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Baseball Stories: 2000 Japan Trip, Part 2

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Sunday, March 26, 2000

Stacie met the three of us at Sengakuji Station and we took three trains to get to Hakone, about 90 minutes outside of Tokyo. We got a bento box filled with meat and rice to eat on the train.

I found the countryside outside of Tokyo quite beautiful. Once we reached Hakone, we took two more trains and a gondola, from which we had some spectacular views of Mt. Fuji. I did take some photos (one of them is below), but the top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds and the photos don't really do the mountain justice. After the gondola ride there was supposed to be a boat ride across the lake -- the boat is pictured below. It never went anywhere past that mooring spot; the boat trip was cancelled, we were told, due to "bad weather". That was odd because the weather was nearly as good as that photo showed -- sunny, a bit cool (50's), a touch windy, but nothing you wouldn't appreciate in spring at Wrigley Field.

As a result, we had to ride a bus back to Hakone. I fell asleep on that bus -- the primary reason for that was my jetlag strategy, which was as follows: stay up all night before the flight over (which left at noon), nap on the plane, and then get a full night's sleep the first night in Japan. I did wake up Sunday morning at a "normal" time, felt pretty good, but I guess by the time of this bus ride it had all caught up with me.

Anyway, after the bus ride there was a further train to Shinjuku Station, and yet another train to the Shibuya district, where we had dinner at a place that served okonomiyaki, loosely translated as "Japanese pizza". They make -- actually, YOU make -- the food on a grill at the table.

Incidentally, if it sounds like I was objecting to all the train rides, I wasn't; the whole thing was a fascinating look at another culture. Example: many Japanese workers sleep on the trains, because their work culture doesn't give them much time to sleep at home. They have trained themselves to wake up when the train slows down; they look up, check to see if it's their station, and if not, they go back to sleep.

Odd sight seen, which doesn't seem so odd now in the age of SARS and the bird flu: many, many people wearing masks walking down the streets.

We still haven't seen any ballgames; the first one will be an exhibition between the Cubs and the Tokyo Giants tomorrow, Monday. Coming this far, though, I wouldn't have done it for less time, because there is so much to see and do, and when you spend thirteen hours on a plane each way, the minimum time you should spend is a week.

Photos: Mt. Fuji; the boat that we were supposed to ride on

Photos by Al