Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Touring Niko Park and Kegon Falls

I woke up, wide awake, at 4:30 AM and tried unsuccessfully to get back to sleep for forty minutes before giving up. I guess I should have taken the melatonin that Andrea's been pushing -- I just never remember.

I got videos onto my computer and although I couldn't edit video in the time I had, I posted some photos of day 5 on Facebook.

Andrea woke up at 6:45 and we started to get ready .

We'd signed up for another tour with Sunrise Tours, this one of Nikko national park and Kegon Falls. After quickly dressing, we woke the kids and headed out because we were on a tight schedule; the bus pick up at the Keio Plaza hotel was at 8:00AM. The breakfast place we had planned to eat at was closed but we stop at one of the ubiquitous, well stocked konbinis (convenience store, this is the land that invented 7-11) and picked up breakfast. The rest of the family had junk food but I had an egg sandwich (complete with what I hope was Thousand Island dressing) and a pumpkin pie (which looked like a cross between a bear claw and a croissant but was spongey and filled with a sweetened squash puree).

The bus ride was long, about 3 hours with one break in the middle and I was uncaffeinated. This state of affairs resulted in my having a great deal of difficulty remaining conscious. Fortunately every five minutes or so our guide made an announcement either about something that happened in the Edo period (roughly from 1600AD to the end of the American civil war) or about what was available at the gift shops we'd visit.

Joshua asked for the water bottle. I warned him not to drink too much, gave him the bottle, closely supervised the amount he drank and took the bottle back. I told Andrea that I was concerned; he has a small bladder and when he get well hydrated he desperately needs to go every five minutes. We'd already had a couple of bad experiences with him repeatedly desperate to go in Tokyo and the bus had no bathroom. "I'm more worried about Ari getting dehydrated," she replied. "He sometimes goes half a day without drinking." I tried to argue but got smacked down by her superior self confidence. I seethed quietly and told her that the next time she expressed concern about something I'd point out that I was more concerned about global warming than the issue at hand.

Andrea gave me a father's day card from her, which contained a promise that for father's day I could be right the whole day. We'll starting from after our tiff about Joshua's drinking, she explained.

We first visited a Bhudist temple and a Shinto shrine. Beautiful enourmous golden Bhuda statues, and the famous three monkey carving that is the origin of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." One room had 100 dragons, each different painted on the ceiling. The shrines were spread out, like a college campus, set in beautiful evergreen forest with hills and valleys amid architectural wonders like ornate carved wooden five story pagodas. Though it resembled the Redwood forests in California, it was more airy and open, the shapes were different. All in all, it looked more like a Hayao Miyazake movie than any forest I'd ever seen. I tried to take some pictures of the family in the beautiful settings but they would not hold still.

The kids were insufferable, talking over the guide, opening and closing their umbrellas or twirling them to shower others with drops of water. I commanded, I explained, I threatened loss of privileges, I threatened to take away the umbrellas and let them get wet, I temporarily confiscated the umbrellas to show I meant it. They finally calmed down.

We paused at a gift shop and the kids were entranced with a sword. "No" I said. I looked around a bit more when "thwack" something hit my ankle hard. I looked down and saw a folded umbrella swinging toward my ankle for a second swipe, another umbrella in hot pursuit of the first. The kids, denied real swords were making do with what they had. I felt a thwack, still a bit too stunned to move. They swung the umbrellas back the other way, and the fact that they were about to hit another tourist jolted me into action. I grabbed the umbrellas just before they could thwack the innocent man in the side.

Back on the bus to Nikko for lunch. Lunch was tempura and a variety of other traditional Japanese dishes, many of which I'd never had before. Everything was delicious. Joshua and Ari wouldn't try everything, but they tried a few new foods and ate well enough.

Then we went to a lake. On the way we passed monkeys, but the bus barely slowed, lest we get off schedule. I've come to realize that Sunrise tours is all about being able to go through a checklist of things to do in Japan and say "yes, I did that". We stopped in a parking lot, took pictures in front of the lake, and got back on the bus to head to Kegon Falls. The falls were completely obscured by thick fog but the gift shops were nice, not that we bought anything.

We returned to the bus for the three hours back to the city. We got to watch a video promoting Sunrise Tours, with a beautiful shot of the falls. We all clapped.

At the halfway stop we purchased drinks. Joshua and Ari split half a liter of lemon flavored water. This time I did not make a big deal of it, figuring that I should allow Andrea to be right. When we were about half an hour away from Tokyo Joshua began to need to pee. He got more and more desperate, agitated, clearly in distress as time passed. Then we started having delays; three traffic accidents that we passed and a backed up toll booth. I was upset. Toward the end I was really afraid Joshua would wet himself (he was asking for permission to go into the empty water battle), but he made it.

Since we didn't get off the bus until almost 8:00, dinner was tempura and udon in one of the subway stations. Ari hardly ate - he didn't like the broth. I fed him cashews and dried cherries back in the room afterwords. We sent the kids off to bed around 8:30. I don't think I've ever been more exhausted, but I took a melatonin and didn't wake until 5:30.

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