Welcome to Day 14 of Janet, Randy and Family Japan Adventure 2016
Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
Today was an early morning. We were catching a bus to the Fuji Shibazakura Festival from Shinjuku station at 7:35am, so that meant leaving our hotel around 6:40am. I ended up waking up at 4:00am, and wasn't able to get back to sleep (and waking me up in the process, but oh well). We showered up, and our continental breakfast arrived at 6:00am.
We all met up and headed over to the Kasumigaseki subway station. Some of us needed to recharge our Suica cards, so we did that and hopped on the next train heading to Shinjuku. It wasn't overly busy on the train, so we were able to all get seats for the 14 minute ride. Once we arrived at Shinjuku station, I(we) was able to correctly guide us back to the new bus terminal. We arrived shortly before they started boarding the bus.
For the bus trip out to the festival, out of the 6 tickets, 2 were sitting separately. Randy and I decided to take those tickets, so I randomly handed him one of the tickets. We went to board, and the bus driver insisted on changing our seats - so that Randy sat in the seat I was originally going to sit in. I think that was because I ended up sitting next to another woman, and they don't like to have women sitting next to men that they don't know (especially this strange guy). Okay fine (it was like a big old shovel full of confusion !). Randy's aunts boarded without any problem, but then when Randy's parents went to get on, there was another kerfuffle. The gate agent came on the bus, and made Randy's aunts switch seats with Harold and Lil. I have no idea why. Meanwhile, this drama is holding up the rest of the passengers wanting to get on the bus.
We finally all got settled in and the bus and it headed out. There was no one sitting next to Randy (dude at the bus station seemed to be having issues, but whatev), so I ended up moving next to him. We drove along for a while, then we started stopping at various bus stops along the highway. The bus would stop, open the door, and then continue on when no one got on or off. I was confused, as I thought that you had to have a reserved seat on the bus, so I assumed that the bus driver would know if there was someone that needed to be picked up (wrong assumption on our part). At first, I was worried that I was actually sitting in someone's seat that would get on at one of these stops. But no one ever did get on or off. I'm sure there were at least 7-10 stops where the bus slowed up, the door would open and then close and the bus would keep moving.
That's one thing that we've noticed here in Japan - is that the term Express (as in express bus or express train), does not mean what we think it means. For us - it would be something that is direct or with only a few major stops. But here in Japan, it is more like a milk run - where it stops at many places along the way. I ended up snoozing for a bit on the way.
As we got closer to Mount Fuji, the stops ended, and we did continue straight to the festival. As we got closer and closer to the festival, we were getting amazing views of Mount Fuji - blue skies and no clouds. The festival was on the back side of the mountain, but as soon as we got there, it clouded over and was cold and windy. Great. WTF !!
The festival had only been open for a week, and so not all of the flowers were in bloom yet. It wasn't quite the same explosion of flowers that was advertised (or photoshopped) on the website, but it was pretty. We arrived at around 10:00am, and as all of us had been up early, we were all quite hungry. So, we went to get some food from the food vendors that they had onsite. Randy and I shared some yakisoba noodles and some fried chicken and chips. There was a dining tent where you could get out of the wind (and warm up a bit), so we sat and ate our food there.
Now that we were no longer starving, we went to wander around the flowers. The site wasn't as expansive as I had thought. There was another area with vendors selling souvenirs and handing out samples of tea. Randy's aunts liked the sakura tea, and ended up buying some. It was quite cold wandering around the site, and it probably didn't help that the Matsuba sisters had all decided to wear capris and light jackets today. As we were wandering back from the souvenir tents, the clouds parted a bit, so we were actually able to see Mount Fuji. We spent some time taking lots of pictures while we had the opportunity (being the typical tourists). Meanwhile, the rest of the gang headed back to the dining tent to warm up with some coffee.
When I had booked the bus, our only choices to get directly to and from the festival were the 7:35am bus to the festival and a 1:30pm or 2:30pm bus coming back. I chose the 1:30pm return, figuring that that 3 hours would be lots of time. Which is was - as we were pretty much done looking at the flowers after 1 hour, and spent the 2 hours huddled in the dining tent trying to stay warm. There were no heaters or anything - but at least we were out of the cold wind. The tents had vinyl windows so that when the sun did shine in it warmed the area pretty good. But those instances were few and far between.
It was finally time for the bus to pick us up at 1:30pm, and there were only 8 of us getting on the bus from the festival. Since there were empty seats, I moved across the aisle so that both of us could stretch out (there wasn't the same anal person at this end with seat assignments). Again, we stopped at a number of different places as we wound our way through the mountains. After about an hour or so, we stopped at a train station where there were a number of people queued to get on. So, I quickly moved back across to my original seat next to Randy. Which was good, as the rest of the seats were filled up by the people that were waiting at the station. There were a number of people that were not seated together and there seemed to be a lot of drama as people were trying to figure out where to sit and other people getting upset that they weren't seated together... blah, blah, blah... in the grand scheme of things, it's 1 hour of your life... who cares who you are sitting next to.
The bus continued back to Tokyo. After moving back to sit next to Randy, I started listening to an audiobook on my phone, and then kept nodding off for most of the rest of the journey (it was funny to watch). The bus was supposed to arrive back at Shinjuku at 4:00pm, but we didn't end up back until 4:30pm. And, the bus dropped us off at a different place than where we got on the bus. So, Randy whipped out Google maps and directed us back to the subway station. Once in the station, we managed to find the way to our subway line, and we caught it back to our hotel. Again, it wasn't that busy and we all managed to be able to sit for the ride. We surmised that the work force here tends to work later hours, hence 4:30 isn't as busy on the train as we would have thought.
On the walk to the hotel from the subway station, Randy and Harold headed off to a convenience store to get some booze, while us gals went back to our rooms. We then all met up in Harold & Lil's room to have some drinks. Sparkling Sake you say ??? Ok !!!
Around 6:30pm, we decided to head out to get some supper. Randy suggested this 'Pig Place' that we've seen in the alley just across from our hotel (we call it the Pig Place because there is big pig as part of their sign on the outside of the restaurant - and I can't read the Japanese characters - so Pig place it is !). So, we headed there, and it turned out to be a Korean Barbecue restaurant called Hanteri-Ya. You order your meal, and they come and grill the meat right at your table. They also have these black apron/bibs that you wear (which would be good for my dad anyways). These came in handy as Randy and I were right next to the grill, and we kept getting spattered with grease. For our meal, Randy and I ordered some chicken, dumplings and fried rice - which everything was delish ! There were also various sauces with all the meals, including the salads and oh man all of it was really good.
The restaurant was right under the train tracks, so you would hear (and feel) the trains running overhead. Also, with all the sizzling griddles at each table, it was a little noisy in there. But it was a fun way to spend our last night together in Japan. It was very tasty, and we all left smelling of barbecue. The restaurant allows smoking. The restaurant is very well ventilated, but at the end of the evening your clothes are going to smell of everything being cooked as well as cigarette smoke. Regardless it's fun to have the food cooked in front of you. Janet was also in the line of sight of a TV where she indicated that there were various Japanese game shows on, as well as a Cat show. Part of the cat show was to show off cat videos that went viral, and then to go interview the owner and see the cat in their own home. Who thinks this shit up ??
After we had our fill, we went back to the hotel and stopped at the hotel business center to print off our boarding passes for our flight tomorrow. We weren't able to check in Randy's aunts - so they will have to do that when we get to the airport. We then went to our room and packed up all the various things we have accumulated during our trip. Then I went to bed and fell asleep after such a long day.
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