SYNOPSIS:   Transit to what might likely become my favorite town and one of my favorite hotels.  About the aftermath of Fuji.  Since transit is boring, also about a horrific hotel story which I have left out so far.  


If you would not have to get around all of Mount Fuji, the crow or the Shinkansen could fly from Kawaguchiko to Nara in a pretty reasonable time.  But with the local trains, the Shinkansen in between, more local trains and all the unavoidable layovers, it took most of the day.  I don’t mind these transit days at all.  They are down time, even though I am moving.  And once in a while I even get to work if I am on a train for more than an hour.

I needed some down time. This mountain keeps on giving in very unpleasant ways.

Yesterday, after returning from my Fuji excursion, I did little more than eat, soak in the onsen, and go to bed.  I knew I had been sun- and wind-burned even though I dutifully had put on sun factor 50 in the morning (with no sun in sight).  But just how badly I was damaged did not become apparent until I woke up today with oozing, red eyes and a completely swollen face.   I literally did not recognize the looks of myself.  Why me?  Nobody else looks like a bloated lobster with bloodshed eyes!

I put on sunglasses, pulled my hat deep into my face and got going.  I am so glad nobody around here knows me.  By the end of the day the swelling had subsided.  But my eyes were still red.  At least I could face people again and take off hat and sun glasses.

Nara and Kyoto are next.  I kept them for the end of my trip for various reasons.  I will need time in these two places, my railpass will have expired and they will definitely be the art-historical culmination of the trip.  Sorry, folks — from here on out it’s temples and tombs and perhaps a garden sprinkled in once in a while, or a castle if you are lucky and of course, lots of museums.

Sorry, I am not on vacation.

And definitely, no more crazy mountain climbing!

Everything about Nara felt right from the beginning.  My guesthouse was only minutes from the station.  Along the way there was a Lawson, a 7/11, a supermarket — all of which will take my credit card.  The guest house is just a black boxy house, but the minute you enter, there is a great feel about it.  Friendly, bright, organized and clean.   Kasu, the owner of the guest house, was super nice and spoke English.

He thought it was quite funny when I almost danced in excitement when I realized that I had my own toilet, a tiny little sink, that there were hooks and a bar to hang up clothes, a Western bed, a nice big desk, a couple of mirrors, and wifi!  I guess, he thinks that these are standard items in a room — not the way I travel.  It takes so little to turn a mediocre room into a great room but most people don’t understand that.  I will be here for five nights and I will love it!

How could I celebrate my new home?  First, I hung up one of my woodblocks and a kimono for decoration and then I bought some flowers.  I think most hotel rooms never see flowers.  Well, mine now does.   To me, fresh flowers are the icing on the cake of a comfortable living space.  What I love the most is that really big desk where I can work.  Computer, books, papers, camera equipment — all fits and has its space.  This is going to be heaven.  And the art work…  Nara is a crown jewel of Japan and filled with national treasures.  I can’t wait.

Compare that with Nikko…  There, I wrote about the rain and buying woodblock prints, so there was no room to complain about the hotel.  But I had a real ordeal there:

First, the room was nothing the booking description had promised:  No refrigerator, no kettle, not even a cup.  No hooks, no mirror, not even space.  The room was filled with useless items, like a fan, a heater, two lamps (you don’t need fans and heaters when there is an air conditioning unit in the wall).  One lamp did not work, the other had a plug that did not match the socket!  The room was so tiny that my suitcase did not even fit.  If I put it down, the door could no longer open.  I went to work there!  I emptied the closet, stuffed things behind and under the bed, created space.

At around 10 PM I realized that there was no information on the wifi password.   I went to the reception — all dark.  I knocked on other doors and ended up in somebody’s private living room!  But a woman there, amidst a celebrating family, was kind enough to call for somebody from the hotel to show up.  Sam came.

He opened the room across from me and we found the wifi information.  Just as he was about to leave I tried to get back into my room and realized that I had been locked out!  The next hour I sat in the other room while Sam first disappeared for a long, long time, then returned with tools and went to work.  He had to unscrew the entire door handle before I could get back in.

Picture a small common entrance hall from which a left and a right room part.  I was in the right room.  Sam suggested that I now lock that common entrance door (there was nobody in the left room) since I no longer had a lock on my door.  Good idea.   I locked the door and swung the bolt over the notch.

While waiting for Sam, I had snooped around in the other room.  It had a kettle, a cup and a converter!  I appropriated all these items for my own use.  About an hour later I needed the bathroom, which was out in the hallway and … found myself locked inside my room!  What the hell?

The wifi password had turned out to be of no use.  I could not get the internet going.  I have no phone.  I could not skype.  I now had not only been locked inside my room, I had also successfully bolted myself into the common area, so that nobody could get to me anymore. And I could not even use the bathroom.  And… is was after 10 PM.  And… there was nobody else living on this floor.  I had to think of the old man at Koyasan who for hours had banged against his door.  I did not want to consider that option.

All I had left was the window.

I called.  “Sumi Masen” — but there was nobody to hear me.  I did not want to scream.  I was not desperate yet.  I had to wait for a living soul to come by who would take me seriously.  A couple of people did, but since all I could say was “Sumi Masen” (Excuse me), they kept walking.  I really needed to go to the bathroom, just once before going to bed…  What to do?

Finally, a car pulled out of the property and a guy got out to close the garage door — Sam!  He was on his way home.  Sam, I called — sumi masen, sumi masen!  I am locked in.  In disbelief he walked over and from my fourth floor window I tried to explain how I was now locked in and how I had bolted the door.  He instructed me to take a long, sharp tool and to try to open the door from the inside.  He went and got his tools again.

It took both of us 1.5 hours and literally at the very same moment he had broken into the hallway door which I had so thoroughly locked, I had manage to break out of my room with the help of the only sharp tool I could muster, my nail clippers.  We both looked exhausted when we faced each other just before midnight.

I thanked Sam profusely.  I assured him that it was absolutely no problem that I had no lock at all any more.  After all, we were in Japan.  He finally could go home.  I finally could go to bed.  I rolled up a blanket to prevent my door from accidentally closing again.  I moved some furniture behind the door to create a bit of a buffer and for all the open doors I had now, I slept surprisingly well.

You would think that the hotel owner would fall over himself to compensate me for this misery which after all was caused by a faulty lock on one of his doors.  To this day I have not heard from him.   A truly bad show!

Good night.

4 comments so far

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  1. Now you can understand how I fell out of a tree while climbing down from the roof for there was no one around to help me and I did not want to spend hours up there after the ladder had fallen and left me stranded. At least I did not need a bathroom.

    • Oh my… Elida, you are something!

  2. What an ordeal!

  3. Moral of that story is always travel with a nail clippers.