Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Coming to you LIVE from an Internet cafe in scenic Nagano, Japan, it's Mark's Farewell Japan Tour!

So, the trip so far has happened like this. We began in Koenji in Tokyo, where I hung out with former coworker Mike one last time. Got to meet his band and we had some yakutori on the streets of Tokyo. As I walked down the streets in my Tilley hat and Hawaiian shirt, he turned to me and said, "Dude. You look like a tourist." My only response was, "I AM a tourist."

From there, it was off to lovely Fuji Go Ko. This is a chain of five lakes below Mt. Fuji, and said to be prime Mt. Fuji viewing territory. But, as is my luck, it was cloudy the whole time I was there. But, on my second day, things did clear up enough so I was able to make out Fuji through the haze. Very nifty. Saw Fuji, took a dip in the lakes, saw some lava tubes and the shrine where people pray before attempting to climb Fuji. After that, it was off to....

Matsumoto is an old castle town on the southern side of Nagano prefecture. I wanted to stay at a hostel, but the tourist info booth directed me to a cheaper ryokan. That's a Japanese-style B&B, for those who have never read my company's textbooks. Naturally, the staff spoke no English, but I managed to get along OK. Saw the castle (Matusumoto-jo) and took a dip in the nearby Shirahone Onsen. That was freaky, as it was as far off the beaten path as I had gone so far and I was definitly in a no English zone. But still, I soaked in the hot springs and fun was had by all! From there, I went off to....

Nagano, host of the 1998 winter olympic games, and a city I'd been wanting to visit ever since I found out it was so close to Kumagaya. Again, the only hostel was booked, so I got directed to a just-as-cheap ryokan. My goal here is to see former Olympic sites, and so far I've been doing pretty good for myself. I even got to see the Nagano Art Festival for free, because I was walking by, curious, and my phrase book didn't have, "What's going on here today?" so I tried to ask in English. They just waved me in to check it out for myself! Let me tell you gaijin innocense can only get you so far in Japan, but it's gotten me a lot.

And that's week one. Week two will see some more in Nagano, then down to Ueda and an onsen town called Bessho. From there, it'll be one last night in Kumagaya to close bank accounts and pick up my luggage, and then back in Canada!

Oh, and in Nagano I took an eveing to see The Matrix Reloaded. Off the cuff thoughts? Cool fights, Zion is is great eye candy, but I need to see it again to comprehend all that prophecy doubletalk.

Hey! I have now visited every Japanese Olympic host city:

Tokyo - Host of the 1964 Summer Games
Sapporo - Host of the 1972 Winter Games
Nagano - Host of the 1998 Winter Games

Although, I never actually went Olympic sightseeing in Tokyo. The closest was, one day, I was walking down the street and one of my friends said, "Hey Mark! You like the Olympics, right? Well, right over there is the arena where they had the swimming competitions."

And back off to the ryokan! Next issue...From Kumagaya, With Cookies!

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