Originally, I had planned to go to Seoul for spring break with Emmet. However, after the quake, Emmet decided to go back to New Zealand instead. I honestly didn’t really want to go there all by myself so I decided to just cancel the trip. Luckily, Korean Airlines issued me a full refund (though the money wont return to my account for like 2 months but I will get it back in full eventually so its not a huge deal. Ryoko was originally going to come with us as well, but unfortunately her dog, Bill, has been very sick lately and had to go to the vet for a few days and the medical expenses were something like 50,000 yen. This is the money she planned to use for the vacation so she unfortunately couldn’t go.
However, now that the trip to South Korea was canceled, Ryoko and I decided to take a small vacation somewhere in Japan. This would cost less so she would be able to afford it. She didn’t want to travel very far away and we pretty much wanted to stay away from the Tohoku region near the quake stricken areas and where the Fukushima reactor radiation was much higher. We also wanted to go somewhere neither of us had been to before. So, we decided on going to Shizuoka prefecture. For those who don’t know, Shizuoka is located west of Kanagawa and South of Yamanashi. It is also the prefecture where Mt. Fuji is located.
Tuesday, March 29th
Im not sure if I mentioned it before, but for the past year, right next to my old main school’s building, they have been building a brand new school. Well, it is now finished and for the past few week, all of the students and teachers have been manually carrying everything from the old school to the new school. This includes stuff like huge heavy furniture. Just about anything you could think of. By today, most of the work was finished, but we had some last minute stuff to do. I could have taken today and Monday off, but I decided to come in and help move the stuff from the staff room. Originally Ryoko and I were planning to leave for Shizuoka on a night bus (just like I had done so when I went to Kansai and when we went to Kyushu.) However, due to the quake, the highway bus schedule was reduced and we found out that there were no more night buses for the time being. I already told them I would come in to work today but when I found out about the lack of night buses, we had to change our plans to leave on an afternoon bus from 4:00 at Takasaki station. They were nice and said I could leave work early at 1:30 to catch my bus since most of the work we had to do was finished in the morning anyway. So I worked the morning and then met up with Ryoko and we got on the train to Takasaki. Ryoko’s sister, Reiko, was there as well. She had plans to go to Takasaki for unrelated reasons so she got a ride to the station with Ryoko and rode down to Takasaki with us.
From Takasaki, Ryoko and I got on the bus. At first there was only 1 other person on the bus, but a few more got picked up along the way (but it never got even half full.) It wasn’t as nice as some of the highway busses ive been on, but it was cheap and good enough. Also, the trip to Shizuoka was only like a 4 hour ride so it was no big deal.
I brought a bottle of whiskey on the bus as well as a few bottles of soda to mix with, so I enjoyed drinking the whole way. Ryoko would have drank with me, but unfortunately a few days before we left for the trip, she broke out into some sorta rash on her face. The doctor said its from stress (I would assume related to her dog being on his death bed, the whole thing with the quake, and some other family problems that have happened recently). The doctor told her that drinking would cause the rash to heal more slowly which was really bad timing cuz she loves to drink as well, especially when we go on trips. I told her that I wouldn’t drink but she insisted I do so.
We enjoyed playing some DS on the bus. Mostly Puyopuyo and a little Mario Kart. The bus ride went by quickly.
We arrived at Shizuoka station at around 8 pm. First, we found our hotel and checked in. Nothing fancy but a typical hotel and it was clean and nice and had all the basic stuff youd expect. It was only 5000 yen a night for both of us together as well, so it was a great deal.
There wasn’t really time to do any kind of sightseeing stuff today, so we decided to check out the area around the station. In particular, there was a place called Grow Stock that I found out about on the internet that I wanted to check out. It’s a bar/restaurant that serves all kinds of microbrews from around the world, and I never can get enough microbrews in Japan. The place was pretty packed and pretty nice. They did indeed have a very extensive beer menu with about maybe 10-15 beers on tap and probably like 30 or more in bottles. I got a really good IPA. Even though the doctor had advised Ryoko against drinking, she decided that she would at least have a few but keep it low. I think she ordered something there but I cant remember what it was. We also got a pretty good pizza that they made there.
