The Myojinken in Matsumoto, then touching the”key to paradise” in Nagano before heading back to Tokyo

Our journey to Mastumoto was smooth and easy.  The only hiccup turned out to be that we caught our taxi driver’s cold.  He sniffled in the hot car both ways from the train station to the ferry and back.  As he said goodbye to us at the train station in Okayama he handed us each a package of Kleenex, foreshadowing the cold symptoms that would begin the next day.  Oh well, we hear almost everyone has a cold back home too!

  The train to Matsumoto was a special “wide-view” train.  Jim was giddy when he saw the big, wide, front window with a 180 degree forward view of our surroundings, including the engineer, who put on a great show with dramatic gestures noting every track light (green, yellow or red) along the journey.

From the Matsumoto train station, we took a small bus out of the city through ever narrower curvy roads up the hills until we arrived at the Tobira Onsen Myojinkan Inn. This small “traditional” Japanese resort and hot springs  is an enchanting, magical place. We were the only Anglos once again and the other visitors who could speak a little English kept asking us how we found it.  

 Our room was very large and had a beautiful winter view of the nearby stream and the snow covered trees. It felt a little like home, except for the lack of beds. This was our first hotel where we slept on mats, rather than beds.  It wasn’t as bad as we thought, but a bed is much more comfortable. For our dinner we enjoyed another delicious work of Japanese “food art.”  

                         And the traditional Japaneese breakfast was also perfect, held in a stunning view room, decorated with birch tree lights and wall coverings. 




  This place is also famous for their public (although gender separated) hot spring baths. It was extremely hard for us to leave the next day and take the bus for a day trip back into Matsumoto to visit the historic feudal castle, but we did and it well worth the time. Once again the weather cooperated with a sunny sky that allowed us to see the beautiful  mountains that overlook the city.


  Jim and I climbed the 6 stories up the interior castle steps. With 3 levels of moats and a first story built from large stones, the castle’s design is strategically imposing. Before artillery, airplanes or very large catapults, it would be virtually impossible to capture it and its hundreds of samurai defenders.

After our excursion we returned to the lodge and rested and enjoyed the pools before repacking our small bags for the next 2 days in Tokyo. We love the Japanese process of shipping big bags ahead so that the train travel the s only done with small overnight bags.  

It turns out the weather in Matsumoto really turned a few hours after we left, blocking the winding narrow road with snow, ice and falling trees, stranding the guests. 

   Although it would be a great place to be stranded, we were glad to make our 2 day trip to Tokyo with a quick  3 hour stop in Nagano to explore the Zenko-Ji Temple. After arriving at the Nagano station we followed our instructions and put our luggage in a locker. It took a bit of time to find a place to get change because the lockers took only 100 yen coins, but a quick juice purchase solved that problem.  From there we proceeded to the appropriate bus stop for an easy bus ride to the Temple.  

Although it was a rainy cold day, the walk through the grounds up to the Temple set the stage for a perfect visit. We had hoped this trip to find a meditation bell for our travels with no luck until Zenko-Ji.    

  The little shop just outside the gates of the Temple had a great selection of small bowls that make a deep, resonate bell sound when struck with a little mallet.  We chose one with a pitch we both loved and the shopkeeper was very helpful, even though he spoke no English. 




  The Temple is large with an enormous incense burner before the entry. Once in the Temple you can walk through a pitch-black tunnel under the alter to touch the “key to paradise”. Of course this was a must do. It was absolutely dark, and as you walked (no shoes of course) we were instructed to keep our right hands along the wall until we felt the metal bar on the door to the under-alter chamber.  We are pretty sure we accomplished the goal. On the way back to the bus and train we stopped for some warm noodle bowls to take the edge off the cold rainy day.

After we checked into our Tokyo hotel, we got to meet and have dinner with Leif and Natalie Mortenson. They are the son and granddaughter of our friends Dave and Pam Mortenson.  After meeting us at the hotel we walked to a fun local spot and enjoyed good food while getting to know them both.  

