Monday, February 1, 2010
Mt. Nokogiri Adventure
It was billed as a day of hiking and a ferry ride across Tokyo Bay – sounded like a chance for some fresh air and exercise while seeing some more sights in Japan. Sign me up. But as with many adventures, expectations and reality don’t always mesh.
We set off from the Kurihama Ferry Terminal, located just south of Yokosuka. It was a breezy day but fairly clear and the crossing was nice. Did I mention it was breezy? Well just file that fact … because it will come into play later in the day in a couple of ways. We were headed by ferry across Tokyo bay to the small port town of Kanaya. This is where the Daibutsu of Nihon-ji is located, the largest stone Buddha in Japan.
Kanaya is a little bayside town, probably the most hoppin’ thing it has going on is the ferry terminal. There is a little shop in the terminal building that has lots of packaged local food items for sale. Apparently this part of the Chiba Prefecture is known for its peanut production – and having grown up in Georgia I was fascinated by all the different types of peanuts. There were cocoa peanuts, wasabi peanuts, pepper peanuts, miso peanuts, yogurt peanuts, sugar peanuts – all with little containers for you to taste test. I had a good time trying to figure out which ones my family back in the states would actually like (and eat) and felt a bit like Goldielocks as I tasted them – “too hot,” “too spicy,” “ohhh, way too different they wouldn’t like that at all (miso),” “not different enough (sugar).” But I really felt like I scored when I ran across the Japanese version of boiled peanuts. Now you really can’t claim southern roots until you’ve experienced boiled peanuts or as my grandfather used to say “baaaaawwl’d peanuts” – for the longest time as a kid I thought we were eating bald peanuts, gotta love that southern accent! Not sure my fellow adventurer’s were too enamored with these culinary delicacies but I loved them. Different from the “bald peanuts” of my childhood (enough sodium in those puppies to make you retain water for a month) they were good nevertheless.
We headed out from the terminal and walked to the rope-way gondola. It was a nice ride up the mountain and we had great views of Tokyo Bay. But it was windy (did I already mention that?) and a tad unnerving as the gondola swayed back and forth – we all reassured each other that the Japanese were all about safety … right?
Once at the top we all broke off into different groups – some wanted to see the Kwan-non and others wanted to see the Buddha. The group I was in headed down the hill in search of the Daibutsu. We passed by the Tokai Arhats, the 1500 Stone Figures that were carved from 1779 to 1798. Many were destroyed or damaged during an anti-buddhist movement in the Meiji Era. There is now an ongoing restoration effort.
We finally reached the bottom of the hill, after going down countless steps and we were rewarded by a magnificent stone Buddha (Daibutsu) carved into the side of the mountain. This Buddha took three years to carve and was completed in 1783. It was constructed as a symbol of world peace and tranquility. There is a lovely view from the area looking out over Tokyo Bay and from there we planned to hike back up all those steps to the gondola. But the forces of nature had a different adventure in store for us. We found out that the gondola was now closed due to the windy conditions. We were now faced with how do we get back to the ferry? There was an attendant at the Daibutsu and she assured us that once we reached a lower parking lot we would be able to grab a taxi back to the ferry terminal – sounded like an easy solution. However, something must have been lost in translation because when we reached the parking lot – there was not a soul in sight. The five of us decided to forge ahead and hope for the best – which ended up being a pseudo 5K run back to the terminal. We had to pass through 5 tunnels with no pedestrian walkway and the tunnels here in Japan are narrow. We sprinted through the tunnels and walked the straightaway’s laughing for the most part at what the Japanese drivers must be thinking as five crazy Gaijin’s were playing a tunnel version of “chicken.” Finally, we were out of the tunnels and could see the terminal … and our ferry, which had already left for the return trip home. No worries, we would catch the next one.
It is a bad sign when the ferry you are sitting on is rocking back and forth because of the waves, and you haven’t even pulled away from the dock. Even though I am married to someone in the Navy, I am in no way shape or form a sea-worthy kind of gal. In fact, I really hate being out further than I know I can swim back to shore. But there was only one way that day to get from A to B and it meant crossing Tokyo Bay with swells high enough to make the horizon line disappear. That wind that had forced the gondola to be closed was kicking up some might fine swells. Thank goodness, my motion sickness that can pop up if I happen to go over a speed bump too fast stayed away that day. I think it was the pure terror of being on a ferry, with compatriots who were looking to see where the life jackets were that sent an adrenaline rush coursing through my body and kept my lunch down where it should be.
Once home and safely on land – I relayed the day’s events to my family. Jeff, the former Navy line officer sort of rolled his eyes as I described the white caps and swells. Yes, yes I know – if we’re comparing “war stories” I will never be able to top his in a Spruance Class Destroyer off the coast of Japan in Typhoon season. And my children were no better in offering any sort of empathy – “really, you were on a ferry and there were swells? Cool, when can we go?”
We’ll go when mom has checked the small craft advisory, done a visual and see’s nary a white cap in sight and the flags are hanging like limp rags.
Till next time, sayonara.
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