The afternoon of Monday, April 9, we flew from Hanoi to Tokyo on the same plane as Bob and Annie, arriving late and discovering to our dismay a long line to clear immigration at Haneda International Airport. Finally clearing customs around 11:00 p.m., we made our way to an airport hotel, grabbed a bite just before the restaurant closed, then went to bed.
Tuesday morning, we woke early and caught a Shinkansen bullet train to Nagoya. As tourists, we were able to buy a 2-week First-Class JR Pass that allows us to travel on most trains throughout Japan. On the way, I snapped this photo of Mt. Fuji:
We had a single purpose for going to Nagoya, baseball! We had tickets to the Nagoya Dome to see the hometown Chunichi Dragons play the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. As long-time baseball fans, we wanted to compare Japanese and American games, fans and stadia. The stadium wasn’t different at all.
But the fans in Japan are much more energetic, never boo the umpires, get served draft beer at their seats and eat sushi instead of hot dogs. The Dragons, by the way, won 3-0.
Next morning, Wednesday, we were up early for breakfast, then back to the train station to catch a regional train to Takayama in the Japanese “Alps” for the Sannô-sama there, the Spring Festival.
We knew from our tickets that we were in car 10 near the end of the train, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that car 10 was the very last car on this train and that the train would reverse direction after the first stop. Consequently, we had a view right through the engineer’s window for most of the trip!
We had reserved an apartment in Takayama for a few days through AirBnB, but we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. The listing said that the apartment was in a public bath house owned by the same man and that we would be able to use the bath for free. Not being puritan, we were up to any challenge, but still, the unknown loomed large.
Here’s a photo of the bath house. We were greeted by a quiet woman there who showed us our room just around the corner at the end of the building: a traditional Japanese house with tatami mats and futons for sleeping, a sliding rice-paper door between the bedroom and kitchen, and an outdoor toilet (well, kinda, it’s separated from the apartment by an open-air garage).
The public bath is closed on Wednesdays, so we didn’t get a chance to bathe after our train ride, but we did go back on Thursday afternoon, hesitating when we saw at least a dozen pairs of shoes lined up at the front door. Instead, we had dinner, then came back that evening. I was alone on the men’s side, but there were four Japanese women on the women’s side when Dale walked in there. They cheerfully showed her what to do, which pool to go in and when, and even scrubbed her back with a loofah! I could hear them talking and laughing over the dividing wall. I finished my mineral bath and jacuzzi and then met the owner, Hiroto, and we shared a sake as Dale finished up.
Thursday morning, we were out early to walk the Old Town, stopping just downstream from our apartment – that’s it near the center of the photo, below, with the two white windows.
Our timing here was perfect: cherry blossoms everywhere!