We stayed in Tokyo at the Four Seasons Hotel and it is a perfect hotel.  Perfect location, small, tasty breakfasts, comfortable rooms & beds and fantastic service.  After a long travel day and feeling the effects of our blooming colds, it was an wonderful and welcome respite.

We woke a little worn out, but once again ready to rally for a guided tour of Tokyo. Keiko Kamei had read some of our blogs and articles about Dick’s Drive-Ins and Jim’s Dad and felt like an old friend as we headed off via the Ginza subway line to the Haraju district for a stroll through the Meiji Shrine.  Because much of Tokyo was destroyed in the war, the grounds and imposing  entrance gates and Shrine are all relatively new ad surrounded by 120,000 trees brought and planted as gifts.  


  This is a place where people come for weddings, blessings for newborns, new cars, new jobs, new trips and similar new things. Spending the day with Keiko helped us learn more about our last 2 weeks. For example, we are now able to distinguish between Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples.  

 When removing your shoes,  immediately you notice the heated floors, which were very nice compard to the ice-cold floors of every other Temple & Shrine we hav visited.

 We took part in a sacred Shinto blessing ceremony.  The priests give blessing to the visitors by name using special prayer sticks.  Jim got a healing blessing in the ceremony.  

After the Shrine we did a bit of an architectural tour through the Omotesando district, where flagship designer stores are housed in amazing buildings. Japanese love new trendy things and we passed young people cued in long lines for a fashion show and a western-style silver jewelry boutique.  


We shared a delicious lunch and then Jim headed back to the hotel for some quiet time, while Keiko and I explored the museum and the Yanaka district.  The Yanaka district is home to the Museum of  Art.  It’s a quiet neighborhood with lovely old shops, and homes along with artists.  I liked the peaceful energy.  I bought some delicious rice crackers from a shop that has been making them the same way for 100 years.

 We had the opportunity to visit Allen West’s gallery. He’s an American who uses an old Japanese technique of mixing deer glue with ground stone pigment to create beautiful pieces of art. For winter his themes are plum tree blossoms and bamboo in snow representing beauty and success in harsh times. . Birds in pine trees are another theme. Like our last artist visit in Kyoto, it was very special. Allen, his wife, Keiko and I chatted about pigments and painting, his recent commissions, the states, families and life. I purchased a small Shinto-themed horse painting that reminded me of our morning Shinto service at the Temple.



 By the time Keiko and I worked our way back to the hotel, I was pretty exhausted.  jim and I went out for a quick simple dinner from the collection of small restaurants in the massive Tokyo train station next to our hotel.  With Keiko’s help we purchased some NyQuil-like cold medicine to help clear our nose and help us get some sleep.  We both woke the next morning feeling much better, and then enjoyed another yummy leisurely  breakfast.  

Before heading to our train we went for a quick (& successful) excursion to buy some casual Japaneese robes (called Yukatas).

As I finish this blog we are sitting on a small local train during the 30 minute trip from Nagano to Myokokogen for our final week in Japan, all of which will be devoted to skiing.  Skiing was the reason we came to Japan in first place.  If the skiing is anywhere close to the rest of our trip, it’s going to be epic!

We have arrived and settled at the lodge .  It’s rustic, small and has a great skier feel.  It’s certainly very different from the rest of our trip.  But it feels great!   This is definitely an interesting out of the way sky area.  It’s snowing and the adventure continues.

 Islands of Art

  Our journey takes us next to Benesse Art Islands.  To get to this spot in Japan southwest of Kyoto, we traveled by high speed train, taxi and ferry. The Islands are south of the tiny Port of Uno.  Although the islands themselves are just small dots on the map, they are part of the much larger Seti Sea, the “inland sea” passage located between the south side of Japan’s main island and two of Japan’s other large islands.


 The taxi took us to the “private” ferry (the “Thunderbird”, the same “public” ferry we would ride the next day) to get to the Benesse Art Hotel on the island of Naoshima.  It was a cold, windy afternoon and the forecast wasn’t promising.  In fact, the smaller inter-island public ferries were canceled on our arrival day. We got to our room and it was quite small.  The design was upscale dorm room.  The art at the hotel was very modern, minimalist .  

