Ah… Summers in Japan.. If anything makes you miss being literally anywhere else on Earth, it’s a Japan summer. With temperatures in the high 90’s with 95-100% humidity, no breeze, and precious little shade, it’s more than a bit south of paradise.
We’re very lucky to have aircons in the main rooms of the house, so it’s usually bearable, but the moment you step outside, I’m instantly reliving the ending scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where their faces are melting off. Actually, your face melting off seems quite a bit less painful and there are days where I’d welcome it. But with my Mom here for a few months we’ll keep a lid on the Ark for now. We decided instead to rent a car for the weekend and get a hotel in Kobe, so we can take her to the see the Harvest Moon (Tsukimi) and explore a bit of Awaji Island, which we haven’t been to yet.
Lori and the kids had Taiko practice that morning, so Mom and I met them in Nakatsu. When we got there, we saw the Sky building and remembered there’s some restaurants in its basement that are fun and have a retro, 1960’s Japan feel to them. Some of the food is probably still from that era. We had to also re-create our extended family selfies that we do in that spot.
After that, we hopped on the train to Kobe and walked through a fun street festival that we weren’t expecting.
The hotel was nice for the budget and had a sento (shared hot bath (and free ice cream)) on the 14th floor, so it was quickly the kids current favorite place. If not familiar with sentos, it’s a shared/communal bath that’s split by sex, so men on one side and ladies on the other. Inside you’ll see men of all ages, shapes and sizes, sometimes with an absolutely stunning amount of pubic hair. The process to use them is this:
- Go to the bath with just your change of clothes, towel, and wash cloth
- Find an open locker and put all your stuff in
- Deal with the fact that there will be row upon row of free lockers, yet everyone there will be using one right next to you
- Avoid eye contact
- Proceed to bath area
- Maintain no eye contact
- Sit down at a shower stall and wash off, shampoo hair etc.
- Mentally prepare yourself for having cold water dumped on you from behind by Jack. He does it every time and thinks it’s absolutely hilarious
- Sit in the scalding hot bath for a few minutes
- Shower off again and leave
The activity that afternoon was to check out the Kobe Ropeway Herb Garden and see the Harvest moon that was happening that day. We had been there before, but first time for Mom to see it. You take a gondola up to the very top of a Mountain and gingerly meander down a long winding path, full of blooming flowers, quaint landscaped gardens, and picturesque panoramic views. At least that was the intent. But by the time we got there though, we were told we’d only have about 30 minutes to walk around then need to quickly get to the bottom, so that we could then ride the gondola back up to the top to see the moon, where we just were. It didn’t make sense then and doesn’t now, but hey, we roll. Though to pay for their transgressions in hurrying us up, Gigi did swipe a lime that would show up later in a hotel Gin & Tonic. We still look at the police wanted posters to make sure she’s not on it.
After the hotel, we check out and Lori gets the rental car, and we head to Awaji Island. We didn’t have a hard agenda, but knew we wanted to check out the Hyogo Prefectural Awaji Island Park.
On the way, we need to take a break and pull in to a rest stop – these are pretty frequent along Japan’s highways, and will have cleanish bathrooms, and usually have some restaurants and omiyage (souvenir) shops. This one seemed to have been hosting a get together of super cars, I think Lori got the car slowed down just a bit before I leapt out and ran over. Which one would you have? That GT40 was so pretty, but being a child of the 80’s there’s no way I could betray that Countach – even knowing full well it’s (to quote Rooster from Top Gun) a “Bag of ass”.
At the park, there’s several areas that have themed activities with some nice trails, some ziplining, a water feature, and a Godzilla that you can zipline in to. We opted this time for a slightly tamer zipline over a lake. Props to Gigi that was right along with us at 75!
It was so hot that day, the water felt great. I think we had all had about enough and started packing up to head home. We stopped along the way for dinner at Saizeriya, sort of a family friendly “Italian” restaurant chain that’s always easy to get a table at (hmm 🤔). Some pasta, air conditioning, and a big bottle of wine was a great way to cap off the day.