I am somewhere between San Francisco and Kyoto, returning from my eleven-day honeymoon in Japan. The sun is rising quickly and night was very short. Plus, we left at 5pm and will arrive home at 11am- still on Tuesday! I have basically been away from home for a month and am ready to sleep in my own bed. I also can’t wait to swim again. I enjoyed some sort of bath or onsen every day in Japan and will be going through “water withdrawl” shortly. Swimming laps in chlorinated water isn’t exactly the same but getting a little exercise and stretching my body out after this long trip will feel great.
The bookends of our vacation were three days each in Tokyo & Kyoto. We did as much walking as we could bear in the zillion degree heat and humidity. The metro system in Tokyo was easy to use and the city is too big to get everywhere on foot. I spent time each afternoon back at our ryokan with my feet up the wall in an attempt to alleviate the pain from my feet swelling. I had comfortable sandals for walking but nonetheless, my body is not used to that kind of temperature. Kyoto was much the same, only smaller & more accessible. We stayed at a temple on the west side of the city and used both trains & bikes to get around. Again, it was uncomfortably hot for any sort of exertion. Biking was most enjoyable after dark and on the final evening of the O-Ban festival, we found ourselves pushing the bikes through mobs of people as everyone watched the bonfires up the mountains. Spectacular!
After Tokyo, we made a one night stopover in Matsumoto on our way up to Kamikochi. I was thrilled to be back in Matsumoto after having spent a month there 25 years ago! I didn’t remember anything except the statue of Dr. Suzuki outside the Talent Education school. Matsumoto is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains and I indulged in an early morning run up the river. Running is quite popular in Japan and I was amazed at how many runners dressed in layers with tights, despite the heat! My 45 minute run/walk felt difficult and my legs were actually sore the next day even though I stretched.
We spent most of our time in Matsumoto roaming around on the free bikes from our boarding house. We were charmed by the small streets of old homes and enjoyed being part of the strong bike culture.
Kamikochi offered a respite from the heat. In fact, it poured the entire time. We purchased rain ponchos and made good use of them as we attempted but never finished a hike. I didn’t mind much drinking tea and watching the rain and falling asleep to the sounds of the rushing river each night. We also experienced here traditional kaiseki meals, served old style, privately to our room. I’d booked one of the cheaper mountain lodges but between the food, an onsen with views of the mountain range and a room with a balcony, the place felt anything but budget.
We dropped back into the valley to meet our bike guide, Paul, of Freeride Adventures Japan. He planned our rides, booked our accommodations at an awesome pension and fancy ryokan, and knew the food scene. Because of weather and our current fitness levels, our itinerary changed from the original four mountain passes plan, but I loved being back on a road bike and cranking out the miles. The first day we rode through the countryside of farms and rolling hills. We stopped for lunch at a tiny soba restaurant and ate a delicious lunch of cold soba. We were instructed to drink the soba cooking water for our afternoon fuel.
The second day we parked the van, hopped on our bikes and started climbing. It was a gentle grade but lasted 14 km. I popped a tire near the top as I carelessly rode through a grate. The descent was fast and fun and we earned our okonomiyaki lunch that day.
That about sums up the fitness part of the trip. Nice variety of everything and tons of great food to fuel our way. I’m ready to go back to work, get back into my home routine (as a married woman!) and get started training for the Honolulu marathon!