If the weather didn’t improve, hanging out in the room and the “minimalist” hotel would be disappointing for 3 nights.  The grounds and beaches are very nice, but we were beginning to question how wise this location was for this time of year.  I think we were going through Kyoto withdrawal.  

Throughout our trip very few people have spoken English, but it really hasn’t hindered our travels.  This night, after a scrumptious dinner, we had a problem with the bill and very little ability to clear it up.  We were beginning to think we would cut this part of or trip short.  But, after talking to our agent by email and phone we decided to wait until the next day and see if the weather improved so we could explore.

It did!  


 The wind calmed down and the temperature increased enough that the sun felt warm.  Our art explorations by ferry took us to 2 nearby Islands:  Teshima and Inujima.  Jim and I have never really appreciated modern art. But the instillations on these islands are quite unusual, combining old villages with architecture, art and nature.

Once again our itinerary was perfect,

  We were met  at the small ferry dock on Teshima by cab and our driver swept us to 3 different spots beginning with Les Archives du Couer. We wove through a little village then came to a building by a lovey beach housing a long dark room with a single light bulb and speakers amplifying individual heart beats from people all over the world.  


 Clever, but not worth the trip. The art got much better from there.

Our next stop was enchanting and perfect.  The Teshima Museum is a collaboration of art and architecture, dug into a hill surrounded by rice paddies. After walking the beautiful grounds you come upon a white concrete dome.   

 Before entering we removed our shoes, put on slippers and were told to be quiet and not step on anything on the ground.  From there you enter a perfect environment with moving water, wind, and openings to the sky.  It is absolutely impossible to describe but I’ll try.  It’s a metaphor for life.  Some drops of water enter from small holes in the floor, they grow in size until they move toward a distant well.  Along the way, the traveling water “beings” join with others, separate from others, and ultimately merge with a large pool or disappear down a well.  If it was a bit warmer we would have stayed much longer.  I’ve taken some photos from the book we purchased because photos weren’t allowed.  

We stopped for some coffee in the second building before moving on to our last stop on Teshima and our first “art house” experience.  Here is a photo of a group of children visiting the exhibit. 

   I love the matching hats to designate the group.  One of the children was clearly visiting her Mom. You don’t see a lot of children in Japan because of the extremely low birth rate.  We read an article just a few days ago about the lack of desire for many young people here to date, have children or even have sex.  If you remember our gold leaf artist who’s family had the studio for 5 generations, they have three 40-something children and none of them are married.   

  An “art house” is an old local home in a hamlet that’s transformed by an architect and artist into an art experience.  The Teshima Yookoo house surprised and enchanted us. This one included a wonderful water element, garden and very cool tower.  Sorry no photos allowed.  When you enter you look through red glass to the rock garden and court yard.   

 The concept of these small architecture and modern art projects was really new for us.  The fact that they were in these small, rural and old areas infusing young people and art lovers was delightful and ingenious.  Would this work in the states?  We think it would in struggling WA communities like Aberdeen.  

When we began our day we weren’t sure if we were going to go on to our third island, Inujima, but we were hooked now.  The weather was good and we were up for the adventure to continue.

Our enthusiasm was rewarded.  After departing the small ferry there was a building with a cafe and the ticket site for the returning ferry and the art projects on the island. After ordering a lovely small lunch we sat and looked at the water.  The table in front of us was filled with a group of ladies doing origami led by an origami Jedi master.  

 After I took pictures of her, she made Jim and me a gift of origami.  No English, just smiles and bowing to give our thanks. 

Our hearts and tummies full, we walked to the first stop at the largest art building, Seirensho, created from the remains of a copper refinery.  It’s designed By Hiroshi Sambuichi.  




  The bricks used are from the original smoke stack and have a metallic sheen.   The exhibit is hard to explain, but it used long dark hall ways, mirrors, solar projections and natural light in a magical way. We loved it!


