Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Amanohashidate Experience (MegaPost)

We just got back from a weekend trip to a town North of here called Amanohashidate. My friend Y-san gave me the tip. I told her that I felt bad about getting money for our kids from the Japanese government, and she said we should go and spend it up there. We did our best.

Amanohashidate, as you may already know, is one of the three famous beauty spots in Japan. See?
We took this train from Kyoto. Direct, it took 2 hrs. People were taking photos of the train, because it is being retired. A new "hashidate" train debuts next month!
The view from Amanohashidate station:

A souvenir shop....(don't worry; we're just warming up to the "beauty spot" part).
We got into town, dropped our suitcases at our ryokan, and trudged up to this "lifto" up the side of the mountain.

The lifto was literally a chair lift.

No belts. Alek and Hugo rode in laps on the way up. They were a little nervous.

The sign there reminded us, "It's dangerous! Don't jump off!"
Got it.
At the top is Amanohashidate View Land.... Not crowded in the winter.
And this is the famous view!

This is called the "Bridge to Heaven." That's what Amanohashidate means.

To get the best effect, you are supposed to view it through your legs, like so.
Are you laughing? You're just jealous.

Here. Now you can experience it, too.
In the spirit of complete coverage, this is the view to the other side.
We did our best to support View Land's winter budget. We all rode the ferris wheel.

We rode these bicycle cars to enjoy the view.

The kids rode the hocker hockers.
Max rode the Mad Mouse (very similar to Wild Mouse at Hershey Park. Yikes!)
Alek rode the bike car solo.
So did Hugo.
One last look...
And then we headed down the chair-lifto again. This time, we all rode in our own chairs. I loved this....I would ride on this lifto all day long.

We walked through the block of shops that is downtown Amanohashidate.
We caught this guy making homemade soba noodles in the window of this shop. He rolled and rolled until it was about a meter square.

And then folded the dough carefully into thirds, and to our suprise, started to cut the noodles up by HAND. (Soba noodles are about 1/8 inch thick)
The whole time I was thinking how much my Uncle John would have loved to see it.
He used a board as a guide.
We walked on. We didn't take a ride in these SpeedRacer boats.
Instead, we started our walk across the sandbar. 3.6 km each way.

"Why?" Max asked, predictably.

"Because it's here," said Darrin, appropriately.

The view from the beach!

For comparison, here is the view from 4 mile beach in Australia last December.

We walked both ways, working up an appetite for our dinner.

We saw this daikon radish farm at the end of the path.
Then we walked back to our ryokan (which is a traditional Japanese hotel.)
View from the back of it.
We had a lady who took care of us all night. First, she served us real macha and a mochi-azuki okashi.
Then we got dressed in our yukata, ready to head down to the onsen (the hot spring bath)

I thought the boys looked so darn cute in these!

The ryokan also provided tabi. Darrin has a few words to say about these.

In this scene, he is complaining about the feeling of fabric between his toes (the man doesn't even wear flip flops). And he's telling me what would have happened to him if his Pittsburgh buddies ever saw him wearing them.
Later on, though, Darrin wore his tabi all through dinner and even slept in them half the night (at which point, he woke up, freaked out, and took them off).

We all went down to enjoy the onsen. No pictures of that, of course... But Darrin said the boys were an excellent conversation starter in the men's side. All three behaved perfectly. I was rather surprised there was no swimming.

We all came back to the room and relaxed before dinner. Too bad you can't see the boys' rosy cheeks in these pictures.

Some of us were getting hungry....
Places set!
And then dinner began. Our hostess brought everything in to our ROOM.

There is truly no equivalent to this in the U.S.

The meal was a kani kaiseki (Crab-multiple-course-dinner-of-Japanese-dishes).

Of course you remember our kani tabehoudai. This meal was like that, except somewhat more civilized. And we didn't have to leave the table.

First course: Cold boiled crab , little bites of things, and crab sashimi (sashimi NOT popular...but stay tuned).

We all dug in.

The second course was grilled kani (the hostess brought in a charcoal grill and cooked it right next to the table). Then we had crab nabe.

Crab nabe was our favorite! (It's a good way to cook your uneaten crab sashimi, too).

The outcome was similar to the last crab feast.

Here Max is saying "Darn it, I'm getting full, and I still want to eat."
A few gripes from the younger set about how this is not really dessert.

Hugo spent some time drawing a picture of Mt. Fuji to give to our hostess.

Dinner lasted about 2 hours. Then the same hostess cleared the plates, tables, and chairs, and set out our futons. I was asleep about 5 minutes later.

Next morning, Japanese breakfast, in the common room. (Note the bedhead on the guy at the next table)

We all ate some of this, but as Max said, "I'm glad I don't have to eat this every day." My sentiments exactly, Max. If I eat a Japanese breakfast every 10 years or so, it's about enough.

We were served (clockwise from top left): Tofu in kombu broth, seaweed, a salty sardine chunk, natto mixed with something, a few pickles, grilled fish (we put the fish on that little metal plate to warm it up), lettuce salad, squid sashimi, a small glass of minty fruity juice, sesame-tofu with miso paste, and (not pictured) miso soup with clams in it, as well as a piece of omelet. Oh, and rice, of course. And tea.
I wouldn't like to be a dishwasher here.

Here are a few more scenes from our ryokan. (Monjousho, in case you are interested--it was a great place).

Tatami, even in the elevator.
And this stool that three brothers can fight over.

Okay, so breakfast is done. We check out. We head to the train station to ask if they found Max's bag of toys he'd left there the day before. Yes, they found it. But they sent it (for some reason) to the police station at the next town, Miyazu. We decide, why not spend a couple of hours in Miyazu before heading home?

We got to the police station first. They had the bag--we had to fill out forms and sign things. All very official--and a very Japanese experience. (They always say, if you leave something behind in Japan, somebody's going to take it to the nearest koban.)

So here's Miyazu. The opera house. (not really).
A view from the park.You can walk this town in about 1 hour. It was veeeerrrry quiet on a Sunday.

We ate lunch in here. Couldn't resist.
We took a few more pictures of the sights of Miyazu.

Including this manhole cover imprinted with the famous sandbar.

And then we came home. As we walked off the train, Max said, "And now we're back, and it feels like we didn't even go anywhere." Please think about that as you go on with your day.


  1. Maybe you didn't feel like you'd gone anywhere, but my goodness, we just watched a very special travel adventure! Thanks for sharing....Gramma

  2. Took a really long HOT bath and sat down to eat a really nice Korean meal after reading your post...but it just wasn't the same. GREAT post, gang! Loved seeing boys in their robes, Darrin in his special sock (which made Kurt cringe as well), the funky rides, and the awesome looking kani dinner (especially the nabe). Yummm...

  3. thought about max's comment as i went about my day..... now i don't feel so bad about never going anywhere. loved this post! m

  4. I've really enjoyed (really enjoyed that is) every one of the posts. This one is a masterpiece. You guys are doing so much, and you're taking the time to share it in so much detail. The onsen meal blew me away ..... I'm pretty sure I'll have dreams about the nabe tonight. I was surpised that you don't seem all that keen on Japanese breakfasts. They were one of my favorites. (Why can't you be like ME?) The amusement park, the great shot of bridge to heaven, and the recovery of the missing toys. Geez. Do you think you're going to be able to top this one? totemo domo arigato gozaimashita!

  5. Incredible. Incredible. Incredible. I'm so glad you're blogging this. So much fun to read!

  6. That was a lot of fun- for all of us! Keep them coming.

  7. Great experience for all...the food made me very hungry.