After that, we walked around some more. The area had lots of bars and restaurants. We found a darts bar that looked pretty good so we went there to drink some more. I felt like smoking so I got a pack of smokes. I kept asking people for a light cuz I didn’t have one on me and eventually the bartender just gave me one for free lol. I just drank beers here (standard stuff) and Ryoko had a high ball or 2. We played several games of darts. This was her first time playing darts and she was surprised how much she enjoyed it! She beat me a few times but I won most of them. One of the games, I had a high score over 500 points and when the staff saw this, they came by and gave me a free set of 3 really good quality professional darts to keep. I think that’s probably the highest ive ever scored heh. Most of the people here playing were really hardcore and you can tell by watching them that they must practice a lot.
After the darts bar, we decided to just go back to the hotel because we wanted to get up sorta early to do stuff tomorrow. I had been drinking since like 3 pm so I had no trouble sleeping.
Wednesday, March 30th
After getting up and getting ready, we left the hotel and headed to Shizuoka station. Before getting on the train, we wanted to grab some food. There were several restaurants in the station so we had a lot to choose from. Shizuoka is most famous for its good seafood seeing as how its right next to the ocean. We ended up going to a nice seafood place and got this really good Sashimi Donburi (raw fish with some vegetables over a bed of rice with wasabi and soysauce). It was really delicious and Ryoko especially loved it.
Today’s plan was to go to a western part of Shizuoka called Hamamatsu. The train ride down there was about an hour, so its about as far from Shizuoka City as Takasaki is from my town. We played a little more DS on the way, this time some Bomberman. Ryoko always kicks my ass at Bomberman.
When we arrived, our first plan was to go to a historical museum of musical instruments from around the world. I wasn’t sure how cool it would be but I was surprised how many fascinating instruments there were! I took like a zillion pictures in here so you can see them when they are posted on my pictures page. They had all kinds of crazy stuff like big horns shaped like dragons and drums bigger than my whole body. A lot of the stuff had very intricate details and carvings and truly were visual works of art in addition to being musical instruments. Next to many of the instruments were video and listening station with headphones where you could watch a sample performance of the instruments being played so that you could get an idea of what they sound like. There were 2 whole floors of things to see. Also on the top floor was this little room with various instruments that people were free to try for themselves so we messed around on some of those for a bit as well. When we finally got down to the bottom floor, we realized that we were already low on time if we wanted to go to the next place on our list of places to go, so we sorta had to rush the bottom floor unfortunately, but it was still cool to see.
Our next destination was Hamamatsu Castle, one of the various famous castles of Japan. On our way there, we passed this huge German beer hall that looked good as hell. We decided we would return there later for dinner.
It was already about 3:30 and we were worried the castle would close at 4 but when we arrived, we were glad to find they were opened until 4:30, so we had plenty of time to go in and look around. The inside of the castle had a huge map of Japan that showed the locations and pictures of all of the famous castles around the country, There were also a lot of displays showing some full body armor and other relics. The view from the top was really nice as well.
After exiting the castle we walked around the surrounding Hamamatsu Park. The sakura was already starting to bloom nicely and a few people were sitting down enjoying hanami. The area around the park was nice, and there was a large bronze statue of the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
After walking around for a bit, we headed back to the German beer hall. The place was called Mein Schloss. We got there slightly early and it wouldn’t open for another few more minutes so we walked around in some shops near there. There was a free art gallery with some really nice photos so we looked at those for a bit. Also, there was a little shop selling souvenirs and some German themed things. They had some pretty hard to find food in Japan, like sauerkraut! Being half Polish, naturally I love sauerkraut but pretty much never have the chance to eat it except for when I visit home. So, I was happy to buy a large jar of it to take home.
Once the restaurant opened up, we headed in. The place was HUGE! It was well decorated too look authentic. Aside from us, there were only like 2 other tables of people. By the time we finished our meal there were a few more customers though. They had an extensive menu of authentic German food. They also had about 6 different beers that they brewed right there in the beer hall. You could see the brewing equipment through a large glass window near the seating area. I tried their ale and their bock and Ryoko tried the ale as well. Both were very good! For food, I got the wiener schnitzel and Ryoko got a plate of assorted German sausages. We shared a bit of each other’s food and everything was really good. My only small complaint was that the sauerkraut wasn’t very good. It tasted too acidic or something. (Note: upon writing this I have tried the sauerkraut that I purchased at the store and it thankfully tastes much better than what was served at the beer hall).