From there we strolled through the village visiting other art house projects. Some we looked at, some we sat in, but alas no photos were allowed. I snuck a few plus some photos of the walk around the Island.


This is one of the young people who have moved to the island to work at the art houses.  They are well cared for by the elders who still live on the island.


The coast here is full of  actual “sea hawks.”

After the return ferry we had time for a shower before a traditional Kaiseki Japanese dinner.   

 The restaurant is located at the main museum up the hill above our hotel.  The dinner was perfect.  We’ve been doing quite a bit of sake testing and enjoyed some more with our dinner.  After dinner we ended our day by exploring the museum.  Now this was the modern art we were used to seeing. All white painting, wood and rock circles on the floor, toy soldiers in a circle, “junk on a shelf”. . . it was a fast tour.

This morning we got to sleep in before exploring the Chichu Museum and another collection of art houses in an old area.  The Chichu features three artists Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria in a building designed by Tadao Ando.  We loved it all, the interplay of art and architecture once again opened our eyes to a new appreciation of the possibilities in this kind of art. No need to explain Monet, but the light, shapes and interactive aspects in Turell’s and Maria’s installations were so engaging.  Again no photos allowed.  This is a picture from the book.  It’s a huge room that you walk into and around.

On our way out we stopped to chat with the gardener who was proudly tending and planting flowers despite the winter weather. 

 The best part of the art houses here was walking through the village to find them.  We also passed by a really beautiful shrine.  The curve of the roof (which we learned on this trip, represents the ocean) is particularly dramatic. 





   We stopped for a leisurely, delicious lunch at small spot with only 3 tables.   

 The food was scrumptious. At our favorite art house here we are led into a dark space using our hands to guide us along the walls before we sat on a bench.  It is pitch black.  This is what it must feel like to be blind. Over time light appears.  A few specks at first and then a full screen. We were then told to stand and walk towards the screen. It turns out the light was there all along.  It just took ten minutes for our eyes to adjust. Really cool. 

Tonight we enjoy one last dinner at the fine hotel restaurant before traveling again by ferry, taxi and high speed train to Matsomoto. The adventure continues!

Nara Fire Ceremony

The Nara fire ceremony was a kick.  Combining a community fair atmosphere with great tradition, religious cooperation and fireworks.  Really, what could be better. We joined in on the parade up the hill with chanting and conch shell blowing and stayed for the grass burning. I’ve posted some of the video on Facebook. Jim paticurlalry loved the Shinto head coverings.  This is a must do if you are here this time of year.  It combined interfaith (Buddhist and Shinto) prayers for the departed and world peace along with fire safety for the town and the shrines (which have burned down a lot over hundreds of years).

We ate lots of yummy street vender foods (the healthy food is not photographed) including the ceremonial soup topped with a salty-sweet cotton candy.   We didn’t actually eat the crazy bananas, but we did photograph them.



  The last 4 days immersed us in the experience of Kyoto both modern and ancient.  Kyoto was chosen originally for its Feng Shui because it is surrounded by mountains on the north east and west with a river running north to south.  Interestingly, this is exactly the same as our beautiful Alpental Valley.

When we left the healing sanctuary in Toba for the train ride to Kyoto the snow began to fall.  The train ride was easy. The Kyoto train station is enormous, with many levels and entrances but the grandeur and epic scale of the modern North entrance made it our favorite, especially the view of the adjacent Kyoto Tower (Kyoto’s Space Needle).  In fact last night after a full day of touring we headed back to experience the hussle and bustle of the area at night.  The station combines transportation, food, shopping, museums & hotels into an engaging and delightful cacophony.

This of course is in complete contrast to the peaceful history of the monasteries and zen gardens throughout the city.  We are staying at the Hyatt in the SE part of town situated between 2 major tourist destinations.  After checking in and dropping off our bags and bundling up we walked to the Golden Temple next door.  The Sanjusangen-do Temple contains over 100o gold plated, life size statues of Kannon (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) in lines surrounding a much larger central Buddha, all contained in the longest wooden structure in the world.   

