It was a vacation I looked forward to with some anticipation. I had enjoyed my first Japan trip to Kyushu island two years ago. This one was on the main island of Honshu. This was a tour from Nagoya through the famous Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route to Toyama and Kanazawa and back. Most of us were from the hiking group.
It was a night flight, and for me this meant a sleepless flight, a movie night. I admire those (like my wife) who could sleep despite cramped and upright space. I caught a Korean movie titled, Canola, a grandmother- grandchild story about the transforming power of unconditional love. And surprise, surprise: I did sleep.
When was I going to feel more relaxed, more like I was on vacation? Close to the date of departure, there was the rush to get work done. There was the anxiety of packing right for this mixed hiking and sightseeing jaunt. Even after landing in Nagoya in the early morning, I had to remind myself, I am in Japan. I am on vacation. I had to tell my soul: You are in Nagoya.
Group photos: this group loved group photos. Group photos at airports, at every new place we went, every grand scenery and memorable building. Click, click. 1, 2, 3. Click, click. Good thing I brought my tough and handy Olympus TG3 camera. Bright LCD screen, unlike phone camera screens that darken under the sun. The ladies wore colourful jackets, blouses, shoes and they enlivened the photos. The men were unremarkable. The ladies knew how to pose in a variety of ways; the men stood like they would for the class photograph. Click, click. 1,2,3. Click, click.
The hotel we stayed in was Sanco Inn, a ten minute walk from where the airport bus dropped us off. We could not check in until 3 p.m. so we left our luggage there (this would be standard procedure) and went out to look for lunch. There was a nearby eatery and straightaway we faced our first fun challenge of getting our orders and requests across. Separate bills please. They could not grasp it. They brought beer! Separate receipts. They got it finally. Receipto. Receipto. But the idea of separate receipto for each couple is foreign to them. So we adapted, we adjusted, we learned. The food was oishii. The yen was stronger than two years ago so the prices we paid were similar to what you would pay for Japanese food in Singapore. However, you felt satisfied, you felt better parting with your yen because of the freshness and the quality and authentic taste of what you had.
We spent several hours walking around their shopping area in cool temperatures and under a grey sky that threatened to drizzle. Nothing much in this area near the hotel. Except the 100 yen shop. Where the ladies spent considerable time surveying and bought few things. Singaporeans are experienced strategic shoppers. They did not want to lug around all the things they bought. They would buy later, near the end of the jaunt.
That night we packed for two days of hiking. We had to pack for an overnight stay in the mountain. Stuffed what we needed in the backpack. The rest of the luggage would be sent over by takkyubin to Ace Inn Hotel in Matsumoto.