Adventures in Izu

In my continuing quest to find something to do with 20 consecutive days of parents in Japan, my mom and I took off for the Izu peninsula today, a coastal area about two hours southwest from Yokohama. We're staying at Zen no Yu tonight, an awesome onsen in Kawazu. I've got a pleasant buzz on from the sake they served with dinner, an awesome spread of tempura, cook-at-your-table beef, seasonal veggies, and maple-glazed tofu.

We took off from my house this morning around 8, and hopped on the Japan Rail Super Sky View train from Yokohama. This thing looks like an 80's image of the distant future. It was pretty cool- big ol' windows, so you could see the coast pass by, and a snack car with hella drinkable coffee.

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The train version of SkyMall, I guess. With a department store at every train station, though, what's the point?

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Karaoke for the self-conscious. You sing into the cone, and listen to your off-pitch warbling through the headphones, so no one is ever the wiser.

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Tsunamis are easily provoked.

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I'll be honest, the town of Kawazu kind of sucked, but it's supermarket was absolutely incredible. Cheap, delicious-looking fruit, a ton of bento boxes and sushi, and huge, mouthwatering cuts of sashimi-grade bluefin and ready-to-grill salmon. Topping it all off, there was a yakitori ninja outside grilling the best skewers I've ever had, of anything, ever. I'm not messing around here; I'd kick a baby for one of these things.

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Lunchtime! We finished the Yakitori as we were walking around looking for a place to sit down, so mostly ate sashimi and random fish snacks.

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And then we got to the onsen, where I put away my camera; it's kind of hard (and lame) to carry a DSLR in your yukata.

When you go to an onsen, you basically boil yourself until you're wrinkled, sweaty, and disgusting, and then feel wonderful and refreshed. I thought I knew what hot water felt like, but they had an outdoor bath running at 45 degrees, which is higher than I've ever found in Japan, and it cooks you! At first I felt like a wimpy American, dipping in two minutes at a time, but then a Japanese guy joined me outside, and he did the same thing. They also had a sauna with a floor made of pebbles, on which one is supposed to spread out a sheet and sleep. That sounds good in theory, but the pebbles feel a few degrees from melting into lava, and the air feels a lot like you're sticking your hand in a stove. Me and the other guys basically laid down, sweated like pigs, and grunted a lot. Ah, the delicate nuances of Japanese leisure time. In all seriousness, though, the water was great, and the dinner, sake, tatami floors, and futon all bash you over the head with relaxation until you pass out, like I'm about to do.

Our plan is to wake up early and tap the baths before breakfast, then make our way down to Shimoda, at the tip of the peninsula. We haven't booked a place to stay or decided on anything to do, so it should be pretty interesting. Spring break draws quickly to a close, but this is a pretty good farewell.

(Speaking of farewells, if you're a college student in Tokyo, and don't come to our big end-of-break bash on April 2nd, I will kill a kitten. Just sayin')