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Japan

Author: Maria Zehentner
Beitrag vom: 07.03.2018

Sayonara and Konnichiwa Kyoto!

After our long stay with Kyoshi in the workshop, we finally longed to get our skis off the roof again. With the certainty of a working heater, nothing bothers us anymore to drive to Hakuba, Japan's snow paradise. 400km separated us from the fine powder. However, we were not in a hurry and planned a stop in the small town of Koka.

Just outside the city, on sprawling grounds, we visited a ninja house with an integrated museum. Unlike Superman or other superheroes, ninjas had no superpowers, but special abilities. Hidden in the shadows and being unseen was the reason for their popularity as the Mystery of the East. A ninja was a particularly well-trained fighter of preindustrial Japan, who was used as a scout, spy, saboteur, or assassin. Because of their lifestyle, it was not surprising, that their homes were equipped with provisions such as traps or secret escape routes. During a small tour, we were shown the pitfalls of a Ninja house and were also allowed to go on a voyage of discovery by ourselves.

We stayed overnight in the parking lot of a rest area next to the road. It was noisy, but the place offered free internet and Leander took the opportunity to download some songs by Wolfgang Ambros, a famous Austrian songwriter. From then on, the classic song "Schifoan" (Austrian dialect, which means skiing) became our daily hymn and boomed non-stop from the speakers.
We were excited, and looked forward to exuberant days in the snow. In addition, we would meet with "Bumsti", an Austrian who worked for a ski school in Hakuba.

We reached Hakuba, but who was not there? Bumsti. With one and a half hours delay, he appeared at the meeting point with lots of excuses. But you could not be angry with him, because Bernhard, which was his real name, was funny and talked and laughed a lot. He escorted us to his apartment, just outside the city where we could park.
During having a couple of beers in the truck, we got to know each other better. He liked our oldie, which was not surprising. Our "Alpine Chalet" was surrounded by meter-high snow mountains almost next to the ski slope, and the song "Schifoan" was ringing out of the loudspeakers. Which created a warm feeling in our heart.
The next morning we put on our skis and slipped to the slopes. Despite the weather was cloudy and misty, we could not wait any longer.

At the beginning with shaky knees, we had the turn quickly out after the first turns. Except Lennox, he had some problems. He did not want to learn how to ski, but wanted to shred down the slope like his friend Fabi from the Snowmads. He did not believe in the saying "no master has fallen from the sky". According to that, he relatively often unrestrained and tumbled headlong into the snow. But he took it easy, got up and kept on skiing. With full speed ​​of course!
I have been told many times, that the snow in Japan should feel different than the one I knew from home. However, I never quite knew what people were talking about. Snow is snow, no matter where, but I was taught a better lesson. The Japanese snow was much fluffier, looser and finer, and guaranteed a driving pleasure like on clouds. A dream!

Hakuba perished in snow. Per hour fell up to 30cm of fresh snow, which was great for the slopes, but poison for Akela. At least twice a day, Leander had to climb onto the roof and dig it free. An employment, that took well over an hour to complete. When he reached an end, he could almost start all over again. A tedious job, which was urgently needed, because we did not want to risk, that the horrendous snow masses pushed down the roof.
The next day we had to pause forcibly. Due to bad weather conditions, the lifts did not open in the morning. We spent the whole day in the truck and looked forward to having dinner in a nearby pub, together with Bumsti. The food was delicious, and the wine was not too bad either.
Our little boy besieged the Carinthian guy, because he behaved just like Lennox, having only nonsense in his head. We spent a fun and exuberant evening, but it was not meant to be for a long time. Although Lennox mocked when I brought him to bed at a later hour, but there are times, when parents are allowed to have some leisure time.
Carelessly, I opened the door of the truck, turned on the light, and threw a routine inspection look at the heater display, and there it was again. Error 52. F ...! That was not allowed to be true. Do not start panicing now. First I finished preparing Lennox for going to bed, then I had a closer look at the heater. Switching on and off did not help, resetting the system was also unsuccessful. So I got dressed again and stomped back to the pub. When Leander saw me, he grinned and wanted to order another bottle of wine. I would have preferred that, but I was a spoilsport and told him the bad news. You could see how his expression switched from heaven high to pissed off.

In the bitter cold and heavy snowfall, Leander cleaned the heating filters the next morning and blew the diesel pipe with compressed air. But in vain, it did not work. What was really stupid, because at night it had about -20 degrees. I voluntarily demoted myself to the Heat Master, which meant I had to add wood every two hours, even at night, so we would not freeze to death. As a result, at least the boys could slip into the ski clothes and enjoyed the snow. On the second day we had to give up, because we were running out of, and in Hakuba we could not find any wood supplies. We had no choice and had to go to warmer climates. With a heavy heart we said goodbye to Bumsti. We imagined our ski vacation differently.

