Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lake Kawaguchi - Fujis and Funyons

13 hours after falling asleep, I woke up to the sound of my German roommate's egg timer he uses instead of an alarm clock. Weird. I'm saving Tokyo for the end of my trip, when Pearl's there, so I got up, checked out, and jumped on the first of three trains to get me to Lake Kawaguchi, under Mount Fuji.

After getting lost so many times yesterday, I had gotten pretty good at figuring out the Tokyo subway, although I had a bit of a problem finding the train to actually get me out of the city. After several minutes of staring at a map while standing directly under a sign telling me exactly where to go, I got the hell out of Tokyo and easily found my connecting train to take me to Kawaguchi-ko (not included in my Japan Rail Pass? Bah!) The Fuji Express passed through picturesque towns and some really awesome mountains. So far, Japan definitely has anywhere else I've been beat for man-made beauty (I mean architecture, not breasts), and I suspect by the end of the trip, I'll rank it above Switzerland and New Zealand for the natural stuff, too (again, I mean mountains and rivers, not breasts).

The dancing, animated Mt. Fuji on TV announced that we had arrived, so I disembarked and made my way to the awesome K's House hostel. The map I used showed more or less a straight line from the station to the hostel, but luckily I figured out that there were actually some turns involved. I tossed my stuff on my bed and immediately left to explore Lake Kawaguchi. The lake is pretty beautiful, even though that bastard Fuji-san was almost totally covered by clouds.

I walked almost the entire circumference of the lake, which took all day. I stopped on a whim at a small little restaurant - my first real restaurant in Japan - and it was a good thing I chose this place. The entire staff consisted of one old woman. Somehow she manages to greet, seat, take orders, work the register, and cook everybody's food. And this place was extremely busy. Assuming it would be an hour wait for my meal (which would be a surprise, since the whole menu was in Japanese), I settled back and enjoyed the view of the lower half of Mt. Fuji. Three minutes later, I had a steaming bowl of food in front of me. At first I was amazed at her speed - she managed to get five groups of four in and out in fifteen minutes - but once I tasted the food, I was amazed at her culinary skills. I wolfed the food down, told her it was delicious, and then gave her 9,000 yen for the 840-yen meal. She had a good laugh at my expense, and I sheepishly ducked out.

The rest of the day was spent wandering and at the hostel. I got caught up in conversation with a British woman on vacation from teaching English in Thailand, and since I was still jetlagged, my eyelids started drooping by 8:00. I told her I hated to be such a loser, but I had to go to sleep. She smiled, and when I tried to return it, I could feel my tired eyes cross for some reason. I have to avoid her tomorrow out of embarrassment.

I'm extremely impressed with K's House. The staff is excellent, the lounge is very comfortable, the internet is free and has English keyboards, the kitchen is better than ours at home, their toilets shoot water in my crack, the location is perfect, and everything is so clean. I'll try to stay at the K's House in Tokyo. Although there isn't much to do in this town, K's House makes me want to stay another night.

Oh my God, I almost forgot the best part of the day. Around 5 PM, I stumbled upon "the oldest shrine in the Mt Fuji area". Unfortunately, it was closed. Fortunately, it was only closed with tiny wooden posts, so I simply side-stepped them and went in. You may be able to keep the polite Japanese out with the logs, but it'll take giant gates with elaborate locks to stop an American.

The place was really eerie, and being alone there didn't help at all. I stepped around a few more "barriers" to actually go into some of the buildings, but the utter stillness of the place was too creepy. It didn't help when I decided to explore an ancient cemetery on the grounds.

My view of Mt. Fuji. Beautiful, no?

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