Overall it was a great place and im glad we randomly found it.
After finishing up at the beer hall, we decided to head back to Shizuoka City. Ryoko fell asleep on the train for a bit. I enjoyed another beer. I had been drinking since we first left Shizuoka city originally so I was feeling really good by now.
When we got back, we decided to just walk around the area from last night with all the bars. We couldn’t really find anything overly interesting but we found another bar and went there for a few more drinks. We also found this burger join called Boss Burger. The place was going out of business and it was their last day. I got a burger and it was pretty good. Not sure why they were going out of business. They also gave me this random little toy milkshake lol. A bit after that we decided to head back to the hotel.
Thursday, March 31st
Today, our plan was to head to the small town of Fuji, which I would imagine is named as such due to the fact that it is located not far from Mt. Fuji. We decided to just wait till we got to Fuji to eat this time. Unfortunately, near the station there wasn’t very many good options so we just opted to eat some Subway. I don’t really mind though cuz I don’t often eat Subway here and its pretty good.
While Fuji does have a nice view of the mountain, we had no plans to try to climb it or anything. Ryoko and I are both too lazy for that shit lol. Maybe someday id be willing to try it with the right people at the right time but we didn’t really feel like it at the moment, plus it was a bit cold for that right now. So actually, our main reason for coming to Fuji today was to go to the Safari Park! There are only 2 Safari Parks in Japan, and the other one is actually in Gunma, where I live. However, I have never been there and Ryoko says that the one in Shizuoka is much bigger and better. We had to take a bus from the station to the Safari park but it didn’t take all that long. Much like yesterday, I continued to enjoy drinking as we walked around.
When we arrived at the park, we went to go buy our tickets. They said that it would be about an hour wait till we could get on our bus so we had time to walk around. Fortunately, there were plenty of animals to see separate from the bus tour. We saw some interesting stuff like kangaroos which we could feed and pet, wallabies, meerkats, wild boars, monkeys, and other various animals. It was sorta like a zoo except for some of the tamer animals you could pet and feed them. The biggest bummer was that my camera battery was dead and I didnt realize it beforehand. It must have turned on while in my pocket. Ryoko had her iphone though, so we took some pictures with that.
Eventually it was time, and we were able to board our bus. There were several different busses and each one looked like a different kind of animal. Ours ended up being the white rhino bus. The bus had seats going from the center with a row facing each side of the bus. The sides of the bus were open but separated by double cages. Each passenger was given some food in order to feed the animals that we would encounter on the way.
First we went to the bear area. They had several black bears and grizzly bears. We fed them carrots through the bars of the bus using a long metal tool to hold it out to them. Ton of bears came to the bus right away once we stopped and surrounded us, waiting for their food. They even came up and stood on their hind legs putting their front paws up against the bus cage. It was pretty sweet.
After that we saw the lions. Just like with the bears, they surrounded the bus for their food. This time we fed them raw meat. The lions were much more aggressive than the bears. The dominant lions would roar at other lions who came close to getting their food. Many other lions just lazily lounged about behind them watching. It was pretty awesome but im glad that those bars were there cuz I have no doubt in my mind that they would have been happy to eat every last one of us on the bus lol.
Up next were the tigers. We didn’t get to feed them anything but we could see several of them around the bus as we drove by slowly.
Then we went to a section with various other types of animals such as hippos, giraffes, elephants, deer, yaks, and other herbivorous animals. The last group of animals we encountered were camels. We got to feed them as well, but this time we just threw these brown pellets into a sorta receptacles that was able to be pushed out threw the bars so that the camels could eat out of it. Just like with the lions and bears, they surrounded the whole bus.
The whole tour lasted about an hour or so. It was pretty cool and is easily the closest ive ever been to just about all of those animals. I had a lot of fun.
