The last few times I arrived in Japan, I have felt a thrill at being back in this country. This time it was as the tires touched the tarmac. The earliest yet. I’m not sure what this thrill is about. I suspect it’s a mixture of being in an exotic place, which Japan will always be for me, and, returning to a place that I am so familiar with.
This trip, I arrived at Haneda Airport. It became a domestic only airport when Narita was built but in the last few years has begun taking international flights. I wish all my flights in and out of Tokyo were through Haneda. The immigration seemed to take a little longer but once through the gates, I was only 25 minutes from Ikebukuro Station by Airport Limousine Bus for only 1200 yen. This is so much much much much faster and cheaper than from Narita.
As usual, I dropped off my bigger bag at a delivery service. For less than $20.00 it would be delivered to my doorstep in Chichibu. The man told me that it would arrive in two days because it was going to snow the next day. He did not say that they “expected it to snow”, he said that “it was going to snow”. I liked his certainty in an uncertain world. On the bus going into the city, there was no sign of snow but I trusted him. As things would have it, I arrived too late at night to catch my train out to Chichibu, so, I had arranged to stay at Kimi Ryokan near Ikebukuro Station where I catch the train to Chichibu. It was nice budget accommodation. A 4 ½ mat room. (A tatami mat is approximately 1 x 2 mtres or yards. It was after midnight by the time I checked in, so, no bath only a shower. This was a great disappointment as the O-furo is one of my favourite Japanese experiences. My american made trailer does not have an O-furo. Ah, what so many people are missing.
So, as I was saying, the next morning, I was up and on my way to the train station. People had their umbrellas up to ward of the snow flakes but I just went without feeling my mustache freeze in the briskness of the air. The Red Arrow Limited Express to Chichibu. I’ve written of this train before. Reserved seats, coach class style with a conductor who bows and greets everyone when he enters the car. On outskirts of Tokyo, we began passing fields covered in snow and trees with branches with ribbons of white resting on them. I was really enjoying my nice warm seat on the inside of the window. I often read during the first part of the ride and start sightseeing once we start up the valley. This time, I just watched the whole way. Shortly after starting up the valley, we went through a long tunnel. As we came out, I was surprised by a landscape that was pure white. I felt a smile spread at the knowledge that this beauty was waiting for me.
So, that’s the snow. That was three weeks ago and it has only snowed once since then. That was a week after my arrival. Instead, it was bitterly cold. Nights got down to minus 8 C, 17 F. I was wearing my down jacket as one of five layers. The heater was getting a good workout. My sleeping bag hood came in handy to act as a warm cave to keep my head from freezing. Some days were better than others. The overcast days brought joy to my heart because it meant it would be warmer. Somehow, I survived.
Yes, friends, I have paid my dues and today, I began collecting them. It has been a warm sunny no wind day. 15 C, 59 F. Oh, the smile on my face as I walked around my neighbourhood. I was in only three layers. I went out shopping on my bike when I didn’t really need to buy anything. I took the long way to the market. An hour later, I just went out and rode around aimlessly until I remembered the antique shop that is way on the other side of town that I don’t usually go to because it’s so far.
Yes, life is beautiful!!!