The building was created using an ingenious foundation of alternating layers of sand and clay, allowing it to survive the area’s periodic earthquakes for almost 1,000 years. 

 Back at the hotel we decided to take a fish break and went to the Italian restaurant at the hotel.  The pasta was comforting and warm


 Our second day in Kyoto we met our guide Kenzo for a tea ceremony with a tea master grower before an exploration of the Daitoku-ji  Bhuddist Temple complex and Zen monastery.  Interestingly, this is where our good friend Erica trained for 3 years.  

  We got to meet the Abbot who immediately, with a smile, corrected our posture. Our posture was exceptionally stooped due to the  cold.  But he was right, as soon as we straitened up and re-engaged our cores, we warmed up.  The snow falling all around us added a special, enchanting energy to the morning. 

Kenzo took us to the monastery restaurant for a chance to warm up with a yummy vegetarian lunch and warm sake before we strolled through narrow streets to a gold leaf artist, Hakuya Noguchi.  His family has been doing gold leaf work since 1877.   


 This is picture of the gold leaf background design sliced (his great great grandfather did the same thing but used a hatchet) so that it can be used in the weaving of Kimono sashes.  He showed us the technique, and gave us a lesson in the history and the different tools his father and great grandfather used.  We enjoyed tea and conversation with Hakuya and his wife before purchasing a very small piece.   

Our day ended with a visit to a covered outdoor shopping area where we successfully searched for an inexpensive used Japanese Kimono-style robe before saying goodbye to Kenzo.  For dinner we choose Indian food and then collapsed in bed.

As I said earlier, The Hyatt is located in the SE part of town.  It’s a quiet area and our room was on the eastern, garden side so we slept with our window open and were awakened by the monastery bells next door.  The quiet at night suits us just fine.  After a long day of exploring we love the peace and quiet. 

Yesterday was a day in  Nara , about 30 minutes south of Kyoto by local train.  Nara is a park-like setting, with deer everywhere, a cute little town, with many museums and shrines including the big Buddah shrine at Todai-ji Temple. And the big Buddah doesn’t disappoint.  



  The Todai-ji Buddah is 53 feet tall.  It is the largest bronze Buddah statue in the world and is housed in the largest wood structure in the world.  Pictures do not do it justice. The shrine and surrounding park are lovely.  English guides are available to give you an introduction before entering the shrine.  

After a lot of walking Jim decided to hire one of the rickshaws. I was uncomfortable  from the start for so many reasons.  Let’s just say we were surprised when our young, strong, delightful driver, took us on the main road, with buses passing us in the opposite lane, to get to our destination, the Kokufu-ji Temple, with its five-story pagoda.  As we picked up speed down the hill, even Jim was questioning his choice.  But we survived and got a lovely tour.  On the way to our destination we passed the Nara Hotel where apparently both Albert Einstein and John Lennon have stayed.

After more shrine and museum visits it was time to head back to the train station where we grabbed a yummy meal in a local little restaurant for a late lunch.  That night, we were able to get a dinner reservation at Mishima-tei, a famous old “shabu-shabu” restaurant in Kyoto, where the food is cooked at your table by a young woman.

 The meal was delicious, and lovely, but too expensive (although we enjoyed the experience).

Yesterday was one of our favorite excursions, this time to the 11 acre Katsura Villa and gardens, followed by Arashiyama, with more gardens and a lovely area near Kyoto’s river and the Saiho-Ji (Moss) Temple.

Katsura Villa is the former residence of the Emperor, and now a tourist destination that is available by advance reservation only.  And once again our agent, Esprit Travel, took care of that for us.  The Japanese Gardens there are exquisite and thoroughly enchanted us.   



 It’s given me lots of ideas for improving our mountain house and a much greater appreciation for the beautiful rockeries and garden areas that Glen created for us at our old home on Mercer Island.  They truly are works of art in nature.