After that, we had a bit of time until our next bus would come to take us back to the train station, so we decided to go to the house of cats. Its pretty much just like youd expect; a house full of various breeds of cats from around the world that you could just go pet and stuff. Unfortunately, most of the cats weren’t very friendly aside from a few. Most of them just ran away when you went near them. It also smelled really funny in there.
After that, we went to the gift shop to look around at the various things they were selling. I think all I bought was more beer though lol. They even had some microbrews there that ive never seen before but unfortunately they only came in packs of 3 bottles and were unrefrigerated and I don’t like drinking warm beer so I passed up on that for some regular refrigerated Asahi.
After a bit more, our bus came and we got on and headed back to Fuji station. On our way to and from the Safari Park, we saw yet ANOTHER great looking huge restaurant specializing in microbrew beers! We decided to go there to eat dinner. Another bus went directly to there from the station so we boarded it and arrived.
Just like the German beer hall, this place was fucking huge! However, unlike the German beer hall, it was packed full of people. There were Spanish flags all over hanging from the ceiling, though the food seemed to be from all sorts of different cultures. This place also brewed their own beers in house and had about 6 to choose from. I tried 2 different ones; the dunkel and the seasonal honey wheat ale. They were both delicious. I ordered a slab or BBQ ribs and it rocked pretty hard. Once again, Ryoko decided to order a big sausage platter except this time it was in a huge spiral shape that took up the whole plate. She also got a beer. At this one table, someone had ordered a HUGE tall long cylinder of beer. I forgot how bit it was but it had its own tap on the bottom. I took a picture of it. (The people at the table told me it was perfectly fine, I didn’t just ninja that shit). Overall this was another great place that I would certainly recommend to anyone. Im pretty sure this was the Fujiyama beer company, though I could be wrong. I dont quite remember.
After that, we went back in front of this hotel that was across from the restaurant because that’s where the bus was supposed to come that we could take back to the station. We waited inside for a bit in the lobby. Im not sure why, but for some reason there were huge, life size statues of the Aliens from the “Alien” movie series. Random, but pretty cool. However, when the bus didn’t come when it was supposed to, Ryoko went and asked the hotel desk why the bus wasn’t there and they said that there were no more buses coming tonight. Ryoko was starting to panic because now it meant taking a cab back was our only chance. It seems we weren’t the only ones who thought there was supposed to be a bus, because there was a man who was saying goodbye to what seemed to be some relatives staying at the hotel and asked us about the bus as well. When we told him it wasn’t coming he offered to split a cab with us. We agreed. We chatted with the guy about various things on the ride back and he seemed like a nice guy. When we got to the station, the cabbie told us the final fare. It was something like 2500 yen I think. The guy handed the cabbie 2000 yen and told us thanks for helping him out and just took off before I could even argue with him about it. So Ryoko and I only had to pay like 500 yen. Pretty nice guy, but I felt a little bad. But I guess it was his choice so we got lucky there.
After the whole bus thing, Ryoko was in a bit of a bad mood and we had a little argument about trip planning and what not. Ill be the first to admit that I don’t plan things so great all the time when it comes to going somewhere brand new. She did a lot of the planning herself so she felt a bit stressed out. I wanted to help plan more things but it’s a little more difficult for me to do so since navigating and finding a lot of Japanese tourist websites is a lot more difficult for me and English ones are a bit limited compared to some of the information you can find on Japanese ones. I felt bad. We ended up falling asleep sorta early.
Friday, April 1st
We woke up early. I got ready pretty fast and Ryoko took a while. While she was getting ready, we talked more and made up, so from then on everything was cool. Today we had to check out of the hotel because we didn’t have a reservation for tomorrow night. Originally our plan was to go back to Gunma tonight on an overnight bus, but as I mentioned before, there were no more overnight busses. However, there was supposed to be a huge festival today in Shizuoka so we figured we would just enjoy the festival and stay up all night drinking and then just get on our bus in the morning.
