It was nice to be greeted by Yumi's smiley face at Hamamatsu station, and we found a great restaurant that enabled us to chat away, and exchange stories about what we'd been up to. I already knew that Yumi was very sweet, and she proved it again as she'd bought Ethan and Gracie a toy each, not to mention a colourful handkerchief for Ali and me as well!
After lunch, I suggested that we go to a photo booth for some pictures, as it had been fun when I did it with Yumi and Kazu last time. It was a bit of a rush job because we had a specific train to catch at 2.25pm, but we managed it and the results were great, especially as my Kotooshu t-shirt was in full view! In fact, walking backwards and forwards on the Shinkansen, I'd heard people whisper "sugoi!" ("great!") so they obviously had good taste as well!
I called K's House from the Shinkansen as I was still unsure of the quickest route to Kawaguchiko, but they were great and told us to get off the train at Mishima station, then board a direct bus. So that's exactly what we did, and even though we didn't arrive until late, we saw some great scenery en route with Fuji-san dominating proceedings once more. I just needed one more day of clear blue sky, then I couldn't care less if the elusive volcano retreated behind a wall of cloud and didn't reappear for another six months!
I had thought about booking us into a ryokan at some stage so that Ali could experience some traditional accommodation, but the K's House in Kawaguchiko did Japanese-style rooms and so I thought that this would suffice. Sure enough, Ali wondered where the beds were when we first entered to see only a table and cushions on the tatami mats. I explained that the futons were rolled out when we were ready to sleep!
We went to a convenience store and bought some food, then relaxed in the hostel's huge lounge area and tucked into our grub. Ali was suffering a bit from toothache, so while she went to read in bed, I went to the onsen next door for an amazing soak! There were various outdoor baths of differing temperatures, and as it was such a clear night, I could lay back and watch the stars...so relaxing!
We had a bit of a sleep-in the next morning, but arose at about 10am to yet another stunning day - Ali had been so lucky with the weather! So we had a walk around the lake and took plenty of photos, then we got the cable car up to a viewing platform which was even more breathtaking...
After a filling bowl of udon noodles at the station, we boarded the bus to Shinjuku in the afternoon for the last leg of this particular trip. Our main objective in Tokyo was to buy souvenirs, so after checking into my home-away-from-home, we went up 'souvenir street' that leads to Senso-ji. Ali had very kindly offered to buy me a picture as a thankyou for being her own personal tour guide, so I chose a lovely one depicting winter on Miyajima Island, with the 'floating' torii covered in snow.
We headed to Harajuku the next morning as our Nigel wanted me to buy a Bathing Ape top for him, and we also found some good second-hand shops down Takeshita-dori. Ali splashed out on a few things in our last few days, which must be due to my influence, being something of a style guru afterall! I remember her buying a skirt in Motueka as well, when we were travelling together in New Zealand, so that just proves it...
A key aim of ours was to find an internet cafe exactly twenty-four hours before our flight so that we could check-in and get the best seats, specifically the ones at the back of the plane that were in a two (meaning no pressure to make conversation with the person next to you!), and had a large area behind them for stretching out. We didn't know it then of course, but a fortunate turn of events meant that we really didn't need to worry about a lack of space on the flight home...!
Our two weeks together had raced by, and suddenly it was our last night in Japan...on this trip at least. Obviously, we went and had a final session in the karaoke for old time's sake, cheekily taking our own drinks and Subway sandwiches in with us! We worked our way through all our faves, with Ali particularly fond of She Bangs The Drums by The Stone Roses. It was a real treat for me to do a couple of Teenage Fanclub numbers, but probably my favourite rendition was our duet on "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers, complete with over-the-top Scottish accents!
I stayed up late, despite having to get up early the next morning, as I was chatting to Bungo in the lounge - I'll miss hanging out in K's House, and especially the people who work there. Having a place to stay where you feel totally at ease goes a long way to making your trip an enjoyable one, and this trip had certainly been that...and then some!
Shock horror, our train to Hamamatsu was delayed by approximately ten minutes on the Sunday morning because of all the snow that had fallen overnight. I couldn't remember the last time that this had happened to me in Japan! We were calling in to have lunch with Yumi before continuing on our merry way to Kawaguchiko...