SYNOPSIS:  A day off, doing nothing, almost.  About a hotel and about EON, the Japanese “Walmart” and most of all, about going with the flow.


What on earth was I thinking when I booked this hotel?!  Most likely nothing.  It was beyond me how I had managed to book a hotel way the hell on the outskirts of a town which itself was miles away from my next UNESCO site and had nothing to offer that could have been of interest to me.

Picture a Motel Six at any highway exit at any larger US town.  A street lined with gas stations, car dealerships, lumber yards, McDonald’s, fast food restaurants, and hotels, miles from the city center.  That’s where I was!  This is the place you go to when you have a car and get off the highway late at night.  Not the place where you go with a heavy suitcase after you get off a train.

But it was too late to do anything about it.  When I arrived two days ago it was after 7 PM.  It was dark.  The tourist information was closed.  There was no readable city map, and nobody who could help.  All I could do was to take a taxi to get me there, wherever “there” would turn out to be.  I was quite angry with myself for this flop.  I need to be centrally located.  There was no excuse for this.

The hotel itself was quite pleasant; clean and eco-conscientious. For this first time in many weeks — and I realized, for the last time in Japan — I had my own bathroom and toilet.  I also had a queen sized western-style bed which I thoroughly appreciated and a desk with a fast internet hookup.

When you share bathroom facilities and have rooms with tatami mats, doing laundry can be a problem.  I realized the ideal conditions I had and went to work.  Before long the entire bathroom was strung with clothes lines and shirts dripping happily on the tiled floor.

I had paid for a breakfast buffet — my first one in Japan — and the next morning my eyes bugged out over the great spread of food.  Great, that is if you can stomach spicy pickled salads, sausages, rice, miso soup and fish in the morning.  But there was orange juice, coffee, tea and even milk — along with a cheese food product which is not part of the main diet.  I realized with this much food I could definitely skip lunch and if I pocketed just two little rolls, even dinner…

You think I am crazy, but at this point, I have spent 2/3 of my cash and only finished 1/2 of the trip.  Something has to give.  Just a little, here and there, like skipping the purchase of a meal will add up sufficiently.   The problem is not so much the money itself, but cash versus credit card purchases.  Most hotels and stores expect to be paid in cash, even supermarkets.  It is beyond me, why.

Before long I got involved in a conversation with the only English speaking people around, a Japanese-British couple who were vacationing in the area.  On the occasion of the annual memorial for her father, she and her siblings with their spouses get together in this town.  Yesterday, they had visited Hiraizumi, the UNESCO site I was heading for.  Today, they were going to visit a famous gorge in the area.  And just as I was ready to wish them a pleasant day, they offered to drive me to my destination!  It was little to no detour for them, they insisted, and they had two rental cars with room to spare.  Yeah!

In less than 15 minutes — just to get to the train station on my own would have taken me close to an hour — I was in Hiraizumi (yesterday’s blog)! That was two things this hotel had now done for me: provide laundry facilities and manifest a ride.

And today, as I looked out of my hotel room onto the industrial park to the right and across rice fields into the mountains to the left, I realized that I just had to listen to what this hotel could offer instead of fighting it: I needed to stay home!

I have been on the road for over 35 days, nonstop.  There is always something else to see.  I can’t resist the urge to get out to visit just one more thing.  But for quite some time I had been thinking that it was time to take a day off.  This hotel, for my own sake, was trying to ground me.  All I had to do was to accept.

And so I slept in, had another great breakfast, pocketed another two rolls for dinner, and lounged around.  The view was pleasant, the room was air conditioned, and I made many wonderful skype calls.  I finished linking all of my photographs with the newly reformatted external drive, and realized how very badly I had needed this downtime.

At one point in the afternoon though, I got some bees in my bonnet and as I looked down the row of neon signs spotted the EON logo.  Mike in Okinawa had told me that this was the “Walmart” of Japan.  So, I figured that I would not have another opportunity this convenient to check out a department store, so, let’s go EON!

If you had told me I was at K-Mart I almost would have believed it.  It was really amazing how westernized this place felt.  Except for the labels which I could not read, clothing, kitchen wares, shoes, bathroom articles, all could have been found just about anywhere in the world.  Only here and there, corners of very uniquely Japanese articles would pop up that were reminders of where I was: the corner for kimono sets (yes, shoes, cord, strap and the garment come all color-coordinated in a package here at a reasonable $80-120 versus the custom made expensive boutique style where the cord along could cost that much…).  Or you find the “fingered” socks which I have seen nowhere else, or the fans next to the hats.  And of course, you find an extensive umbrella section.  You find plastic ware that is trying to look like lacquered dishes, and you might wonder what all the gift-wrapped assortments are, filled with various nicely packaged food items.  Popular gifts?   I enjoyed my little excursion to EON.  After all, the day was not completely wasted.  And it passed, surprisingly fast.

Good night.

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  1. It is good to see how the people live, as opposed to museums and monuments and temples.