A Whale of a Good Time!

Those who know me well know that at least 60 percent of my dreams involve marine life, usually whales, and that a common nickname for me by my family is “whale.” So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a lifelong dream of mine has been to go whale watching, and on Saturday, I did!

First of all, what an amazing day, made possible by Monterey Bay Whale Watch, which I can’t praise enough. They have marine biologists on each trip and share tons of information about all the wildlife you see. Plus, the crew was really helpful and took great care of us!

The day started with a delicious breakfast of waffles and strawberries — don’t forget this, it’ll come up later. After a leisurely morning, Jeff and I headed to Monterey and boarded our small whale watching boat, the “Sea Wolf II,” a humble vessel that looked like it had seen better days.

From the very outset, the trip was great. There were several otters in the bay, and though I didn’t get any good pictures, they were approximately this cute:

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The Monterey harbor is just lovely, with lots of boats that look like this:

In addition to otters, we also saw sea lions and seals:

The sea lions had taken over this wall of the harbor and were having a nice old time sunning themselves and splashing in the water.

Once we got into open water, the numbers of cute animals went down, but we still saw some albatross and pelicans.

It took us about forty-five minutes to get out to the whale migration highway, and though the day was clear, there were huge swells. I actually didn’t mind too much, and the pay off was great! We ended up seeing several different groups of whales over the course of the three-hour trip.

All the whales we saw were gray whales, which are no longer endangered and are currently migrating north. Did you know that gray whales only feed half the year? It’s true! Pretty incredible, but they go thousands of miles north to Alaska on empty stomachs!

After about an hour, the swells finally got to me, and I got gloriously seasick. Remember how I said breakfast would come up again? Well, it did twice with a vengeance. I actually didn’t mind too much, because it tasted good the second time around — more or less like a Jamba Juice actually — and as Jeff pointed out, the strawberries turned my upchuck a lovely shade of magenta. Plus I’d like to think that the sea creatures got a chance to have a taste of my delicious waffles and strawberries, a rare divergence from seaweed and krill.

Despite the seasickness, I LOVED my whale watching trip, and I think I’ll go again some time. But of course, the next time I’ll take some motion-sickness medications ahead of time to avoid the impressive puke fest that occurred this time. See how much fun were having?

At any rate, I highly recommend everyone try this! Whale watching was so fun, and March is the month to do it. If you go in summer, you can also see blue whales and humpback whales, so get out there!

Meh-hee-ko

So, I’ve just returned from what was apparently my second trip to Mexico ever — I say apparently because according to my dad, I went to Mexico when I was two, and returned “all sunburned and constipated.” Oh, dads — always there to remind you that you were once as helpless as a sea cucumber and about as intelligent as one too.

At any rate, the Lees included me in their unorthodox Christmas plans of going south of the border, which I found delightful.

At the border, we stopped off to buy Mexican car insurance at a drive-thru insurance place. I don’t really understand how it is that drive-thru insurance is more legitimate than Geico in Mexico, but I suppose one has to make allowances for cultural differences.

After that, we entered Mexico through the extremely stringent border crossing (unmanned toll plaza for cars, revolving gates for pedestrians.)

Even if you didn’t have a huge sign letting you know you had left the country, you’d know from the surroundings as soon as you set foot in Mexico. I was actually really surprised by the immediate and apparent poverty when we crossed the border. Of course, China is also very poor in many areas, but their poverty and Mexican poverty are markedly different. In Mexico, poverty is linked with drugs, crime and large swaths of unemployed folks, whereas China’s poverty is mostly rural, and doesn’t seem to really breed crime. It was pretty interesting to drive through Tiajuana and see the similarities and differences it had to other third world countries I’ve been.

Thankfully, TJ wasn’t our destination — we were headed to Newport, a small lobster village between Rosarita and Ensenada. We arrived at our villa quickly, and it was just lovely! It was right on the edge of the sea cliff, with uninterrupted ocean views where we could watch pelicans, seagulls and dolphins to our hearts’ content.

Shortly after we arrived, we walked to the two-block town for dinner, which was the town’s signature lobster tacos. It was, of course, delicious, and after downing tacos, tortilla soup, chips, beans, rice and margaritas, we retired to relax, sans internet.

The next morning was Christmas. Though the Lees aren’t big Christmas celebrators, I in truth love Christmas and felt a little homesick. So, I fashioned myself a little tree and gave Jeff his presents.

