Journal 20081010 Japan

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We were sad to leave Kyoto Sunroute hotel, as we were getting accustomed to the kind hospitality and professional service. We wrote out, in likely poor Japanese, a postcard for Yomada, and included a fridge magnet in the form of an Irish license plate with the word “Ireland” on it. We left this with his colleagues at the front desk, for his attention. Everywhere we did this, this little gift has been received very well. This was good advice from our guide books.

To our delight the reserved seats on our train service was a front row view; all that separated the driver from passengers was a large, clear Perspex panelling. I had fun shooting a short video of the journey, with the driver making the familiar arm forward gestures. On every train journey, Madame Oui and I confirm to each other how rewarding the extra 100-odd pounds was for Green Car (first class) service. Best 100 pounds spent on the journey, even with the hassle of having to go to the ticket office periodically during the travelling to make obligatory reserved seating (but which can be done in virtually every train station).

When we arrived in Shirahama, we decided not to rely on my probably bad instincts for reading bus notices and went for a taxi. The problem was, I read the wrong confirmation sheet and took us to the wrong accommodation, the Hotel Green Hill. This was where we were supposed to originally stay, but weren’t able to (for some reason I’ve forgotten). The hotel was indeed perched high up a hill, and the view of Shirahama beech was absolutely spectacular. I was so absorbed that I forgot to take a photo before the complimentary shuttle bus service from our proper hotel arrived.

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Our first impressions of Shirahamakan were a stark contrast to Hotel Green Hill. Shirahama is a popular seaside resort, with its highrise hotels and eateries crammed along the coast. Reminded me of parts of Menorca or any other Mediterranean resort town. However, as it was now outside the summer holiday season, we had the place to ourselves, as the Lonely Planet guidebook said we would. Yet it couldn’t take away the feeling that we were part of a tourist operation here.

We arrived at Shirahamakan at about 1.40pm, and we confirmed our reservation (again some confusion because my voucher stated one night not two, but resolved when their confirmation faxes were found). We were then reminded that check-in was from 2.00pm, i.e. we were too early. Not much bother, as we wanted to get some lunch. We were hoping to repeat our day in Kyoto, and find a 7-Eleven and some noodles. Unfortunately, the Family Mart didn’t have as good an offering. Worse, I managed to spill the hot broth on my trousers, leaving a brown stain for the rest of my travels here.

Back at the Shirahamakan, the staff were friendly and the quality of our accommodation satisfactory, if basic. There certainly wasn’t a seafront room, as I partly expected; from our second floor we got views of a large palm tree and some tall firs. We went to inspect the rest of the hotel. The men’s in-house onsen was large, if somewhat institutional. We nosied into the new section of the hotel, and wondered what views they had (later discovered from the brochure there were great views to be had).

We went to the beach to watch the sunset, which didn’t disappoint. We walked up to the northern point and found a spot to set and admire the violets, pinks and blues of the late dusk. A fisherman continued his work, now with headlamp on. We left when it was dark, now with moon shining bright.

Dinner was very large and good. Our hostess took the trouble to explain to us various parts of the meal, using English when she could. Afterwards, we went out to get some beers, and returned to enjoy our en suite foot hottub. It had started to rain, which would persist through the night. We hadn’t the best day of our tour, but were hopeful tomorrow would be better.

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