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  • Writer's pictureNigel W. Ruddock

A bumpy bus, a Shinkansen, Temples and Sake...

Saturday (土曜日) 6th April and Sunday (日曜日) 7th April 2019

I think the sign of a good trip is that when it's time to return home, you are really can't bear the prospect. So slow bus travel is a good way to start. A last view from my room......さようなら!

さようなら "Sayonara" (goodbye)

My host had very kindly offered to drive me to the local bus station in Matsusaki. She apologised for her small car (I found the car marvellous), and drove right into the bus station, coming in with me to the ticket counter and making sure I knew where to board. How kind. I could have hugged her. But this is Japan, and you don't hug strangers. You bow and smile.

Time for me to check the information boards...

I was puzzled as to why the drivers always put chocks under the wheels when they parked their buses. It was perfectly flat. I wondered whether this was part of "Earthquake Preparation Training"......(!)

Anyway, I tucked my precious ticket in my pocket

and settled down to enjoy the ride.......

The driver would occasionally veer off the main road and to pick up passengers from the local villages......

Here is local map with (mercifully) some English. But it's true, once you get outside Tokyo and the main tourist areas some Japanese can save the situation.

Within 1 1/2 hours I am at the Mishima Shinkansen ("Bullet train") station which will whisk me off to Tokyo, or Narita to be precise. With a queue behind me I swiftly negotiate a machine selling Shinkansen tickets (phew!), I pay extra for a reserved seat, just to be safe. On boarding the train I notice that the wagon with all the reserved seats is uncomfortably full. I retreat to the half - occupied non-reserved seating area! The Shinkansens are quiet, fast, and expensive. But worth it.

I arrive at Narita town in the late afternoon. The town is quite near the eponymous Narita Airport, and quite a useful stopover point if you have an early flight. For Tokyo Narita airport is in a completely different Prefecture than Tokyo, - Chiba - and miles away from Tokyo itself. Much better to fly to Haneda Airport in the south of Tokyo.

At first sight Narita looks a bit of a dump to be honest. But it has a huge jewel in the centre - The

成田山新勝寺, Naritasan Shinshōji Temple.

I had left my hotel and, crossing an unpleasantly busy road and walking under a high railway flyover.......

I found myself walking under a pleasant screen of cherry blossom.

This led to some traditional old wooden housing.

Further on I found myself on the old shopping street of the town - the Omotesando. As usual, European visitors were very scarce, but for the locals this was obviously one of the draws of Narita. Loads of old restaurants and shops selling quirky things.

But the big surprise came at the end of this street. An important looking entrance led up some steps to the huge temple complex.

Naritsan was built in 940 around its main sacred object of worship, a statue of the Buddhist Fudo Myoo deity. Not all the buildings are old though....

Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Sect and one of the most important figures in Japan's religious history, is said to have carved the statue (which of course I didn't see, as it was closing as I arrived....)

The iconic chrysanthemum flower

Night was falling, and I was hungry. Retracing my steps up the old shopping street......

I dived into the first Isakaya on hand. A charming lady showed me to a cosy little table in the corner and in 5 mins I had my beer and some starters.

I was not long before delicious Tempura arrived - vegetables and meat deep fried...

and later finished off with an excellent Sake....

the meal was not particularly cheap, but it was my last night in Japan 日本, so !

I stumbled back to my hotel through the gloom.

But a nice surprise was in store for me. They had lit up a little street of cherry blossoms and decorated it with fluttering lanterns -

how romantic! And what a nice way to say goodbye to Japan!


Have you enjoyed reading this blog? Shall I write more?

Nigel Ruddock May 2019

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