We returned early from the Japan Alps due to the typhoon, but needed to finish up our visit with a good friend before I could sit down to write. He's back home now, and after a morning sweating it at the farm I'm back at the computer.
Our trip was fantastic, although the trails were at times harrowing and hair-raising. We didn't know about the typhoon until we got to the second hut, and then there were the chains on the trails and the unstable rock field we crossed. (The copious amounts of what looked remarkably like bear scat on the trail seemed tame in comparison.) Beautiful, but the experience is slightly overshadowed by the fact that I spent large chunks being terrified. I'm glad to be home in Tokyo getting dirty on level ground again.
As we did for our trip to Kawaguchiko, we took a bus from Shinjuku directly to Hakuba. (We took the same bus this past March, a trip which I'll write up later when folks are itching to get to some snow.) The bus is extremely pleasant with a restroom, great views, and fairly comfortable seats. A little napping, a little snacking, a little gazing out the window, and you arrive in no time flat.
The bus also makes two stops along the way. Highway rest stops in Japan are lovely affairs: multiple recycling stations; vendors selling their version of local delicacies, i.e. fruit, soba, specially concocted sweets or savory treats; a small handful of restaurants; and often a little park for stretching the legs and the dog.
I lingered, as any vegetable otaku would, near the stands of beautifully arrayed fruits and vegetables, but what really caught my attention this time were the restrooms. Simple seasonal bouquets sat tidily on the counters to brighten and soften what otherwise feels rather institutional. I don't have high expectations for public restrooms, but things like this just brighten my day.
(Inspired by Jared Braiterman over at Tokyo Green Space, too!)