I didn’t have too much time to bemoan the loss of a “real” Christmas though, because we had a busy day of nothing to do.

We wandered into town to peruse the little trinket stalls, and bought some candies at the liquor store. For future reference, don’t eat Jose Cuervo tequila chocolates if you’ve drunk Jose Cuervo before. You will have flashbacks, and for most of us, tequila is a memory we’d rather forget. In fairness, Jeff’s mom thought they were tasty, but consider yourself warned.

The town, though small, was really quirky. I don’t know what sharks and fans have to do with each other, but this was the only statue in town. Did you know that if they stop moving, sharks will die? Something to do with needing air to run through their gills, and I guess that’s kind of like air running through fan blades. Yeah, the statue makes total sense.

This was some graffiti in the town, and I thought it was kind of cute. Can’t you just imagine some thug painting that for his little brother?

Also, this is the logo for the liquor store in town — a man whose beer belly is so large, he has to carry it in a wheel barrow. Seems more American than Mexican to me.

After we exhausted the entertainment value of the town, Jeff, Dave and I walked back to the hotel along the beach, which was adventurous. The town and surrounding areas on set on a cliff that at the lowest point is 20 feet above the beach, so we had to climb down like mountain goats to actually reach the beach. Then, we had a long walk on very slippery, perfectly round, ankle-twisting stones.

All the rocks were perfectly round, great for skipping.

The beach didn’t have too much trash on it, and at least this trash looked like it could be in the MOMA.

Because the beach is so difficult to reach, I found tons of gorgeous sea shells to take home. It was pretty awesome.

After we got home we drove to Ensenada, which was filled with other white people and lots of things to buy. We had a tasty lunch, bought some things, and visited the fish market, which was remarkably odorous. Then we drove home, ready for more dinner and relaxing.

It was a short stay in paradise, but definitely worth the drive. I wish I could wake up to this view every day!

Fleeing Japan

It’s funny how it seems that every time I leave an Asian country I’m sprinting as fast as I can…

Jeff and I spent five days waiting for flights at Narita Airport, which was just ridiculously busy. We met a lot of interesting folks who were also flying standby, and mostly had a pretty good time, all things considered. I actually think our families were much more stressed about the situation than we were.

We were listing ourselves for five flights for five days, so we had a lot of departure management cards collected.

This was the view, where I watched so many United flights leave without us:

The Narita airport is pretty cute though! They have a lot of cute signs, and even have their own mascot!

The Narita Airport mascot:

And this random hotel was near the airport — just another reminder of the weirdness of Japan!

When we were finally sent to the gate after five days of waiting, it was for the last seats on the last plane of the day, about 20 minutes before take off. You better believe we sprinted through security and customs to make it on that plane!

And as a nice bonus, we were flying to Hawaii. Even though we were going to be stuck on an island for a few days — again — it was nice to be in the US.

Plus this was the view outside the airport:

We ended up staying with some friends of my dad’s who live in Honolulu, and that was just wonderful and relaxing. Jeff and I spent two days there eating and sleeping, spending most of our time at the beach.

Did you know that pineapple plants were that short? I guess I never thought about it much, but I found them totally surprising!

Well, Hawaii was very nice, and staying with friends was nice too, but it was about time to come home after a month of detours. So, we actually bought flights (shocker!) and got back to San Francisco just in time for Forest Hill Musical Days, concerts in the neighborhood by world-class musicians. Yeah, my life is good.

Osaka in a nutshell

We arrived in Osaka in the early afternoon without plans to do much touring. Osaka is mostly a shopping city, so we decided to just relax. We were in a particularly big shopping area, where there were just miles of covered pedestrian shopping arcades with beautiful and funky clothing. We didn’t really buy anything, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

Ever since I’ve heard of the capsule hotel, I’ve been sort of horrified and fascinated by the concept. So, of course we knew we just had to stay at one at least once in Japan!

Most capsule hotels only allow men, because you can’t actually lock your own little capsule, and usually only businessmen would want to stay in a capsule. However, we were able to find one that allowed women, yippee!
Contrary to my fears, it was actually really nice! The women’s floor was locked at all times, so safety wasn’t a concern, and the amenities were great. I’m a fan of small spaces and felt really comfortable in my little capsule cubby.

The hotel also had a communal lounge with absurdly comfortable lounge chairs, TV and free wifi, so we felt like kings. If I could do it again, I think I’d choose capsules over hostels, in fact. Although you wouldn’t think it, it felt like I had more privacy and quiet in a capsule room with 30 other women than I did in a hostel room of four.