Arashiyama is another rock garden  experience next to a glorious bamboo forest which is near a larger park along the river.  We could have spent more time in this little place in the NW part of Kyoto.   

But, we were on a vey tight schedule so we grabbed a very quick lunch at a lovely little restaurant with a  nice view of the river.  Then we hailed a taxi to take is to the Saiho-ji (Moss) Temple.  It’s hard to explain how tranquil and amazing this place is.  Again it’s reservation only and the experience begins with Buddhist monks chanting and praying in the temple.  Afterwards we strolled through the grounds of moss covered gardens, rocks, and trees, all dappled in sunlight.  These gardens were designed 1,300 years ago and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   


 I tried to capture the glowing greens in the photos but they are elusive.  I love moss and have been trying to grow patches in the mountains (sometimes successfully). This truly is a Zen activity.  The moss must be gently and continually swept of debris to survive and thrive.  As much as we would have like to linger longer, we were getting cold.  On our way out we found a little tea shop with a private rock garden where we were fed and warmed.
To end our day, and for something completely different, we took a taxi back to the Kyoto Tower (next to the Kyoto Train Station).
Jim and I always like to explore any Space-Needle-like towers when we travel to get better perspective of the surrounding area. We grabbed a drink at the bar while waiting for a gentle sunset and the lights of the city. From the tower we saw some really cool large lit steps on a open floor above the bustling train station.  





Our nex mission was to walk to those steps. After some wrong turns and escalator choices, and with the helpful guidance of a smiling lady at the tourism office in the station, we arrived only to be mesmerized by the ever-changing light display. It turns out the lights begin on the 4th floor outside of the department store, and go all the way up to the 10th floor (the top of the Kyoto train station).


After playing on the stairs we once again found a small local shop for some spicy soup and later ended our evening with ice cream.

Today is our final full day in Kyoto and it began with early morning (6:30 AM) Bhuddist chanting at Chishaku-in, only a five minute walk from our hotel.   

 We missed the correct entrance in the dark, surprising a young monk.  We were about to give up when we found the correct location.  The spiritual chants and ceremony were well worth the early start.  As part of the ceremony we got the opportunity to burn incense to “honor a recently departed ancestor” (Jim’s Dad).

Today is a housekeeping day.   

 Time for laundry and packing before we transition tomorrow.  The local laundromat had great machines that both wash & dry, and automatically add both detergent and softener.  While waiting for the laundry I had time to write this blog.  We have to pack our larger bag to ship tomorrow to Matsomoto where we will meet up with it after first exploring the Benesse Art Island and Museum on the little Island of Naoshima.

But, while in Nara we learned that tonight they are having their annual hill-burning and fireworks ceremony.  Yes the Buddha and Shinto sects cooperate to burn the hill to “honor our ancestors and call world peace.” We feel it was well worth another excursion to Nara.  It sounds like quite the local spectacle involving fire, trumpets, fireworks and food.  We will report back in our next blog.

First Days In Japan

  As I write our first blog from Japan we are sitting in our traditional robes looking out at the stormy sea at The Earth resort.  

We began our trip by flying out of Vancouver to take advantage of the Canadian exchange rate to buy our airline tickets.  By staying over the night before at an airport hotel, it made our day of flying very calm.  Everything was done and all we had to do was eat breakfast and take the shuttle to the airport. 

The most difficult part was getting all of our luggage from the shuttle drop off to check-in.  This isn’t our usual “pack light” adventure.  We are skiing at the end of the trip after two weeks of touring in a winter climate.  But we made it with plenty of time to spare and the Vancouver Airport is quite nice, with an artificial forest stream in the waiting area and a large aquarium. 

 Jim was excited to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with its large windows and better air circulation.  The only oddity was that the reclining seats in our flight’s Business Class didn’t lay down flat (as they did in the two Delta Airlines 777’s we have been on).  Instead, our seats almost reclined flat but then left us at an angle something like Frankenstein’s table in the old movie.  Still we were able to sleep for a few hours of our nine hour flight to Tokyo.