We checked out of the hotel and headed out to the station where we found a locker to put our stuff in for the day. After that, we went looking for another good restaurant in the station. We found a new part of the station we hadn’t looked at yet that had even more places. While looking, we stumbled upon a great little grocery store with all kinds of imported stuff. They had a TON of great imported beers and micro brews! We wanted to eat first so we said we would go back to this place after we found a good restaurant.
We ended up going to this one Lion beer restaurant. I ordered the Ox tongue with a really great sauce and some veggies, pasta, and rice on the side. The best part was they had a kind of Yebisu beer called Creamy Top Stout which I had never seen before. I got one of those and it was fucking great! Ryoko got some Korean bibinba (this place had a random menu with all kinds of shit), and she enjoyed it.
After that, we went back to that store we found. I got a cold can of Aooni IPA (it means Blue Demon). Ive had this before but its so good and Ive only seen it at like one or 2 places ever. Its brewed in Nagano but Ive only seen it at ONE place in Shin Okubo and one place in Sapporo. Ryoko got this little blueberry cocktail thing that shes never seen before. I tried a sip and it wasn’t bad.
Next, we got on the train and headed to a station a few stops away called Shimizu. From there, we got on a bus and went to this really big shopping mall called S-pulse Dream Plaza. Ryoko wanted to go there because it had this store/exhibit dedicated to an old famous Japanese anime character called Chibi Maruko-chan. I didn’t really have any interest in it but she wanted to see it so I didn’t mind. There were also some other cool stores there. We went in a pet store and looked at some dogs. We also found that this place ALSO had a super market inside with MORE great micro brews! This time I got a frosty can of Yona Yona Ale and later went back for the Tokyo Black Porter. These are also made by the same company in Nagano. Ive had these beers before as well but just like with the Aooni IPA they are hard to find so im happy to drink them when I have a good chance. They are also not expensive either which is the best part. Also, in this supermarket there was this giant fake sushi mountain display and it had faces of all the major world leaders surrounding it with a giant fish on top. It was pretty impressive so I took a picture.
Also in this mall, they had a food court with Dippin Dots. This is the only time ive seen it in Japan. Ryoko tried it when we went to Six Flags Great America together when we visited Chicago 2 years ago, so she wanted some.
We found an arcade inside. I was down to play some fighting games but unfortunately the only fighting games this crappy arcade had was the newest Virtua Fighter, and an out of order Blazblue cab, so I didn’t end up playing anything there.
Also, outside the mall there were play areas for kids. They had this giant bubble that kids could go into while floating on a pool of water and run around. They also had a one of those big inflatable bouncy castle things that kids go inside and bounce around in, except this one was shaped like a giant Mario instead! It was pretty awesome looking. I told Ryoko that the inside was probably full of mushrooms. There was a Sasebo burger outside there too but it was closed. We were surprised to see it cuz I didn’t know they had them outside the Kyushu area. Also, there was a huge Ferris wheel. This mall was right next to the ocean in a harbor with tons of ships and stuff, so we decided to ride it to get a nice view of the area. It was pretty cool.
After riding it, we checked the bus times and the next bus back was coming pretty much any second so we rushed back to the bus stop and got on just in time.
We headed back to Shimizu station and decided that next we would go check out an aquarium they had there. Next to it was a dinosaur museum and they had a special rate where you could go into both of them for a really cheap price. However, it was getting late and we were having a hard time finding which bus we needed to take. Ryoko was stressing out about it a little cuz she didn’t know where to get on the bus, so I asked a random bus driver and he told us we were at the bus stop on the wrong side of the station and that there were more busses on the other side. We thanked him and then made our way over and got on the right bus.
When we arrived at the aquarium, there was only like an hour left. Ryoko doesn’t particularly care about dinosaurs so we went to the aquarium. I personally think dinosaurs are pretty awesome but that’s ok. Sharks and stuff are pretty cool, too.
When we walked in there was like this little open tank area with live starfish that you could pick up and a bunch of kids were playing near it. Then we went to this science area that had all kinds of stuff that talked about the physics of ocean currents and water pressure and things like that with various exhibits. They also had robots that showed up certain sea creatures move such as crabs and lobsters. You could control them with a remote. There was also a full size, huge whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.