Just before we left Bumsti, Lennox had to go to the bathroom. He ran into Bumsti's apartment and went into the toilet. When he had finished, he came to meet me very excited and asked me to follow him because he wanted to show me something. I followed him on a tight footing. Arriving at the toilet, he pushed a button in a flash and sprinted off with lightning speed. Before I knew it, I was completely wet, sprayed from top to bottom. I could not see him, but I heard his loud laughter. The complaint came immediately afterwards because in addition, we could not stop the running water and put Bumstis toilet completely under water.
Japan was known for its curiosity, and their toilets were definitely one of them. In order not to experience nasty surprises, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the device before use. As a general rule, there was always a picture description on the wall.
But back to the story. A gas station we passed brought Leander on a last sparkling idea. We still had diesel from Kyoto in the tank. It was worth an attempt to fill our tanks with winter diesel. We still had diesel in our tank from Kyoto. It`s not getting that cold in Kyoto, that`s why they don`t provide winter diesel. Maybe our diesel was frozen. We refueled and drove a few miles so that the diesel mixed nicely. Then we stopped at a parking lot. I climbed back to turn on the heater, and... , it was running. Before we started a joyful dance, we waited a few minutes and kept on watching the heater, but it still worked. We suspected that due to the "summer diesel" the lines were frozen. However, it was warm in the room and that counted!

Well and now? We wanna go skiing!! And that`s what we did. We turned around and drove back, not to Hakuba but towards Cortina, the neighboring ski area. There we stayed in the parking lot of the four-star hotel Green Plaza, right next to the gondolas. If the heater decided not to abandon us again, then the next few days could be really perfectly. We stayed three more days and had a lot of fun. The weather cleared and let even some sunbeams through the sky. By now, Lennox had become a small racing tune and went tirelessly up and down.
By coincidence, as always, Remo had arrived in Hakuba too.
Leander and he made a ski tour into the terrain to pull some more challenging lines, which I greatly appreciated, because I knew he was getting bored on the normal ski slopes. So everyone got his fun. After the very last run we went into the public onsen of the hotel, which were once again a real blast. Not just for our wounded limbs! The highlight of the complex was the covered outdoor area, which offered a clear view of the meanwhile illuminated ski slope. I would call that a grand finale.

The next morning we got into the truck and moved on. Hokkaido, the most northern of the big islands would have irritated us a lot, but we decided against it after. In the north, harsher weather conditions prevailed at this time of the year. Expensive highway fees and high fuel costs would make a powerful impact on our wallet. And as always, of course, the time was against us. 12 workshop days do not have a positive impact on our time management.

We left the winter in Hakuba behind us and drove to Osaka, from where we shipped to Borneo. We renounced Hokkaido, and wanted to spend the remaining time in Japan relaxed.
We drove along the former Nakasendo Road, which connected Kyoto with Old Edo, now Tokyo. There we visited the picturesque town of Narai, where the largest and oldest post town in the country is located. With much love the more than 220 years old houses and shops were well maintained for visitors. The compass always directed south, we visited another Ninja house at Tajimi, where Lennox finally got a Ninja costume, which he wished for a long time. As soon as the tour was over, our dwarf stormed into the truck, flinging himself and turning Akela into his personal ninja cave. Which was for Leander and me, not being Ninja`s, very exhausting.

Via Nagoya, we moved on to the city of Ise, where the Meoto Iwa rock, literally translated as "husband and wife's rock", was located.
The two stones were connected by a Shimenawa rope (ropes of beaten rice straw) and were considered together with the neighboring Okitama shrine as sanctuaries of the region. In mythology, the rocks represented marriage between a man and a woman. The more than one ton of rope had to be replaced several times a year in a special ceremony. Many young couples come to this place to ask for blessings.

Superstition is widespread in Japan. Japanese take many things seriously, that we Europeans laugh at, especially in rural areas. For example, you should not left over a rice grain after eating. Even children are taught, that a spirit lives in every grain of rice. Spurning or insulting the spirit by leaving the rice is not welcomed.Other countries other manners. One of the main reasons why we broke our tents in Austria and got on the move. However, we did not expect, that all the newly gained impressions, experiences and encounters would kill us in the long run. Especially with Lennox you could see that his brain was running at full speed. Why we could not blame him for one or the other emotional outburst.
A lot of skiing, sightseeing, and countless hours behind the wheel caused, that my two men were not hundred percent fit. They were not ill, but felt dull and slain. That's how the little town of Yoshini, in the middle of the nowhere, became pretty handy. Away from the mainstream and on a small lake. We found a nice parking space, where the two could recharge their batteries. Weaknesses of this kind occurred again and again. Much love, attention and time were old proven home remedies, that helped reliably.

