottom. From here on, it became very tight and awkward to get down the steps and small tunnels; a fantastic experience nonetheless. We then made our way to the main section of the lava cave where it housed a type of storage area; a sort of natural refrigerator. There were many big metal containers full of ancient type of eggs. What was funny was that people were wrapped up in warm clothing because of the cold where as Craig and I only had our t-shirts on.

With everything seen, we made our way back out of the cold dark cave for the final time, as this would be the last cave to visit. With another stamp to our collection, we took the long walk back to our bikes laughing and talking along the way. We did spend a bit of time relaxing at the main entrance area watching on at everybody making their way towards the caves. As for us, we climbed aboard our trusty bikes and took our leave heading straight back to Lake Saiko. What was great was that we were going back down the steep hills we struggled to get up therefore, we were looking forward to the freewheeling that was about to commence.

As expected, it was truly exhilarating racing down the quiet roads through the forest area having the greatest amount of fun quickly making our way to the lake. As soon as we arrived there, I couldn’t get over the humility of the area as we cycled smoothly to the east side of the lake. Even though we had a good pace going, I had to stop due to the fact that a most peaceful view of the lake and hills was right in front of us. The sun was breaking through the low clouds with its raise bouncing from the lake; truly a magical moment.

The other thing that was magical was the beautiful descent down the horrible hill we had climbed up at the beginning. I was like a racer trying to go as fast as I could around the sharp turns then the long straight to Lake Kawaguchiko. I was truly surprised the wheels were not catching on fire with the speed we were reaching. What an exhilaration it was but next seemed to be quite the boring part of cycling through the streets of Fujisan. It didn’t take long though as we were soon back at the hostel parking up our bikes for another day.

Marino was at the reception welcoming us back as we made our way to our room. After a quick shower to cool down a bit, I headed into the lobby to relax from the strenuous cycling. I was having a good conversation with Marino about where I came from as well as my dialect. She found it very funny the way I would pronounce words I really found it funny when she would try and follow the way I said words such as ‘canny’ (great), ‘lass’(woman) and ‘ ar I’(yes). I also mentioned to her about the origami session Kaori showed Craig and me and then I decided to show her my origami skills making a type of swan. She seemed impressed even though it didn’t look at all like a swan and so she decided to provide me with a pack of origami sheets to try other origami animals.

I tried making a rabbit which had a step-by-step guide on the back of the pack of papers and eventually, I completed it. She then explained how she used to make origami bouquets for her friend’s wedding and I thought I could make a rose. As soon as she gave me the book and opened it, I was truly amazed with how complex the process was but I wouldn’t give up without a fight. Within 3 minutes, I gave up and moved onto another animal but stopped by Marino who came over with two gifts for me. A crane which could flap its wings and an origami red and yellow flower. I thought it was magnificent and then she offered to teach me how to make a crane. I didn’t hesitate and she sat opposite me helping me create this delicate creature.

To be honest, I found it quite therapeutic and calming to be making origami as well as taught by Sensei Marino. What was even better was that it was coming together pretty well with no false folding. I actually seemed to be working up a sweat making this crane but once it was complete, I was so happy and proud. Then she decided to tell me that this is what children at kindergarten are taught to do, which I found hilarious.

It was quite late by the time she left but as she was leaving, a couple had walked in thanking her for a recommendation she provided them. As she left, I introduced myself to them then they headed off upstairs for a moment. From then, I continued relaxing feeling right at home in this fabulous hostel along with Craig. Then a young woman approached the entrance trying to get into the building. I opened the door for her as she walked in with her big red suitcase looking quite tired when she said hello to us heading straight upstairs for a moment.

Then the couple came downstairs and sat with us engaging in conversation about where we all came from. They were both from Belgium and what was funny was that the man thought I was American and Craig Irish. We laughed and stated we were from England but the man was surprised due to our Geordie dialect that would have sounded foreign to him and his wife; he did seem quite drunk too. The young woman soon came into the lobby and I helped her around the rules of the place. Her name was Michal, I asked her where she came from and I thought she was saying Iceland but in fact, she came from Israel. She seemed a bit restless of people thinking she was from Iceland but I figured it out in the end.

We continued as the night went on explaining to her what there was to do in this area of Japan. Craig however was engaged in conversation with the drunken Belgian man and I could clearly see he wasn’t enjoying it. Moments later, the couple went off to the room and then we soon realised it was coming up to midnight. Therefore, it was lights out and straight to sleep for everybody with a nice quiet night in store for us all.
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