Mount Koya

After our ecstatic dance party, we embarked on our longest travel day yet, destination: Mount Koya. Mount Koya is one of the holiest mountains in Japanese Buddhism, at one point housing over 4,000 temples.

Our first mode of transport was a large ferry that seemed to be more of a cargo ship. It didn’t have much room for the people on board, and didn’t even have seating. Everyone sat on carpeted areas on one deck of the three-deck ship.

After the two-hour boat ride, we discovered that I had somehow lost our rainbow umbrella. I was sad. I apparently lose things left and right while traveling, but oh well!

Then we caught a series of trains, finally ending with a cable car up Mount Koya itself to the town at the top of the mountain. The cable car was built in the 1930s and travels slowly up a 30-degree hillside. It’s so steep that the interior of the cable car is just a series of steps with benches on the small landings in between.

From the cable car, we rode yet another bus to our lodging, a monastery. In the town of Koya there are over 56 temples and monasteries that take guests. Originally, because it was such a holy place, only pilgrims stayed in these lodgings, but now they allow nonbelievers too, lucky for us.

The monastery was wonderfully peaceful and beautiful, and it was definitely one of the best places we’ve stayed.

It also had lovely gardens on the grounds, including a small pond with fish and newts.

We barely made it to the monastery in time for dinner, which was vegetarian. Japanese vegetarian food is good, but I think I like Chinese vegetarian cuisine better. At any rate, we were exhausted, so we didn’t do much besides eat and sleep.

The next day we both got up at 5:30 for morning prayers. The monks have a morning chanting and pray service starting at 6 a.m. It was definitely interesting, though we didn’t have any kind of guide to translate their prayers or sutras, which would have been much more interesting. It was nice to see monks who were truly devoted, as opposed to the monks at many temples we’ve been to who use most of their time acting as tour guides.

After that, we had breakfast and started our day obscenely early. The first stop on our tour of Koya was Kukai’s tomb. Kukai was the monk that founded the first temple on Koya in 816. Before founding the temple, legend has it that Kukai traveled to China to study Buddhism. Upon his return, he prayed to find a suitable place to found a temple in Japan, and threw his staff. When he returned to Japan, he found his staff on Mount Koya, and so founded a temple there. Kukai founded a new sect of Buddhism, which I can’t really explain well with as little knowledge as I have. But from what I understand, they believe that a person can attain enlightenment within one lifetime, instead of having to reincarnate. It is believed that when this happens, the person will live forever in the state of “eternal meditation,” known to you and me as death. According to scriptures, Kukai predicted his death in 835 and went into a state of deep mediation. To this day, monks bring Kukai three meals a day and place them at his tomb, where I suppose he sits, meditating still.

Because of his holiness, people have been erecting tombs near his for centuries, creating an incredibly large cemetery around his tomb. Lucky for us, this cemetery is right next to the monastery where we were staying (oh joy!). Did I mention I’m afraid of ghosts?

At the far end of the cemetery lies a shrine for Kukai that is illuminated by thousands of lanterns donated by the devoted. It was really quite beautiful. The basement is lined by perhaps a million small statues also donated by parishioners. Behind the shrine is Kukai’s actual tomb, but you cannot go in and witness his meditation.

The cemetery wasn’t too spooky in the early morning, but we took a walk there at dusk after dinner, and I was terrified. Jeff thought that was really funny, but I had nightmares every night we stayed there.

Because the whole town in filled with temples, we bought a through ticket for a selection of them so we wouldn’t have choose for ourselves which ones were worthwhile.

The most beautiful of the temples was basically the Vatican for the sect of Buddhism that Kukai founded. The entire interior was covered in murals of birds, trees, mountains, flowers, rivers — everything you can imagine. It was lovely, but not photos were allowed.

We also visited a museum of artifacts from temples on the mountain. It had many, many statues of different Buddhas as well as very old scrolls of sutras that were beautifully embroidered. Because the objects on display are holy, visitors were allowed to offer incense and money in front of each display, which I’ve never seen at any museum before. Unfortunately there wasn’t any English, so we didn’t learn very much about the exhibits.

Then we wandered from temple to temple, all of which were nestled in a lovely old forest that was turning red for an early fall.