Then, we headed to the area with all the actual animals. They had many kinds of exotic fish, jellyfish, an octopus, some sharks, eels, coruscations, and various other cool stuff. As the place was just about to close, we managed to see the very last of everything there. Unfortunately there was no time to see the dinosaur museum next door but that’s alright. Ryoko enjoyed the aquarium.
After that, we rode the bus back. There was some weird chick who probably had some mental illness or something who kept talking to herself out loud and shouting random stuff.
After we got back to Shimizu station, we then rode the train back to Shizuoka station. Upon arriving, we were disappointed to find out that due to the earthquake, the festival had been cancelled. That pretty much killed our plans for the night.
We ended up going to another good local restaurant near the station. Ryoko got the unagi (eel) donburi, and I got a shrimp tempura donburi with a beer. Everything was really good. We stayed there for a while and talked and Ryoko enjoyed some tea.
A little after leaving there, Ryoko got a really bad headache suddenly. We walked around a new area of Shizuoka that we had not yet been to, trying to find some drugstores to buy headache medicine. We found a few stores but they ALL were closed. I don’t know why, but I guess after like 9 pm, nowhere at all seemed to sell headache medicine, so Ryoko was forced to just tough it out. I felt bad for her but there was nothing I could really do.
We walked around a bit more and found a pretty decent looking arcade. Ryoko wanted to sit down for a while so she told me I should just go play some fighting games while she relaxed. I had no problem with this. This arcade unfortunately didn’t have GG, but it did have SSFIVAE, and there were some guys there playing so I got some casuals in. At first there was a Dan player and I beat him. Then a Ryu player I beat 3 times in a row. Then he beat me once and I beat him 3 more times. Then I beat a Juri player and finally I got beat by a really good Makoto. I figured I had been playing for a while so then I went to check on Ryoko. She was feeling slightly better but not fully better yet.
We left the arcade and figured that there was no way we were gonna bother pulling an all nighter and we had no hotel to stay at, so we began to look for a manga kissa. After walking for a while, we found a few and decided on the best one that had a good rate. Now that we knew where we were gonna stay, we got our stuff back from our lockers and then decided to go to one more izakaya for some more food and beers. We stayed for a couple hours and she was starting to feel a little bit better.
Eventually we left and checked into the manga kissa. We got a double flat room to share. This was Ryoko’s first time to stay in a manga kissa. Unlike most manga kissas I stayed at, this one wasn’t a major chain brand, and instead of having like a soft mat on the floor, it was just some tatami mats with a few cushions scattered around.
Saturday, Apirl 2nd
I ended up sleeping pretty well but felt hungover as hell when Ryoko woke me up. She said we had to get going soon and that if I wanted to shower id have to do it now. It took me a good 5 minutes to think about it but in the end I decided to just man up and take a shower. After the shower I felt a bit better. Ryoko said she only slept for like 3 hours so she was still tired, but her head felt better.
We checked out and went back to the station and ate at this begal sandwich place that had a lot of really good flavors and ingredients to choose from. It was pretty decent. After that, we shortly got on our bus and took the 4 hour ride back to Takasaki. Both of us were pretty much asleep the whole time.
Shizuoka was pretty cool. If for nothing else, it certainly has a lot of good fucking beer.
After arriving at Takasaki we both felt better. We had time to kill till the next train so we went to a bakery in the station and ate some good bread.
We eventually made it back home on the train. The rest of the days plan was to go to Ryoko’s friend’s new house. Her name is Remi. Her Husband Tomo and her just got a new house so they were having a small dinner party. They also have a 2 year old daughter named Aone. We brought over a case of Yebisu and some snacks. Ryoko’s friend Eri was there as well as 2 other dudes that Tomo knows. We mostly just talked and ate a lot of food and drank a lot of beers and had fun playing with Aone. Shes really cute and seemed to take a liking to me. Im glad she didn’t think I was scary. Im the first foreigner she ever met.
That pretty much sums up my spring break. I had a few more days off but no real plans so I spent the next few days being super lazy around the house playing video games and watching shit online. There was also another enkai to welcome the new teachers to my school. Now, im back at work and the next weekend already starts tomorrow! Sweet.