Japan 11 - Monster Island


Supersonic bullet-train Shinkansen and I have a jumbo fat-ear. Basically what I mean by that is my right ear has swollen shut due to infection – something known as swimmers ear. I had it once before in Costa Rica. Luckily I brought medication with me, but I have only had a chance to have it administered once so far today.  It feels like someone jammed one of those ballon sculptures into the side of my head and every few seconds I get the urge to dig deep into my brain with a chopstick or sharp garden tool.

It’s cold and damp here now and we spent a good part of the day at this spectacular art garden – open air museum in Hakone. 

These trains are shit-fast and three cars are filled with arab oil tycoons – we know this as they had minions with signs leading them around with shell oil logos on them. One of them tried to push me out of the way when I was taking a picture of a passing train. I hate that shit.

It is dark and cloudy 4:47 pm and we are late from departing due to lolly-gagging at the museum. With the breaks of sunlight and mist between rain showers it was a photographers dream for lighting and subject. Well worth the schedule lag.

Our next destination is Koyoto, another large city similar to Tokyo but one with more historical context and scenic temples to explore. I have been drinking little cans of hot sugary coffee out of vending machines. It’s my new favorite thing. These machines are everywhere and currently one of them has a big picture of Tommy Lee Jones on the front. I say if Tommy Lee vouches for that shit I’m in. So far my fave is a brand called BOSS. It is the most creamy and strong.

We have almost officially reached the halfway mark on the trip as of tomorrow and now things will start to go faster. I must confess I am looking forward to sleeping in an actual bed tonight as the bamboo floor was AOK but not optimal for fat white men from the far west. Some sort of American hamburger is also in order. I have eaten enough raw gut-strings of fish entrails and salted plum pickles to do me for a day or two. This morning at the ryoken they even brought us sashimi for breakfast. Some how it just didn’t seem to jive with our fried eggs. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining – both Daniela and I have gotten off the porch and officially run with the big dogs when it comes to eating sushi now – last night most of our food was staring back at us and the bulk of it was raw.

There is a deep red sunset with silhouetted mountains appearing in the train window. The Japan countryside has been very eye-catching. The green countryside with rolling hills and mountains all flow together. They are mixed in with large power-lines, transformers, satellite discs and old huge TV antennas. For me it echoes back to the Godzilla movies I used to watch incessantly as a kid. Even now as I look out into the countryside I can see Godzilla pop his stubby round head up over a hill and chomp down on some power-lines for a nice quick energy snack. I plan to watch a few of the originals when I get home. I have yet to find any swag related to the great monster, a t-shirt would be grand. The newest film was a big disappointment for any original Godzilla fan.

We have got our groove on here pretty good now – that is, if you could say there is a Japanese groove. Daniela was close to breaking earlier this afternoon when we were riding a local train out of Hakone. A massive army of yellow hatted Japanese middle school kids flooded our train car to the point of overflowing. Luckily we had seats and used our luggage as shields in front of us to keep the squealing swooning brats somewhat at bay. They sounded like a flock of seabirds at the late stages of prepatory migration – all screeching and flapping around in a much ado about nothing state. As the train car weaved and swerved to and fro the kids squealed with excitement and let their wiry bodies dangle from the round suspension ring arm handles. They moved as one massive symbiotic organism and at some points the interior of the train car resembled that of a sports stadium doing the wave.

She was close to cracking but held stedfast until all at once the train car stopped and every yellow-hatted bastard fled out of the train like cockroaches attempting to escape fumigation.

SuperExpress 519 just stopped in Nagoya. Daniela and I both follow a guy named Yoshitomo on instagram from this location. Daniela just opened a bag of cheese potato chips. It is pretty much dark here now and from what I know most everyone back home is deep asleep right now – unless they are getting up early to go fishing today.

Daniela just finished the chips – I am not so hungry as just before I got on the train I scarfed down a half of a croquette sandwich on egg bread plus a full pork cutlet sandwich on white bread with the crusts cut off. These sandwiches are exceptional. When we got on the train I ate a compact seaweed salad and some vegetarian fresh lettuce rolls – sloshed it all down with one of those coffees I talked about earlier as well as a bottle of water.

This two-hour plus train ride set us back about 240 bucks (120 each). We are not sure how far we are traveling but we are moving a break-neck speed with very few stops. Just before we got on Daniela looked at me and said: “What if we derail?” I smiled at her and replied” “If we derail we’re dead.”

The bags rustle beside me and I hear:

“I thought we bought some kind of chocolate for this trip yesterday?”

More rustling and a bag of grape gummies appear – their perfume is intoxicating and she offers me one, I decline, she eats two and puts the bag away.

Darkness blankets the outside and I think about getting up to go to the restroom. Not sure which car it is located on – but I do know from previous experience train restrooms are best avoided. I will try to hold out till we get to the station if I can.

Our next hotel is not a ryoken but I know it is more Japanese style than western. We tried to book all places with the least amount of western influence we could – or I should say Daniela did – she gets all the credit for the planning.

Time to put some drops in my ears. It means resting my head at a 90 degree angle over Daniela’s lap while everyone watches and claps. Half hour of train travel to go. 6:11 arrival.