After more than ten years of living here in Japan, we have practically visited most areas of interest: Nikko, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, Sapporo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc. — you name it, we’ve been there (ok, maybe except for Okinawa, hehe). Lately, especially during business trips, we don’t even bother to check out the localities anymore. We’re already way past the “tourist” mode. Been there, done that. Yes, even naked public bathing. But that’s another post.
Last December, we found ourselves with a six-day holiday, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Tsukuba is great, but we decided that we’ve had enough shopping at Q’t (this is pronounced as “cute,” and this is a small shopping mall here in Tsukuba). Now’s the time to relax. But where to go?
Coming from the Philippines, there is one thing we absolutely miss: the sea. To smell the salty air coming from the sea.To feel the sand beneath our toes. To lounge under the hot sun and sip piñacolada while reading on a hammock.
Wait. It’s still December. The beach is off-limits this time of year, silly. Still, we want to see the seaside for a change. The grand Pacific Ocean, why not? We decided that somewhere near Chiba would be perfect. I also found out, while trying to book reservations at hotels, that most of the rooms were either unavailable for reservations from December 28 to January 3, or were ridiculously expensive.
By some chance, I was able to find available rooms at a nice “petit hotel” (puchi hoteru) somewhere in Kamogawa. When I saw its location, I knew already that it was the perfect place for us. The house converted into a mini hotel is situated right at the top of the hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Hence its name, “Hilltop Inn Branshe.”
Kamogawa is about 100 kilometers south of Tsukuba. For budget travellers, a daytrip would actually be recommended, as long as you can endure three or four hours of drive (one way), and still have enough energy for the return trip. But we wanted to go for relaxation, so an overnight stay it is. Wait, make that two nights. Let’s explore the neighborhood while we’re at it.
We’ve gone on road trips before, and we follow only one rule: I drive, Baggy navigates. He is more efficient at finding routes and navigating roads, while I am the only one with a Japanese driver’s license. Here is a map which I downloaded from Mapion, to give you an idea of how far Kamogawa is from Tsukuba.
About five hours later (we took a one-hour break for lunch), we found ourselves worming into the traffic of Kamogawa City. Luckily, we got there before sunset, which was a good thing, considering that I hate driving along unfamiliar roads when it’s dark (had a bad experience with this before). We found the hotel quite easily. Correction, mini-hotel. It’s actually a large, but cozy house converted into an inn. Complete with a dog outside (with its own dog house), and two snobbish fat cats who walk into the dining room every now and then. After checking into our room and resting for a bit, we were called to dinner. Yes, chibugan na! Dinnner and breakfast were part of the package. I’ve read online reviews about the hotel, and the food was one of the things that had excellent feedback. And yes, the hotel actually lived up to its reputation. The dinner course was simply…fabulous. As my sister said so emphatically in her best coño twang, “I’m so gonna come back here!”
The following day, we headed off to one of the main tourist attractions in Kamogawa. Kamogawa Seaworld, of course! Among their attractions are performing sea lions, dolphins, orcas, and beluga whales. Actually I’d never seen performing orcas before I came to Kamogawa. No, wait. I’d never seen orcas before coming to Kamogawa. I’ve already been to Osaka Aquarium/Kaiyukan (three times!), Niigata Aquarium (Suizokukan), Yokohama Seaside Park Aquarium, and Hitachi Oarai Aquarium. None of them had orcas. This is the only place in Japan where I was able to watch a performance by orcas, a family at that. As the sign at the entrance of Seaworld proudly proclaims: “2006 2 25, Orca baby born! The only place in Japan, orca family.” I also learned that orcas are called “shachi” in Japanese. Sort of sounds like a name you would give to a puppy, or kitten. Not a humongous mammal.
More in coming entries!