Juggling Japan – Day 3

The day my friend and I had been dreading finally arrived: our last day in Kishimoto Residence.  As soon as I opened my eyes, that realization hit me like a tidal wave. It was without a doubt the saddest morning in our Juggling Japan adventure. I went to the room where Puput was staying (which was right across the tiny hall) and found that she was still asleep. I wish i had mistakenly pressed the Dismiss button on my alarm clock like I did on our first day so we would have overslept again and had more than enough reason to stay there longer. But that was not the case. So I woke her up and we took turns washing our faces and brushing our teeths. On our way to the bathroom, we ran into Mr. Kishimoto. He was surprised to see us up so early, considering yesterday we were still in dream land by the time he left the house for work. He nodded to us and said good morning, but he was quite awkward about it all. Later on we found out from Mrs. Kishimoto that he was shy since he didn’t have any daughters. Nevertheless, he was really nice. He was the one who invited us to sit and rest under the kotatsu on our first day. Oh, who are we kidding here? Basically EVERYONE in the Kishimoto household were angels!

Japanese breakfast, courtesy of www.lessonlinks.org

Japanese breakfast, courtesy of http://www.lessonlinks.org

For the second (and sadly the last in our 2012 Japan-vaganza) time, Mrs. Kishimoto had prepared for us the mouth-watering Japanese breakfast. I’m just going to say, right here and now, that the typical Japanese breakfast is absolutely fulfilling! We ate at 7 in the morning every day for two days, and we never felt hungry before 3 in the afternoon!!! It was a fantastic way to stay frugal on a backpacking trip! This time, Mrs. Kishimoto prepared tuna instead of beef, and chicken cream soup instead of miso. Plus, we had nori (dried and salted seaweed) for snacks, as if we still had enough room. We never forgot to say “Gochisousama desu” (rough translation: “I am done. Thank you for the meal”) after we ate, and she was very impressed with our Japanese language ability. Now i’m not saying that we could speak fluent Japanese. We are nowhere near that level yet! The way I look at it is this: Japanese language is considered as one of the most complicated languages in the world. Even not all Japanese know their Kanji! Therefore, they never expect foreign people to know their language. So when they hear us speaking Japanese, they would be very surprised. This sort of makes me want to study the language even more, just to see how they would react when I actually speak fluently.

Back to breakfast with Mrs. Kishimoto. Throughout our morning chat with the lovely mother, Puput and I exchanged glances and I knew she was thinking the same thing: sooner than later, we were going to have to say good-bye to this wonderful host and the warm house. So when she stood up from her chair, opened a drawer next to kotatsu (I swear I would steal that comfortable table!), and pulled out two gift-wrapped farewell presents, I completely lost it and started crying my eyes out. It was the ultimate sucker punch. She had treated us with such grace and warmth and kindness that many travelers could only dream of receiving, and it made it so much harder to say good-bye. I could see tears in her eyes as she said, “It has been a pleasure having you in our house. Please come here again when you visit Tokyo”. And later, as we packed our bags to go see Mount Fuji by bus, she handed two plastic bags full of snacks for us to eat on the way. It’s just one of those mornings Puput and I would never forget.

Our beautiful and kind-heart host

Our beautiful and kind-heart host

Too bad Mr. Kishimoto had already left for work..

Too bad Mr. Kishimoto had already left for work..

After our tearful and bittersweet goodbye, Puput and I finally set out our journey to Lake Kawaguchiko to see Mount Fuji. We went there by a highway bus, which cost 1700 Yen and took about 2,5 hours. Yuya warned us the day before that it would be even colder there than Tokyo (The temperature in Tokyo alone at the time was ten to seven degrees Celcius! You could only imagine the effect it had on a couple of girls who had lived their 22 years of lives in a tropical country!), so we went all out and wore three thick layers of clothes.

Puput took this picture from the bus!

Puput took this picture from the bus!

But alas! The weather was actually sunny and warm as we stepped off the bus at Kawaguchiko Station! This unexpected change completely lifted our mood, because it meant we got to see the majestic Mount Fuji on a clear day! Many travelers would kill for a clear view of the iconic mountain, and we were one of the lucky few to get that!

The best way to see Mount Fuji is by taking the Kachi Kachi Ropeway, which cost 700 Yen for a round trip. Once we got off the rope way, we had to do a bit of hike to get to the top. Don’t worry, it was not hard at all. And as a reward for the not-so-rigorous hike, a lovely little restaurant / gift shop greeted us at the very top. What’s even better was the balcony over the restaurant where it served as the best spot to feast our eyes on the beauty that is Fujiyama. As I climbed our way on the stairs that led to the balcony, my heart was pounding. In a matter of seconds, I was going to catch a glimpse of the mountain that is the epitome of Japan. I got goosebumps just thinking about it. And when I reached the final step, I took a deep breath. Holding on to the railing, I looked up.

