"" Writer's Wanderings

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Off To Climb Mount Fuji

Some time ago when we were planning our trip to Japan to visit our son and his family, we casually threw out the suggestion that we should all climb Mt. Fuji. The idea grew and so we packed clothes we thought appropriate for the climb and bought trekking boots and a walking stick for me and our son and his wife looked into booking the trip.

Thankfully they planned the climb for several days after our arrival because we were going to need all the energy we could muster. The youngest granddaughter stayed home with mom but our nine year old grandson and twelve year old granddaughter thought they could make it so the five of us woke up early Thursday morning and set off with our backpacks for our rendezvous with the tour bus.

Station 5 - The starting point
We took the train to the Tokyo Station to meet with our tour group. We checked in with them and then were taken to a staging area where people were divided into more groups and assigned buses for the trip to the mountain. Our tour guide tried to talk to us in English and was doing fairly well but was totally relieved to discover that our granddaughter spoke Japanese and would translate. (Our son speaks fairly good Japanese but relies on her for the correct forms to be polite.) The guide led us to the "orange" bus (which he said clearly) and we got into our assigned seats.

Already in the clouds.
The bus trip was a little over three hours with an interesting stop at a rest stop along the way. It was a huge place, lots of cars, trucks, and buses. There was a large restroom with a board at the entrance that lit up to show which stalls were open and which were occupied. There had to be at least 40 or more stalls. But of course there was a line for the ladies. Our granddaughter discovered that one whole corridor of stalls was closed for cleaning and that was what had made the line.

Supplied with a few snack purchases from the mercantile, we boarded the bus again for the rest of the trip out into the countryside and up the mountain. The land was so beautiful outside the city. Lakes and water and lots of trees. The ascent by bus to the starting point of our climb, Station 5, began and our experienced driver took us up the switchbacks with ease.

The expedition crew (my son took the picture)
We arrived at Station 5 around 11:30 or so and checked the bags of clothes into a locker for changing after the trip (something I'd neglected to plan on). At the restaurant, we had lunch. Mine was a delicious miso soup with nice chunks of vegetables in it. Soon we were taking a deep breath (we were already at about 2400 meters--around 6,000 feet) but the altitude didn't bother us too much--until we started climbing.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo Tower is a landmark in the district of Minato, Tokyo. The red and white tower resembles the Eiffel Tower in its structure. It is a communications and observation tower and of course a tourist attraction in the area. Built in 1958, the main source of revenue is tourism and antenna leasing. Like all things built for technology, it was affected by advancement in digital TV. At a little over 1,000 feet tall is a bit too short for complete digital broadcasting but still acts as an antenna for other broadcasting venues.

Beneath the tower is a four story building that houses museums, shops, restaurants and of course provides a ride to the top for those wishing a bird's eye view of the area. We ate at the food court and watched an attendant who fascinated kids and adults alike with his sound effects as he entertained and engaged those around him.

Since our family had already been up to the top and Bob and I weren't really interested in looking at the city from the heights, we opted to visit the aquarium that is there. I'm glad we did. The kids were fascinated and so were we.

The aquarium houses lots of unusual fish, many I've never seen before and quite a few I've never seen in an aquarium display. There was a small touch display with a dozen starfish in it and next to that was a tank of what looked like black and gold mollies. The kids were given nets made of paper and the object was to catch as many fish as you could with the net before it dissolved. It was a lesson in patience. The more you chased a fish the faster your net would fall apart. The one who patiently waited for opportunity and gently pulled the fish up with her net caught the most.

Tanks with huge catfish, eels, decorative fish, porcupine fish, turtles, shrimp, seahorses, the list goes on. About 2:30 a feeding time began with two attendants going to various tanks and feeding the fish. There was a lot of explanation--in Japanese, of course, that Bob and I didn't understand but it was fun to watch. Our youngest granddaughter was quite interested and thankfully she speaks Japanese and could understand what they were saying.

And of course there was a koi pond and food pellets to feed them with. All in all for the price, it was a great time.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Japanese Cicadas

Our son and grandkids met us at the Haneda Airport when we arrived in Tokyo after a thirteen and a half hour flight from Toronto. I was glad to see them. We had been awake for most of the flight since it was during the day and didn't feel alert enough to manage finding their new address. All the way to the apartment, we kept hearing about all the "bugs". I was beginning to wonder until we got out of the Uber van our son had arranged and heard the noise. It was cicadas.

We had our seventeen year cicadas back home in Ohio this past June/July and they were plenty noisy. Their Japanese counterparts were just as vocal. The cicada season in Japan is July to September. I'm guessing that we are now in the peak of the season in August. And apparently it happens every year here.

As we walked to the Tokyo Tower we had to stop every so often because as all little boys do--and some girls too, they had to pick up the cicadas they found and examine them as well as the shells that looked like large beetles that they emerge from. 

The Japanese cicada is a little different looking than ours back home. Their eyes are not a bright red and they appear to be a bid stodgier than ours. They can still sing quite a song as they spend their week of life attracting a mate. It does cover up some of the traffic noise of a big city. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Languages - Learning The Basics

While English is probably one of the most difficult languages to learn (although I think Japanese and Chinese are right up there with it) it is also one of the most universally spoken languages especially in popular tourist areas. This was most evident when we visited Paris. The closer we were to the areas where most tourists are found, the more people spoke English to us.

Some people enjoy practicing their English with you. Others are more timid. But I've always seen a face light up (possibly in a moment of amusement) as you try to say something in their language. I believe it is appreciated though especially with those "magical words" that Mom taught you: Please and thank you.

A search online will help you to find a translator that will phonetically give you the words that translate the "magic" into the language of the country you are planning to visit. Add good morning or good day and of course cost or price if you plan to shop and you can charm your way through your trip.

And of course there's an app. Lots of apps actually. Some you can speak into and have it translated. Others you can use to take a picture of a sign and it will translate it. And still others where you can type in what you want to say. Apps are okay but I still think you will make more friends with your own attempt to remember how to say good morning no matter how much you may mangle the pronunciation. You can be that foreigner who brings fond memories to the local you encounter and a chuckle for what you tried to say.

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