For more than a year, we have been making a pilgrimage through world history, where we were able to experience a lot. Positive as well as negative. Facebook and Instagram suggested during this time our loyal readers a carefree and great time, which looked like a permanent holiday. And yes, of course we want to show you how wonderful and unique our planet is. And yes, we are aware of how lucky we are to be able to call these many and great experiences ours. But to be honest, our life since we started with Akela is more exhausting than ever. Much of our time was spent behind the wheel or on the computer. Not because we liked it so much, but because it was essential and otherwise the wheel did not turn further. Traveling with a child did not make things easier. Logically, Lennox also called for his time, and he did not care, if we had worked the previous day until three in the morning or not. I do not want to complain at a high level, but the journey did not work to our expectations. Time for own interests or time for the partner hardly remained. A normal day had just too few hours. Again and again the question turned up, what we were doing wrong. The hours rushed away like the grains of sand of an hourglass we could not stop. This point remained an unexplained mystery.
After two days, Leander and Lennox had recovered, and we were ready for new adventures, which took us to Koyasan.

The name Koyasan referred to the entire mountain range around, including the enclosed plateau. There was the Buddhist Kongobu Temple, which was considered the highest Japanese sanctuary, not least because it included the Mausoleum of Kukai, the monk who was considered the founder of Japanese Buddhism.

We were at about 900m above sea level and there was still snow. When we parked Akela in a parking lot in the village towards evening, thick flakes fell from the sky.
Wrapped in thick winter clothes, we set off the next morning and marched to Okunoin, Japan's largest and most impressive cemetery. The passage over the bridge Ichi no Hashi, which led to the area, was enough to feel, that one was diving into another world. Believers folded their hands before crossing and bowed out of respect for Kûkai.

The cemetery was lined with cedars growing at dizzying heights, which obscured the sky and thus only hinted at the direction of the paved road. Too varied was the appearance of the individual tombs, as the eye could cling to a single one. The more you got off the main path, the more you came upon forgotten graves. The burial ground was even more mystical in the morning and in the evening, when the pale light of the lanterns illuminated the graves sparingly. Many of the small Buddha statues along the main path were adorned with red bibs. They looked funny, but had a serious background. Sad mothers dedicated these to their children, who had gone too early and asked for protection for their loved ones in the other world with this gesture.

Quite centrally located was the Toro-do Pavilion, which kept hundreds of lanterns. The legend says, that some of them burned unaltered for more than 900 years. As the light in the darkness, this pavilion was the last building in front of the sacred heart of the cemetery, the eternal resting place of Kukai.The Okunoin was an incredible place of worship. One day was not enough to grasp the full meaning of what was seen, and it would take several lives to reveal all the secrets of the sanctuary.

For several days in a row we went to the holy place and it would have been nice, if the acquired inner peace would have withstood in the truck too. But Lennox thwarted us. For some inexplicable reason, the little one ticked off in three-quarters of the time and enjoyed annoying us. We had to use harder guns to calm him down.
Thankfully, these outbreaks set after a few days, and all could take a long, relaxed breathe again. Maybe this was his way of dealing with the dark mood of the last days.

Our stay in Japan was slowly coming to an end. Before we arrived in Kyoto, we stopped in Nara town and visited mainly because of Lennox, one of the oldest deer parks in Japan. The 8km2 Nara Park was not only a magnet for many tourists because of its impressive temples and shrines in it. Main magnet were the innumerable Sikar deer, who were allowed to run free in the park for the whole year. At a kiosk you could buy crackers for the animals, who reacted accordingly indignant and used their antlers, if the treats were not given to them fast enough. Lennox was a bit afraid, and we were mainly busy, to keep the bread-edged animals away from him.