One of the items on our through tickets was a pass for participating in a Buddhist ceremony that sounded something like confirmation. I found it a little unsettling that you could just buy your way into what sounded like a quickie conversion to Buddhism, but I suppose that they were just trying to be welcoming and let people see what their religion was all about.

The next morning we attended the morning prayer service again, mostly out of respect for our hosts. There was a family of devout Buddhists there and the monks invited them to participate, which must have meant a great deal to them. But after they were finished, the monks invited/ordered the rest of us to also offer incense and do some bowing to their Buddha. I felt pretty awful and uncomfortable with it. I think ceremonies like that should really be saved for the devoted, because if a nonbeliever like myself does the same ceremony, isn’t it a little disrespectful and cheapening? That’s one of the things I hate the most about temples open to tourists — people burning incense and spinning prayer wheels just for pictures and a laugh. At any rate, I suppose the monks didn’t want us to feel excluded, and we couldn’t very well refuse, so we did our share of incense burning and bowing at their alter, but I felt dirty all through breakfast.

Since we’d seen all we wanted to the day before, we grabbed our things and headed back down the mountain to our next destination, Osaka, which is probably as different as can be from a monastic retreat.

Takamatsu

After leaving Kotohira, we caught a one-hour local train to Takamatsu. The main attraction there is a large Japanese garden, considered to be one of the best gardens in Japan. So, we spent some time at the garden and relaxed, happy to have a light day of activities.

Our elevensies was sweet mochi with fresh strawberry in it, a recommendation of Jeff’s aunt Carla. It was deeeelish!

Well hello there Mr. Dragon Fly!

Doesn’t get anymore Japanese than a crane on a red, wooden bridge.

We spent a lot of time feeding the fish and looking for turtles.

I finally found a turtle at the end of the day!

Kotohira

After leaving Matsuyama, we took a train to Kotohira, a small town famed for its temples. We got in in the morning, dropped our bags and headed out for sightseeing.

The first thing on our list was the oldest surviving Kabuki playhouse in Japan. The theater was built in 1835, and the entire backstage, trapdoors and all, is open for tourists to explore.

The entryway was lined with lanterns, and the doorway was about three feet tall, not sure why…

The interior of the theater is beautiful and really interesting. The in-house guide didn’t speak much English, but he quite bravely pointed out the theaters features for Jeff and I as best he could. The theater had tracks on the ceiling to make actors fly, several trapdoors, and a rotating stage — pretty high-tech for the 1800s! The runway was also made to accentuate the actors’ footsteps, and there were slats across the theater floor so that actors could run through the audience.

Jeff tried out his acting skills… zexy! —random complaint: Jeff packed only one pair of shorts on the trip. The pair that doesn’t go with ANYTHING! sigh —

We toured the backstage, including the basement, where we saw how the various trapdoors worked. The rotating stage was pushed by six men, while various lifts for actors were powered by others. There were several passages around the stage as well, allowing for a variety of ways for actors to have dramatic entrances into the play.

After playing in the theater, we headed to the main attraction in town, a mountaintop temple. The temple was up 876 stairs, but that was nothing after hiking down 8,000 steps a few times in mountains in China.

The temple complex was spread across the mountaintop, so we got to take short breaks by looking at the various shops and shrines on the way up.

The temple was dedicated to the god of the sea, for protection for sailors. The roof was decorated with designs of dragons and waves, really unique! In the past, many people who wanted to make pilgrimages to the temple couldn’t afford to, so they tied an offering around a dog’s neck and through it into the ocean, hoping that passing sailors would find the dog and take it to the temple. I’m not really sure why they could put the money on a raft, instead of killing the family dog, but I guess that’s just my compassion for animals talking.

At the mountaintop there was this cool statue of a fan, for no apparent reason. Too bad it didn’t work though!

After our temple tours, we hiked back down and got a much-needed snack since we’d only had elevensies and no lunch. Ice cream with puffed rice on it seemed to be a town specialty, so that’s what we had.

Then, we did what should be the town’s biggest tourist attraction: fish pedicures!!!! I’d heard about these in the news about a year ago, and have been curious ever since. At $10 for 10 minutes, they were a bit pricey, but how could we resist? If you haven’t heard of these before, you basically put your feet in a fish tank, and fish eat your callouses off. And yes, it was amazing!

My feet are pretty calloused, and the fish loved them.

It really tickles! There were two Korean girls next to us who kept screaming and laughing and carrying on. I managed to keep it mostly together.

