Saturday, September 1, 2007

On Our Way Home

We didn't even bother to try and wake ourselves early the morning we began the long journey home. It just seemed to be a bit too much to try and wake up just so we could go home. I was afraid however that if I left it in the hand of fate we would sleep beyond our ten o'clock check out time so I set the alarm for somewhere in the neighborhood of eight-thirty. When it began to make its infernal racket we were all well on our way to being awake. We ate a small breakfast of banana and some fruit juice; packed all of our belongings up into our bags and went to check out of the hotel. We checked out and were on our way back to the train station around nine-thirty. Logan was very sad to leave the hotel. He really enjoyed our time staying in a room that was not our home. He took a few minutes to say good-bye to the hotel and all of the people that worked there. Once that was accomplished it was off to the station.

Before embarking on our monumental return journey we stopped at the foreign food market located in the train station. There is one in Kyoto too but the one in Hiroshima seemed bigger and better. We took a few moments to shop for some old favorites from home. Foods that believe it or not are hard to come by here, things like pretzels, gummy bears, and Pepperidge Farms Cookies. For the record Jenny settled on Chessmen Cookies, but I could not choose and ended up with regular pretzels and honey mustard flavored pretzels, you know who chose the gummy bears, he loves those things. We wandered around the station for what seemed like hours in the blistering heat, why they do not aircondition the station I will never figure out, trying to find the store we were looking for, and it caused us to miss the first train available to us. We were bound on the first leg of the trip for the city of Okayama. As a result we meandered around for a while before getting on the next train. We took advantage of the delay to grab a few snacks for the trip. We then stepped onto the next rapid train going to Okayama and we were off.

We made it to Okayama with no difficulty. We ended up on a different route this time. We took a more direct track and it ended up being a little bit faster so that was nice. We also were able to see some different scenery which was a pleasant diversion. Logan spent most of the trip to Okayama putting stickers in his different sticker books, and eating gummy bears. And in a couple of hours we were in the city of Okayama. Okayama is famous in Japan for being the birthplace of the story of Momotaro, Peach Boy. It is a classic Japanese folk tale, and if you have not read it I would suggest that you head on down to the local library and check it out. Out side of the station there is a statue of the Momotaro and his companions that is a nice sculpture. Okayama is also famous in Japan for its fruit, namely peaches. We found the average price of the peaches in the grocery store that we wandered around in to be around ten dollars. There was a woman in line ahead of us who was buying three boxes of peaches. Each box contained five of the biggest, sweetest, juiciest, most perfectest looking peaches I have ever seen in my entire life. The price of each box was fifty bucks.

We headed out of the station in search of an indoor mall type place where we could stretch our legs in air conditioned comfort. On our way we took a moment to admire the statue of Momotaro. Then we headed off in the direction that our guide book said that the shopping center was located. We found the center with little to no problem. We did at one time find ourselves on the wrong side of the street but that was due more to construction than to incompetence. I am not sure how we do it but it never seems to fail. Once again we found ourselves in the dirt mall. The dirt mall is the mall that no one goes to, and is full of the type of store that rarely get business. We had hoped to find a place to eat some lunch and some shops to do some window shopping in while we took a walk. It was not to be, we found a Mister Donut and that was it. Now don't get me wrong I like Mr. Donut and will chose their donuts above any other here in Japan, just not for lunch. The stores were also a great disappointment. They were not the type that you want to see when on vacation. Truth be told it was like walking around a four story K-mart.

We headed back to the station. It was once again too hot to wander around the city and we had had enough of the dreadful heat the day before. The station held one of my favorite Japanese foods and so we stopped for lunch and ate ramen. I never could understand how people could write about the times when they were starving college students and lived off ramen. Those stringy little noodles in a broth I would think to myself, how can that offer up any sustenance to the body? Well after living here I can surely say that is Japan one could almost live off them. The Japanese know how to do it up right. A bowl of ramen at a ramen shop is truly a thing of beauty. Fresh noodles, chunks of pork, veggies like bean sprouts, corn and onion grace a rich homestyle broth. Jenny and I each had our own bowl, Logan just shared with us, and we split an order of gyoza, a steamed pork dumpling. I must admit that I will pick good ramen for lunch most days if given the chance. After eating our soup we headed off to find a cake shop. We found one inside the station basement. We got a couple of pieces of cake and sat on a bench and savored each and ever bite we took.

After we finished our cake we jumped on the next available train headed toward Himeji. This train connected us to a train that was bound to Nagahama. Things went very smooth on the trip home. We would get on this train and we would be able to ride all the way home. Omihachiman is on the way to Nagahama. We would be home in about two hours. The best part was that we would get a seat on the train and not have to worry about standing durring rush hour when there were no seats available. Well it would have been nice if that were the case. We managed to ride the train from Himeji almost all the way to Osaka when tragedy struck. Well not tragedy, but a small bladder. Logan stated that he needed to go to the bathroom. Trains are equipped with a toilet for use in such circumstances, but evidently during rush hour it is just not a reality. Logan a I went off in search of the toilet. We made it through two cars and did not manage to find the toilet. What we did manage to find was ourselves unable to move. We were stuck in the middle of a train car. I don't know that I ever want to be in that situation again. The sound of Logan repeating in my ear that he needed to go while I thought over and over about how I did not want to be wet is not my happy thought. We finally made it back to our seat and decided that our only recourse was to leave the train and use the toilet in the station. We exited the train at the next stop and found ourselves one stop away from Osaka. We all went and took a restroom break and were about to get back on the train when we saw that the next train only went to the city of Yasu. Yasu is two stops away from Omihachiman, but it was two stops in the too short direction. We figured that shy of our destination was better than waiting, we would just have to change trains in Yasu, something we do all the time, it was when the train pulled up to the platform that we changed our minds. The train was packed full. We were not at all interested in standing the hour and half to Yasu. It just was not worth it. We let the train roll on with out us. We would wait for the next one. We were in luck. The next train through the station was headed all the way past Omihachiman; and there were empty seats. We would be able to sit down and ride in comfort. Our patience had been rewarded.

We rode that train all the way back to the "Hatch", as we like to call it. It is a good thing that we were in such good shape from all the walking that we had done over the past few days because we were not done using our feet to locomote ourselves. We still had to walk home from the train station. It was a beautiful evening. We walked home under the star lit skies, feeling the cool evening breeze flow. It was at this time that Logan decided to sum up our vacation. He said, "I don't want to go home! I want to go back to the hotel!"

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