I slept well, after a long nap though finding that we were directly under the hotel bar and “I THINK no karaoke” comment from the front desk were less than comforting. We woke to bright sunlight and hurried to pack in order to get over to the island of Miyajima.
The previous night we had gone to the hotel at the restaurant where we could see the lights of the island in the distance. The hotel had a waterwheel, which we had seen on the rice fields coming from Kanazawa to Kyoto to aid in irrigation (this ones continual splashing aided in the need to go to the bathroom!). I can now say that at least ONE of us has had a traditional Japanese meal as I ordered Beef Soba which came with a separate bowl and chopsticks. I actually find chopsticks to be good as they use the macro muscles if you position them correctly (shoulder and elbow mostly). Of course Linda was convinced that there was fish in the beef soba and how “stinky” it was (she had curry). I found a piece of large white meat and asked what it was. “Fish.” I was told.
“Yes, but what fish? Halibut, Cod, Salmon…?”
The server went into the back…long wait she comes back and points to the piece and declares, “Fish!”
Okay! I had a pro-biotic when I got back to the room in case it was octopus or the like.
Today we checked out, stored the luggage and got the JR ferry to the island (the first thing to interest me to Miyajima in planning months ago was that there was a FREE ferry there with the Rail pass). The island was like a small half tourist/half rural town with lots of deer just sitting around or eating under the cherry blossom trees. If you want to visit Japan, April is a good month as yes, it does rain but the cherry blossoms, which are almost the national symbol of Japan, are everywhere. The island has 1,600 cherry trees.
We were going to do the monkeys and the gondola first and then the shrine afterward but of course stopped to take pictures of the giant red Torii sitting out at sea.
We bought the tickets for the gondolas (two of them), round trip and were told that there were “kaidan” (some stairs) but that it was 15. That was made clear, 15 stairs. We wait for the free bus which takes us up the “hell road” which was paved but so vertical and twisty that it seemed you would need a four wheel drive bus. We were glad we waited for the bus. We get to the station and….there are about 30 stairs just to get UP to the first gondola in order to get on. The guys that worked there were all shaking their heads no and for a moment I thought about it but then I transferred out and started lifting my butt and pulling up my legs so they HAD to bring up the wheelchair. This was my Die Boken (heavy emphasis on DIE) and damned if these two sets of stairs were going to stop me. Because the person who sold the ticket said only FIVE more stairs between the two gondolas.
Well, I get up there, and then the chair, my oxygen, my cooling supplies, my drinks all make it up and then the chair has to be broken down ALL the way (in eight pieces) in order to get onto the gondola, in fact they send my chair and Linda ahead and I ride with a guy from the company called “Mr. Little Humor” or LH for short. Well, LH was not a big fan of me going up the gondola and kept talking about the “Kaidan” on the other side. I told him I knew all about it, there were like “nana” stairs (7 or so), he was “No, 150!” I was, “OMG!” And meanwhile the gondola rose and rose and we saw the panorama of Hiroshima and the islands around it. When I got to the switching station there was a little room where you could sit and a little veranda and I told Linda, when I saw the freaking mountain of stairs ahead (after hauling self in and out of non-wheelchair bus, and 30 stairs and in and out of gondola) that she go ahead and I would wait here and write the last postcard. She waved me goodbye and took off. Only a minute later did I remember – the postcards were in MY backpack which was on HER back. “Shit!”
Right about at “Shit!” I was surrounded by six guys from the gondola company including Mr. LH who was obviously against the scheme. They had determined I was going to be CARRIED up the 150+ stairs. Well, I had the choice of sitting in a little room for an hour with no camera and no postcards or feel humiliated as it took endless amounts of Japanese men to lift this GIANT “gaijin” (I am still losing weight by the way). So I gave into humiliation and a “Hai!” later I was hoisted aloft by four or five of these guys (the youngest was the most into it and thought it all in fun, the older guys…not so fun). Anyway, I kept saying, “Holy!” as they would tip or I would try to pull myself up the stairs to take the weight off them, then another tip to the side and “HOLY!” Now Linda has found about this scheme so what is Linda doing? She is doing what Linda always does….take pictures!