The results of the fish pedi weren’t amazing or anything, but it was quite the experience. I’d say I got my money’s worth.

After our pedicures, we still had time to kill before our hostel opened, so we went to the nearby sake museum. It had life-sized models of each step of the sake-making process as well as a lot of sake cups and a sake shop. It didn’t have any English so we cruised through pretty fast.

The museum was supposed to have sake samples, but it was near closing time so we didn’t get to booze it up. Oh well, fun day anyway!

Maddening Matsuyama

Getting out of Miyajima and going to our next destination proved to be quite the hassle. Since it was the Obon holiday season, a huge travel time in Japan, Jeff and I got up early and got to the dock at about 8 a.m. to buy tickets. But, of course the ticket office and information office were both closed. We spent a while communicating with the agents at another ticket office, and found that tickets were going to be about $160 to get to Matsuyama. Considering the journey takes just two ferries, we felt a little ripped off. Complicating matters was that we didn’t have that much cash, and though I have a credit card for emergencies, few places take credit in Japan. So, I walked across the island searching for an ATM, and found only the post office, which opens at 9 a.m., coincidentally the same time as the first ferry left the island, so I walked back to the ticket office, hoping it’d be open. At about 9 a.m., the ticket office still hadn’t opened, so I went to the information center to ask why the first ferry was scheduled to leave before the office opened. The girls there were very confused, called a few people, and informed me that the ticket office was open already. Of course, having sat outside the office for an hour already, I told them sharply that it was not open, and then left. At about 9:30 a.m. a man showed up on his bike and opened the ticket office, but told us the first ferry left at 10 a.m.. When we asked if they accepted VISA, he said “NO, NO, NO” and then sort of laughed like we were idiots, so I walked back across the island, got money, and came back. By this time, two very polite and helpful ladies were working in the ticket office while Mr. Lazybones sat in the back. We got our expensive tickets, got on the ferry and grumped for a few hours.

Once in Matsuyama, we went to the information counter to find out about transportation methods into the city. Sadly, the desk was closed for a break, so we parked ourselves and waited. About ten minutes later, the man came back, and told us that we’d missed the only direct bus going to our destination, which left right when he had been on break. Jeff sort of imploded at that moment, since the next bus was in an hour. But, we took a few buses and subways and finally made it, all before lunch. We grabbed some cheap Japanese curry, stowed our bags in some lockers, and went out sightseeing until our hostel opened.

The main (only) thing to do in Matsuyama is see the castle and take mineral baths. We opted for the castle, which was actually really neat.

The castle is in the middle of the city, on a tall hill, so we rode a tram to the top, where there were views of the whole city. The castle was originally built in 1603, and wasn’t so much a residential castle as one for defense. We toured the interior, where there were exhibits of samurai armor, weapons and art objects from the castle, as well as a history of the castle.

It was blazing hot, but for the ride down we skipped the tram and took the ski lift, because it just looked too silly. As it turned out, it was much more comfortable than the tram anyway!

We grabbed our bags and headed to the hostel, which we had a hard time finding. By the time we were settled, we had very little cash, as the hostel was cash-only and cleaned out what we had after buying our ferry tickets. Of course, there were no international ATMs to be found, so we spent a while looking for a restaurant that accepted VISA, while Jeff declared that he really disliked Matsuyama.

The other big thing to do in Matsuyama is visit the famous public baths there, but having no money, we opted for the free hostel showers instead. We weren’t too bummed either, because when something like that gets famous, it seems the service inevitably goes down, and other travelers confirmed our suspicions.

The hostel may have been my least favorite hostel, including Chinese hostels. Of course, the hostel shower just had to be absolutely ghastly, even after a day spent sweating in the 100 degree heat. It was actually worse than my crazy water heater in Beijing, and may have been the worst shower I’ve ever taken. For starters, the shower water worked like a park bathroom sink — every time you pushed the button, the water lasted for 20 seconds. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that the water never got hot. Oh well, I got clean in the end, and the cold water was refreshing. I went to sleep at about 11 p.m., as did the other two girls in my room. However, a fourth girl came in at about midnight, and rustled around with her bags and went in and out of the room until about 1:30 a.m. Then, the same girl’s phone alarm went off at 5:10 a.m., and she continued snoozing it and letting it go off every ten minutes until at least 6:30 a.m., when I left the room. I guess she is NOT familiar with hostel etiquette or the dangers of provoking strangers who may or may not have weapons under their pillows.