We drove back to Kyoto where we planed to use the remaining days until our truck went out of the port for preparatory work. We were able to do this relatively well, because we stayed at the parking lot besides the sports field, which we already knew from our first stay in Kyoto.
That the staff at the harbor was able to drive our truck into the ship, we labeled all buttons and switches in English, and we wrote a manual, that was placed in the cab. Devices such as rear view camera monitor and tire pressure gauge were dismantled, we emptied the glove compartment, and additionally nailed the passage into the living cabin. We made the Mercedes as unattractive as possible, to make it harder for any long fingers. Of course, if anyone wanted to break in, the truck would have been cracked in an instant, but we felt more comfortable with our actions. Then we cleared our "basement" completely, got rid of long-time housekeepers and sorted everything again and properly. The truck was ready for the ship and we could only wait until the big day came closer.

Although we were looking forward to Borneo, we had a queasy feeling in the pit of our stomach because of Akela. It was the first time we sent him traveling alone. The freighter would need about 17 days from Osaka to Kota Kinabalu. For the time we were homeless, we had chosen some nice places in Thailand and looked forward to two carefree weeks with sun, beach and sea.
The worst was done and we even had time left to spend it with our new friends.
We had already warned Kyoshi and Ko, that we were back in town. As we slowly rolled in front of the gates of the KOC and pressed the horn vigorously, both came storming out of the office with a big grin. The joy of reunion was huge on both sides. Kyoshi could not stop pushing and lifting Lennox again and again. Of course it required a sense of duty to make our last days in Japan as comfortable as possible. But more important was, that we felt welcome. Coincidentally, Kyoshi's 60th birthday fell into our stay, and it was a pleasure us to serve him our Austrian dish called “Kaiserschmarren” for breakfast, which he ate with chopsticks.

During our second stop in Kyoto, a meeting with Randy also worked out. He picked us up at the parking lot with his car and showed us some highlights of his adopted home, which we had not seen before. Among other things, we visited the Shinto Inari shrine, which was considered one of the most beautiful in Japan and was dedicated to the rice god Inari. The shrine was home to more than 1,000 red gates set in tunnels. On the inside of the gates, one could read the names of the founding persons, at least for those who could read Japanese. Lennox had gone off in his Ninja costume, catching almost as much attention from the tourists as the shrine itself. He was constantly being asked to pose for photos. Leander took some nice shoots from our little Ninja aswell. After the visit, we stroll through narrow streets and past small shops, which offered sinfully expensive souvenirs and local delicacies. Quick as a weasel, Randy jumped from shop to shop and bought small appetizers for us, mainly sweet, until we almost burst. Anyone who has ever been to Japan will have noticed, that there were no crap bins. This had to do with the fact, that in 1995 after a gas attack in the subway of Tokyo, all trash cans were mined. The garbage disposal in Japan is generally a very complicated and complex subject and would go beyond the scope here.

It was icy cold, but after the excursion through Japan lolly world, we wanted to do some exercise.
Randy showed us another temple complex, whose name I can not remember. It was deserted, beautiful, and a perfect backdrop for Lennox to once again be a ninja.
We had a lot of fun this afternoon, but as always in life, time did not stop and the moment of saying goodbye approached. Randy took us back to the truck, where we warmed up with a last cup of hot coffee.
Japanese like to drink coffee. However, the black powder that you could buy in the supermarket was not worth a recommendation. The locals mostly bought coffee, no matter if a cold or hot one, mainly at a vending machine, which were so numerous represented throughout the country, that you almost tripped every few meters over one.

Our last night in the land of the rising sun was very calm. We had breakfast in peace before heading off to Osaka, where we had to put Akela at arount 1:00 pm into the hands of Mr. Nakanishi, our shipping agent. Actually, we had calculated more than enough time for the distance of 50 km. Shortly before the harbor, the truck suddenly died in the middle of the road and did not want to restart. But Leander knew our truck better than his trouser pockets and had quickly come to a solution. When he turned the switching lever to get fuel from our second tank, air must have sucked into the machine, and stopped the diesel flow. Not a serious problem, but annoying and time consuming. After pumping for 30 minutes on the side of the road, the engine was running again, thank God, and we were able to continue driving.
Mr. Nakanishi was already waiting for us at the designated meeting place. After all the formalities were done, we checked the truck one last time. There was nothing else to do, than to grab our backpacks and say goodbye, which was not easy. Mr. Nakanishi was so nice and drove us to the airport, where our booked flights to Thailand took off.
Some may wonder, if I forgot to write about Tokyo. No I did not. We deliberately avoided the metropolis. After Seoul, the capital of South Korea, we were healed by the metropolitan areas in combination with the truck and a child. No parking, narrow streets, monster traffic, long subway rides, noise, .... We were not in the mood for doing that again.
Japan, its people and their culture have impressed us. At some point we will definitely visit this extraordinary country again, but without the truck! It's definitely worth it.

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