We’re just back from our weekend trip to my student’s second home in Onjuku and what an adventure it was! It rained very heavily Thursday night and we woke to a wet dreary looking world on Friday morning. The forecast was for good weather over the weekend though so we hoped for the best. Sure enough, early in the afternoon shortly after we met Rie and set out the sky cleared and the sun began to shine.
It took us four hours to travel the approximately 120 km across the Boso Peninsula to Onjuku. We explored back roads that we would never have seen from train or bus and made several stops along the way to enjoy the sights. One of our stops was at Otaki Castle which, though much smaller, is built in the same style as the castles we visited at Osaka and Himeji on our first trip to Japan. We would also have done some hiking but the riverside trail was impassible because of the heavy rainfall.
Rie’s husband, Keiji, who took the train out to Onjuku after he finished work for the day, joined us a couple of hours after our arrival and then began the first of the amazing meals that Rie prepared! Served in traditional Japanese style, dinner both days stretched out over a couple of hours and consisted of a wide variety of foods served in several small courses. Presentation is an important part of the Japanese dining experience and Rie is a very artistic person so everything came to the table looking beautiful. Dinner both days began with sashimi, slices of raw fish which Richard and I have both come to enjoy very much.
Neither of us had met Keiji before but it didn’t take us long to decide that he and Richard are two of a kind. In spite of his very limited broken English, Keiji’s sense of humour shone through and we enjoyed him thoroughly. Though he didn’t join us for most of the weekend’s activities, he was a wonderful host whenever we were at the house.
Yesterday began early with a visit to the Saturday morning market in nearby Katsuura. The street was lined with vendors selling a wide variety of seafood, produce and even flowers. It was amazing to us to see all of this happening outdoors at the end of November!
After the market, we headed back to the house for breakfast then went to Onjuku beach, a 2 km stretch of white sand, to see the famous statue of a prince and princess in Arabian garb riding on camels. The landmark was erected in 1969 to commemorate Tsukino-Sabaku (Moonlit Desert), a 1923 song inspired by this beautiful beach. Like many spots along the coastline this weekend, Onjuku beach was dotted with surfers.
Next on the agenda was a trip to Kamogawa Sea World, one of the world’s largest facilities of it’s kind. We observed a wide variety of fish and other sea life in the aquarium and took in the dolphin, killer whale, sea lion and beluga whale performances. While we have attended similar shows in other places, we’ve never seen anything quite like the killer whale show before. The trainers entered the water with the whales and the interaction between them and the enormous animals was absolutely amazing.
A stop at Tanjo-ji temple finished the day’s sightseeing. Back at the house, we were joined by the rest of Rie and Keiji’s family, their two daughters, son-in-law and three grandchildren who all stayed the night. We thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by a family and realized that, except at church, we don’t have that experience here in Japan.
When Keiji, who has been teaching school for 38 years, retires next year, he and Rie will move to the lovely Onjuku house that they built three years ago but for now it’s their weekend getaway. After a relaxing breakfast this morning, everyone packed up and went their separate ways. Miwa, the elder unmarried daughter, joined Richard, Rie and I while Keiji took her car and headed for home. The four of us spent the day taking the scenic seaside route around the southern end of the peninsula and back up the Tokyo Bay side. It was a day of surprises. Our first stop was at Rosemary Park, a quaint bit of Victorian England complete with gardens and gazebos, a little church and even a replica of William Shakespeare’s birthplace! As we strolled amongst the flowers and enjoyed soft ice cream in the sunshine, we had to once again remind ourselves what time of year it is. The day was so warm that we didn’t even need jackets.
Before we left for the weekend, Rie drew me a map of the places that we’d visit and the routes we’d take. It showed us driving around the peninsula but not all the way to Nojimazaki at the very end. If there was one place that we’ve visited in Japan that I’d have chosen to return to above all others, it would have been Nojimazaki. It is such a beautiful spot and we enjoyed our stay there so very much. Imagine my surprise when we rounded a curve today and I spotted the Nojimazaki lighthouse in the distance! My amazement grew as we continued toward it and by the time the car stopped almost across the street from the hotel that we stayed in back in early July, I was pretty much in tears. Never in my life did I expect to see that spot again or to climb the 77 stairs and 14 ladder steps up the inside of that wonderful lighthouse! The icing on the cake was yet another amazing meal in a restaurant looking out over almost the same view that we had enjoyed from our hotel room.
We made one more stop along the way, riding a cable car up a mountainside. Rie and Miwa, who had never been up before, had hoped to show us a giant Buddha carved into a rock face but we discovered that it was quite a hike from the top of the cable car and it was too late in the day for such a jaunt. The views from the top of the cable car were spectacular, however.
Rie is a tremendously giving person. Not only did she refuse to let us pay for anything this weekend except the ice cream at Rosemary Park, but we learned on the way up the mountainside that she hates cable cars and was only making the trip for our sake!
We feel so very privileged to have had the opportunity to share this weekend with such special people. I think we all stepped a long way outside our comfort zones and hopefully came away better because of it. I know we most certainly did.