At any rate, Jeff and blew out of town, fully ready for a slightly better travel day elsewhere. Perhaps somewhere with ATMS…

Miyajima

Miyajima, a small island just off the coast of Hiroshima is a tourist hot spot, and with good reason. Imagine the gorgeous jungle scenery of Jurassic Park, combined with deer, monkeys, ancient temples and cute stores, and you have Miyajima pinned down.

The deer on Miyajima were a little less tame and a little more aggressive than the Nara deer. We were warned repeatedly that they eat paper, and would come after us for our tickets and souvenirs. No kidding! The second day we were there, a buck actually climbed up on me to get at my purse, and Jeff had to save me by taking my purse from me and running. Luckily, these deer are pretty short and light, so no harm done, other than hoof prints on the shirt.

“So thirsty! Little help here? I can’t reach the buttons!”

“What they got in there? Cookeez?”

“No… just a bunch of tickets… just as good!”

Our first stop on the island was Senjokaku Temple, also known as the Temple of 1000 mats, built in 1587. It’s actually a partially built temple that was meant to house the sutras from the main temple on the island, but partway through construction the benefactor died, and so it was never finished. The temple has open walls and lovely paintings all over the ceiling, and it has a great view of the ocean.

The views from the top:

Right next to the temple is the Five-Story Pagoda, named for obvious reasons:

After we came down the hill from the temple, we saw a chupacabra hanging around a small shrine. SpooOOooky…

Then we went to the island’s main claim to fame, the floating torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine. We came at low tide, so it wasn’t quite as pretty as it could be, but it was neat nonetheless. While there, Jeff and I admired the wildlife of low tide, including fish, crabs and cranes.

This crane was hunting fish by hopping about in the most awkward manner. Behind it you can see the “floating” torii gate, which actually rests on the sea floor.

After the temple, we went to a folklore and craft museum that is housed in an old merchant’s mansion. The museum has many artifacts from the island’s history, including an old rickshaw, cooking utensils, furniture, jewelery, paintings, books and the preserved interior of both some rooms of the merchant’s home and a more typical Miyjima home.

Because it’s in a home, it also had a lovely garden in the center courtyard.

After touring the museum we got elevensies and saw a neat cookie making machine. The cookies it makes are actually more like sponge cake with some sort of grainy, sweet filling. They’re kind of gross. But we bought some other cookies that were delicious.

Here you can see the cookie dough being squirted into maple-leaf molds, and a dollop of filling is also added.

The cookies travel around in their molds, cooking, and then they’re picked up by a robotic arm and wrapped for sale.

After having some cookies, we started our ascent of Mount Misen, the tallest mountain on the island. First we took a gondola, and then we took a second tram. From that tram stop we had a hike to the very top of the mountain.

It was blazing hot, so even the relatively short hike up the mountain took a long time and contained a lot of grumping by me. The mountaintop is covered in shrines, which provided nice places to rest.

The mountain is also home to many monkeys, whom we were warned about various times. The tram station had free lockers to prevent the monkeys from stealing bags for food.

I accidentally stared one in the eyes, but I didn’t get attacked or turn into stone.

Aw… cross-species de-bugging:

After several hours on the mountaintop, we headed back down on the tram. Right as we boarded the tram, however, Jeff noticed that the key necklace charm he had given me was no longer on my necklace. Jeff made the silver key himself last year, and I pretty am always wearing it, so I was in tears as we rode the tram down. Poor Jeff suggested we go back to the mountaintop and look for it, so we did. Jeff asked many of the mountain staff and even ran up the mountain to look for it while I hiked slowly behind scouring the path for my key. The hike that had taken hours to complete before was suddenly much easier when we had a goal and urgency. Sadly, we never found my necklace, but at least the hike gave me some time to compose myself and get used to the loss. I was glad to lose a necklace, and not a loved one. But I’m still bummed about the necklace, don’t get me wrong.

So, we finally headed back down the mountain. Exhausted, we entered town, which is when I was attacked by the deer. My feelings were a little bruised and I almost cried over being attacked by a usually peaceful animal, but Jeff cheered me up and we got desperately needed dinner.

Miyajima is the lead producer of oysters in Japan, so Jeff got the oyster special, which came with deep-fried oysters, raw oysters and barbecued oysters in the shell. I opted for curry udon, which was delicious as well.

After a long day we headed home and I slept like a rock.