Japan 2010 Chronicle - December 26
At 07:30 we were up, and at 08:45 we were on the highway bus to Shirakawa-go. We arrived in Shirakawa-go some time around 10:00, and it was cold, but because there was no demonic wind like we had in Kanazawa, it didn't seem too cold at all. For this leg of the trip it would be the five of us, so Retro and I picked up some usual vending machine goodness to keep warm while waiting for the other three members of the party.
At about 10:40, Furinkan, Ayu and MrVacBob arrived on their bus from Takayama. Ayu was recognisable by "that" duffel coat, but appeared to be missing the winged backpack. I know Furinkan well, so by a process of elimination the other guy must have been MrVacBob. Introductions came slightly after figuring this out. :) Earliest check-in was 15:00, so we took a shot at having the bags held by the tourist centre, but it seemed like they weren't able to do it for us (even though some other people had stored theirs there... sheesh.)
The groups redivided. MrVacBob and Retro were staying in different places each, and the other three of us were all in Shirakawa-go Shimizu. So the first order on the list was that we had to drop the bags as Shimizu.
This was a way bigger ordeal than it should have been, because of my accumulation of bought crap. Essentially I had the wheeled suitcase I flew in with, now mostly full of souvenirs and sake which would be consumed during the trip, a separate bag which was full of dirty clothes from earlier in the trip, and a separate backpack containing items I would have actually needed during the preceding bus trip. To make matters worse, the cold weather meant that I could no longer feel my fingers (especially with gloves on) so it was very difficult to keep a grip on my bags, even though my gloves have extra grip. It was an absolute pain, and I had to stop a countless number of times on the way. Dragging a suitcase over snow and ice with numb fingers is not easy at all. I imagine it wouldn't be that easy even if your hands were working correctly!
And oh yes. Shimizu is quite off the beaten path. Next time, I will endeavour to book a place which is closer to the bridge. It was not only far to Shimizu, but there was a hellish amount of ice, and we had to carry bags uphill to get up to the plateau it was on.
Arriving at Shimizu, I discovered that I had only one glove on. I vaguely remembered taking it off to hold the bag with my bare hands, as that made it slightly easier to hold my grip. But I also remembered attaching it to my bag somehow. It wasn't there, so obviously it fell off on the way up the road.
On heading back out to group up with the others again, a lone glove was seen resting on the road. Because of the relatively infrequent traffic, it was fine, although it was wet inside, so it took a while to get it comfortable again.
The group of us took the "safer" path up to the lookout. I intentionally use the comparative here, because the slope on the way up was slippery and probably still a bit dangerous. On several occasions my foot would slide backwards, despite wearing heavy snow boots which had perfectly good grip even on the hell-ice down on the normal roads. But shit, we made it up there.
At the top of the lookout was that view of the village which I have seen a dozen times, only this time it was covered in snow. Group pics were taken (I know they will eventually surface) and we went on to spend a considerable amount of time fucking around in the snow. We found a park which was submerged in snow up to our knees (deeper in spots.) I found a park bench where the bench seat was at snow level, and sat on it while it was still full of snow. :3
People took turns doing the usual stupid shit which anyone does when confronted with snow, like laying down in it, throwing it, dropping cameras in it (lol) and writing うぐぅ in it (okay, so technically that last bit happened after we went down to the town again, but I wanted to throw it in here anyway.)
Up at the lookout there was a tiny little cafeteria-type place where I had some curry bread which was shaped like a stick. Inside, there was a guest book with various amusing entries by previous visitors. We added to the hilarity for the visitors of the future. Up on the wall, even more hilarious photos of a Higurashi kigurumi group were posted up for everyone to see. I guess the good thing about kigurumi is that nobody ever sees your face.
The walk down from the lookout was kind of like skating downhill - quite a bit more pleasant that walking up to it. I mean, you just had to move a bit and you would progress two metres or so!
We checked out the Shirakawa-go Hachiman Shrine. It was full of snow but it was also full of Rika-chama ema.
[TODO Figure: Rika-chama ema]
The Doburoku Festival Museum (Doburoku Matsuri no Kan) was closed, sadly. Was it just the wrong time of year, or was it because it was Sunday?
After agreeing that the onsen visit would definitely happen later that night, we all returned to our respective places of lodging for dinner.
The dinner at Shimizu was probably your usual ryokan/minshuku fare - nothing standing out in particular but too many individual dishes to remember any of them at all. They were all delicious, though, and there seemed to be something of a focus on pickles. During the final stages of dinner the owner-type lady comes in to talk with us, The topic of the onsen comes up and we get our coupons (500円, down from 700円.) She also asks us whether we want a Western style or a Japanese style breakfast, the answer to which is course, always Japanese, when staying at this kind of place.
Time had moved quite a bit so we contacted the others and organised meeting on the way down to the onsen at Shirakawa-go no Yu. There's not a lot that can be said about onsen. They are hot. The others apparently didn't think so, as they all hit the sauna after hitting the bath (FUCK. THAT.)
After getting back out into the freezing cold with still slightly-wet hair, we found ourselves on a mildly hilarious vending machine crawl, checking out every machine we spotted on the way back, trying to find gems. One such gem was the "hotcake" drink, which was a bit link a milkshake flavoured with pancakes and syrup flavouring. Another was the corn soup... that stuff... I dunno. It's okay, if you like gobs of corn running down your throat. At least it was warm.
Shortly after returning, I find myself patting my pants, wondering where my phone is. I quickly realise that it was left on top of the locker at the onsen (FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU--.) Leaving shit behind appears to be a theme of the trip. It was too late by then and the place was closed. We gave the phone a single call to see if anyone picked up. They didn't (probably for the better, remember what I said about phones and stress, and making Japanese harder to speak?) Resolved to return there in the morning and ask in person, I figured I would hit the sake and randomly flip through some comics bought in Kobe.
That Umineko doujin comic turned out to be a hilarious read. The comic in question is 「ミルロク！」 by Milk Tea, and it was full of hilarious situations and Bern causing trouble. :)
I got most of the way through the comic. I was quite full of sake by the time bed time came, and get the feeling that I didn't help much with setting up the futon. Thanks for helping me out there, guys... lol.