So heave-ho and away I go, and up at the top when they placed me on the platform, all the people waiting for the 30 person per gondolas applauded. Yes, well, it IS important to have a good entrance. So I rode the second gondola and Linda went off in search of monkeys while I watched the few that were there. One was grooming another who had his butt in the air (red faces and red butts too). I thought, “I hope that I didn’t go through ALL that just to watch monkey ass.” Finally I saw a mother and a young monkey scamper away from the group as well as a territory fight for a sunning rock so that was pretty good. No, the monkeys didn’t come to me because I didn’t WANT the monkeys to come to me. These are wild monkeys and will go through your pack like crazy. And since I was on oxygen, I didn’t want them running off with a $10,000 oxygen concentrator. So let wild monkeys be wild. We had no problem with the deer and petted them but on the train later we met a couple who had not gone 50 yards before half their map of the island had been eaten.
Linda searched high and low for monkeys and went up and down while I sucked oxygen and drank my drink and put on my neckband which we froze the night before. So I was doing everything RIGHT, medically. I did not have the long fingered gloves that some suggest I should have had yesterday when I got frostbite but that was because a) it was sunny, not a cloud, b) it was hot and c) I got a little sunburn on my shoulders.
When it was time to go down, more carrying, only this time they carried me ALL the way down to the stop for the bus (crazy steep road) and then one of the guys, I think the owner of the gondola drove us down the crazy steep road into Miyajima and dropped us off at the shrine (where we really only cared to get a stamp in Linda’s book).
Well, this shrine was built on the water with the tide coming in and out to give it different views and they had built rock pools below for mid tide, it was very much the floating world and of course, red. And we took another picture of the floating Torii with a ceremonial drum when everyone starts making a big noise and it is a wedding couple in REALLY old style kimono’s – the very old traditional style where she wears like a Japanese nun’s hood as well. They had just been married and they came over with the families and professional photographers and arrangers to get a picture in front of the red Torii. The in-laws looked scary, like bad guy in film and do I want to see if you have tattoos when you go in the public bath scary. And this wedding was serious money (two pro photographers, two light people, two women to professionally arrange the kimono’s on the spot to perfection). So as soon as they were ready, we took OUR pictures (we are Camera Whores after all) and then scampered for the ferry back to Hiroshima where Linda found ANOTHER stamp at the train station.
We needed to catch the train to Hiroshima central to catch our express but there was…you guessed it, only an overpass of “Kaidan!” and I wheel over to it and I say to Linda this was IT. I mean, we HAD to be in the main station but I just could NOT haul myself any more stairs. Then the JR comes pushing what looks like a loader you carry around luggage. But he extends two ramps and I go up on the loader which has little tank tracks and before you know it I am using my first stair climber (Well, HE was using it but I was the one everyone was staring at). It hoists you sort of level and then climbs the stairs. I had all the camera so no picture. BUT, when it comes to being hoisted to a few feet from the roof and then the thing starts making little bumps going DOWN the stairs and I keep thinking about Humpty Dumpy and there were a few “holy CRAP!” every time there was a particularly big jerk or twitch. But I made it to the main station which used both two elevator AND a different type of stair climber to get me to express. So yeah, lots of way to beat the “Kaidan” – how about building barrier free or accessible buildings to begin with? So we caught the train to Beppu. Where the wonders of the onsan, the hot spring, await us!
I will make this short as the wonders of the Onsen have eased my muscles and made me very HUNGRY and very sleepy at the same time. After our nap we had dinner and took a taxi to Hyotan Onsen, which is a traditional bathhouse and Onsan. They gave us the “family Onsan” which is where you go for 2-4 people so if this was the class trip the girls would be in one and the guys another – each is barrier free and has a deep and fairly big pool of hot spring water as well as a steam/sauna room, a change room and a phone to call for food. Since four guys about 18-20 came and took the Onsen next to ours it SOUNDED like a class trip (what is it about guys? Here we are floating naked in each others arms and we listen to guys hooting as they run around the pool squirting each other with the cold hoses).
We felt a bit…well young since we couldn’t remember the last time we went skinny dipping together. And as we floated there I said, if this WAS a manga or anime there would be a guy with his eye plastered to a knothole until the wall fell over revealing him (when we beat him).
The owner was as Linda said, “The most excitable and happy person she has met in Japan” and was almost in tears that we liked the onsen and kept putting her arms over her head in an O and then going “Okay?” and then thanking us profusely. This is probably the place that has the LEAST amount of English spoken but our bad Japanese seems to be getting us by. So we are off to bed and tomorrow IF Linda can get up she is off to the Hell Springs tour; we have already talked to front desk about checking out late.
5 hours ago