The service from Japan Air Lines (JAL)  couldn’t have been better and I transitioned to my  Japanese cultural experience by ordering the  

 Bento box for dinner which was really quite tasty for airplane food.

After landing our first experience in Japan was fast and efficient.  The luggage came right out and customs was a breeze. Interestingly, Japan takes finger prints and photos of all foreigners.  We were not offended.

Our driver met us, sweeping us and our luggage to his car.  Our 2 large bags, 2 small bags and massive ski bag was on a cart.  We panicked as he approached the escalator only to learn that the clever Japaneese have created carts that adjust so that they can go up or down escalators without a problem.

Once again we chose a wonderful travel agent to plan our trip and we weren’t disappointed at our first quick stop in Tokoyo. The staff took care of all our needs including helping us ship our ski bags on to Myokokogen and our larger bag on to our Kyoto hotel.

After getting our bags settled we headed out for a nearby walk to see a bit of downtown Tokyo. Our travel agent gave us lots of walking and touring suggestions.  This evening we headed out to find a local SIM data card for our IPAD. On the way we walked past the beautifully lit Tokyo International Forum  


 building built on the former site of  Edo Castle.  Bics Camera store was a hopping potpourris of technology and although no one spoke English well and we don’t speak Japanese at all, we all spoke technology and quickly procured a SIM card which the staff tested and is working beautifully.

From there we went to a nearby building that offered a variety of international restaurants.  We settled on some Tapas because they had a no smoking section and made it through a meal and the walk back before collapsing in bed.  Other than the large number of smokers, the Japanese are very clean — there is no graffiti, almost no litter of any kind anywhere, and yet there are almost no public garbage cans.  On our 90 minute drive from the airport to downtown, we didn’t see a single dirty car or even a dirty truck!

Breakfast was lovely and our job was to take a walk to Dimelers department store and their food section to procure Bento boxes for our train trip later that day.  

  The variety and beauty of the culinary selections was truly overwhelming.  We decided on a Japanese style bento box and a salad for our travel food.

Back at the hotel the staff was waiting to walk us to our train.  Although we felt a bit lazy and self-conscious by this service, we thoroughly enjoyed the stress-free transfer.

  The trains in Japan are exceptionally clean, comfortable, smooth and fast, and run like clockwork, especially the “super express” bullet trains.  We boarded and left promptly only carrying our overnight bags as instructed.  Jim loves trains and this trip will be full of train travel.

Our excursion southwest along the coast took us past Mt. Fuji, lasted most of the afternoon and included one transfer, which thanks to detailed instructions we navigated on our own without a problem.

After 2 mores shuttles (one big and one small), along a surprisingly narrow and winding coastal road (and by many oyster operations) we were welcomed with Japanese bows by the staff at “The Earth” healing waters resort.  Our room is amazing, the views of the ocean and rugged coastline are vast, and the food is artistic and scrumptious. 


Originally, we were supposed to go for a train excursion on Monday to a local important shrine.  But we decided instead to just stay here, enjoy the healing waters and watch the big wind storm that blew in overnight, raised the surf to over ten feet of loud crashing waves, and then gave way to a sunny late afternoon. 

We ended our day yesterday with a facial for me and a shiatsu massage for both of us.  Here in Japan facials include massages, because your face can’t relax if your body isn’t relaxed.  The shiatsu massage was very different.  Two people swept into our room pointed to the bed where we both told to lay down with our clothes on.  They then proceeded to press very firmly on every pressure point in the body. They never touch you directly, there is always a cloth between us and them. It was different, but surprisingly relaxing after it was done.

Very few people spoke any English here and we were the only Americans.  But we felt totally welcomed and well cared for at all times. Here is a young lady, Shinba, that practiced her English with us while we were here and was delightful.  She lives near Mt. Fuji but works here and stays in the staff housing. We are soon to be Facebook friends!

 Today we are on the move again, this time to Kyoto.   We send you all our love and hopefully a little of the “healing waters” Japanese energy we have experienced so far.

We end our first blog with a beautiful sunrise from this morning.