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There it was, as clear as day. Mount Fuji in all her glory. The view I had been dreaming of seeing since I was a little kid. The type of view I only got to see on screen or plastered all over Japanese souvenirs. And there I was. In Japan. After sixteen years of waiting.

It was such an overwhelming moment. I couldn’t help but feel small, and I knew my friend was experiencing the same feeling. Standing at the balcony, staring at the gorgeous view, we took a minute of silence to remember how blessed we were throughout the entire journey so far.

God knows how much time we spent up there, taking pictures and admiring the brilliant views. Kudos to whoever built the balcony because it was such a perfect spot! Try standing dead center on the balcony and look around. You would find the famous mountain on your left, and the Kawaguchiko Lake on your right. Isn’t that just so bloody picturesque??

The girls with Fuji-san :)

The girls with Fuji-san 🙂

Binoculars are available for 100 Yen

Binoculars for an even better view (100Yen)

Kawaguchiko Lake

Kawaguchiko Lake

"Quick! Tie your fortune paper!"

“Quick! Tie your fortune paper!”

the view from Kachi Kachi Ropeway

the view from Kachi Kachi Ropeway

As much as we wanted to stay there forever, we needed to get going because we still had to get back to Tokyo to see the iconic Tokyo Tower and go to Shinjuku to take our overnight bus to Kyoto. So we hopped on the lovely tourist bus back to Kawaguchiko station and bought our highway bus tickets back to Tokyo.

The cute little Tourist Bus

The cute little Tourist Bus

It was already dark by the time we reached Shinjuku. When I said dark, I’m sure lots of my Indonesian friends who are reading this would expect the time to be around eight or nine at night. The truth is, it was just after five in the evening. The days are pretty short during autumn and winter. This came as a surprise for me and my friend as well. And the streets got really quiet and almost empty by seven. At first, it felt a bit spooky when we made our way through the deserted streets, parks, and overpass. Lots of times we found ourselves being the only two people on the sidewalk! But eventually there was this sense of serenity surrounding us, and as the iconic tower slowly came into view, the silence of it all made the view of beautifully-lit Tokyo Tower even more stunning than it already was.

as it came into view...

as it came into view…

...and up close

…and up close

We didn’t take a lot of pictures there (well, at least I didn’t. Puput did more than enough for the two of us) and sat on the nearby benches instead. Early on, we had decided not to enter the tower and go to the observatory deck because we were already content with the view from Tokyo SkyTree that we saw the day before. Sitting on the nearby benches might sound boring, but it couldn’t be much further than the truth. Since Christmas was only a month away, there were these gorgeous Christmas lights decorations everywhere in Tokyo, including around the Tokyo Tower grounds. You could feel the festivity blooming and even though neither of us celebrate it, we could feel the joy and excitement surrounding the day that is Christmas. Our favorite Christmas Light decorations in Tokyo would be Ebisu Place Garden and Roppongi, both we visited on our first day. They were just so festive and romantic!

Christmas decorations near Tokyo Tower (1)

Christmas decorations near Tokyo Tower (1)

Christmas decorations near Tokyo Tower (2)

Christmas decorations near Tokyo Tower (2)

the cute bench

the cute bench

fav decoration (1): Roppongi

fav decoration (1): Roppongi

fav decoration (2): Ebisu Place Garden

fav decoration (2): Ebisu Place Garden

From Tokyo Tower, we made our way back to Shinjuku to catch the overnight bus. But we managed to make one final pit stop. If Shibuya has Hachiko statue as its famous meeting point, Shinjuku has its Love Sculpture. Just like Hachiko, this sculpture was located only a few inches from the street’s busy crossroad. I’d say the best time to see this modern art is at night because of the lights surrounding those four letters.

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It was ten PM by the time we got to Sumitomo Building. This is where we checked in our reserved seats for the overnight bus to Kyoto. As a traveler on a limited budget, an overnight bus is the perfect alternative to reach point B that is located quite far from point A because most of the times it is much cheaper than a night’s worth of hotel.

It takes roughly 10 hours to reach Kyoto from Tokyo, with a few stops along the way. Our bus had to make a few stops to switch drivers, which is a really good thing because we wouldn’t have to worry about the driver dozing off and jeopardizing the passengers’ safety. If you’re wondering about the name of the bus service that we chose, it is Willer Express. I loved this company’s service. The staffs were so nice and extremely helpful despite the limited English proficiency.

The bus departed from Tokyo at 11: 50 PM. It was dark, and most of the passengers fell right to sleep the moment their heads touched the head rest. I had a bit of problem storing my backpack because the cabin was smaller than I expected, so it took quite a while for me to dozed off. And when I finally started to feel my eyes closing, one single thought came to mind:

Kyoto, here we come!

***

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