15 September 2014
Okay, before I explain what's been going on with us, I have to explain this series of photos.
Today was the second day of the "Let's Enjoy Fish" event at the business park outside our hotel.
Some group comes in each day and builds this wooden wading pool, lines it with plastic, and fills it with water. They then dump small fish into the water. Think 4 to 6" fish. I have no idea what kind, but they aren't goldfish.
Then families pay an entrance fee, and kids get to climb into the pool and try to catch the fish. If they catch a fish, a parent has a plastic bag to hold the fish. And they take the fish home, we guess for dinner. At the end of each timed round, the kids climb out and dry off. If a child hasn't caught any fish, the staff people catch a fish and bag it for the parent to give the kid.
Unfair to the poor fish, who are most likely traumatized by this? Absolutely. Unkind to animals in general? A resounding yes. After all, this is Japan, one of the few nations still participating in whale hunts, and home of the notorious dolphin slaughter each year.
On the other hand, it is also hysterically funny to watch! Children are tripping over each other in the water, catching fish and dropping them, as parents race around the perimeter trying to anticipate where their child might toss a fish. Some kids crawl around chasing the fish, others are very serious and corner the fish in the pool and manage to grab quite a few. Other little ones just race around screaming and splashing, and trying to not step on the fish as they swim by.
It really was very funny. Richard and I tried to pick out the kids we thought would be the best fish catchers in each round. Of course, some of our contenders would climb out early. Good thing we didn't put any money down on the odds. But we were hysterically laughing as we watched the whole procedure.
So, the ups and downs of travel. We've been trying to book a camper van so we can camp our way around Japan for the next several weeks, and finally found something that was affordable but also what we wanted. Come to find out that we need an International Driving Permit to legally rent a vehicle and drive in Japan. We started our trip with these permits, but no one in any of the places where we've rented a vehicle wanted the IDPs. So when they expired, we didn't bother to renew them. Of course, in Japan we can only rent/drive with an IDP, now that we don't have them. We're stuck. There's no way we can rent a camper. Which means we are now replanning our travels, using the train system.
Which leads us to our other aggravation of the day. Tokyo has a series of different companies running the city's subway lines. If you live in one suburb, you take one line (paying one ticket price) to an intersecting line, and to transfer you buy another ticket for the next train line. So while we tried to take the subway in to Tokyo, we were stymied by this crazy system. Came back to the hotel and found that there's a free bus that goes in a loop around Shinagawa, including right by the Shinagawa Station - we can take the free bus, get off at the train station, and buy either a daily pass, a single trip ticket, or a metro pass, and go all around Tokyo on the main subway system. You'd think they'd link all the trains and make life easier for visitors as well as Tokyo residents - but at least we figured a way around the confusion (and craziness, in our opinions, not to mention the extra ticket that doubles the price, which is expensive already).
We now have almost a plan. One more week in Shinagawa, while we explore Tokyo (now that we're both over our colds and able to breathe normally). Then some trips north and west before we head south. All trips on the train, or buses, and we'll try to stay at some of the cabins at the national campgrounds so we can get out and enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage for which Japan is known. I know, everyone thinks of cherry blossoms in spring. But the Japanese maples are spectacular in the autumn, and we're hoping to catch them in full color.
We'll see what we can find!