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日本冒险之旅

 只因在电影中看到了绝美如画的富士山,便想亲眼目睹其风采,于是再一次来到日本。可惜,天公不作美,我只匆匆瞥见披着白雪的山峰和山脊。不过,“亲眼看见富士山”这件事本身便值得高兴一场了,不是吗?更何况,除了瑰丽的富士山,日本还有精彩的棒球赛可以追,有各式各样的美食佳肴可以尝,有带来连连惊喜的灯笼可以赏,有独特精彩的武士刀可以学,还有活力十足的牡鹿可以看……当然,冒险之旅固然刺激,生命安全始终不可忽视哦。小心!身后有只牡鹿冲过来了!

 

I like good adventures, but when travelling many unexpected things happen. My second real visit to Japan was a bit of a shocker. A "real" visit is not a typical 10-minute pit-stop at Narita airport heading to San Francisco, or coming from Beijing. I already had a number of such visits. Two years ago I made it a point to visit Japan and stay several days. I had never really seen Tokyo or any other parts of Japan beyond the airport. My first two-week trip to Japan had been motivated by my desire to actually see and get close-up camera shots of the famous Mt. Fuji. A suspense movie thriller,Shutter Bug, had been impetus for that trip. The movie revealed splendid views of the majestic mountain so dramatic that I scheduled a trip to Japan. However, due to weather issues I did not see Fuji. I left Japan vowing to return for a longer stint to have guaranteed success.

Early this summer, two years later, found me attracted by an online offer of a four-day trek on and around Mt. Fuji. However, there was a snag in my online booking process. When it came to the use of credit cards, goblins of technology posed a roadblock. But, I figured, heck, I could easily complete the payment process when actually in Japan. So I booked travel and hotel for Tokyo and beyond. This time I was determined to not only see elusive Fuji, but also travel to the far north of Japan as well. I had already visited western Japanese cities like Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, and Nagasaki. At the start of this new adventure, accommodations for my first night were in a part of Tokyo called Shinjuku. The city of Tokyo is very large, and the impeccably clean rail system is complicated by different systems and ownerships. Not to worry, there are a plethora of Information Centers. Digitized directional displays, even audio announcements, are common in Chinese, Japanese, and English. When walking the streets one sees signs on posts and sidewalks cautioning "No Smoking When Walking", and "Do Not Litter".

The first clue that perhaps my plan for a face-to-face with Fuji again might not happen, came during my first encounter with officials in the Shinjuku information center. "No, you are mistaken, there is no 4-Day trek of Mt. Fuji" I was told. "However, we do have a one day, four-stop, program that includes the possibility of seeing the mountain." "But please understand, we have no control over the weather." Since the Information Center officials had said I was "mistaken", being a tourist who was I to argue? I decided to take the risk and book this mountain adventure for one week later.

While waiting on weather between spit and rain showers, I checked out a Sumo Wrestling training center, and viewing elephant size humans certainly made me shudder. As a die-hard baseball fan, a highlight came watching the professional baseball Giants beat the Dragons in the Tokyo Dome stadium. Between sporting venues and museum cruising, my appetite for food variety was adequately addressed. News flash: Sushi items are not the only offerings on menus in Japan. My yen for Chinese noodles, western burgers, and Italian pastas was particularly placated.

Subsequently, traveling north to Nikko National Park I experienced the sensory delights of nature. Venturing further to the port city of Aomori, besides astounding architectural sights, travelers are rewarded with an entertaining visit to the Japanese Nebuta Museum, featuring colorful lantern characters in the Hall of Fame. These larger than life Japanese paper figures weighing up to four tons formerly paraded down main streets in the annual float competitions.

Days later, back in the south, sallying between more museums, art galleries, and parks, my adventures were capped by receiving Samurai sword training and earning a certificate. Now armed and dangerous with hilarious video proof of my prowess, I was now more than ready to meet the magic mountain, or so I thought. On the tour bus, our guide kept reminding us of the temperamental nature of the seasons, clouds, and the mountain itself. It was stressed that "if" we were "lucky" we might glimpse a fraction of the mountain. On two occasions loud cheers went up from our crowd when we were able to see Mt. Fuji's snow tip and ridges from one regional highway vantage point. These sightings lasted no longer than 30 seconds at best. And we were not getting on the mountain, nor even closer for that matter. "Be grateful!" someone said in a consoling manner.

I managed to get some mountain photo shots, but also felt a bit of a letdown. True, seeing Fuji this way was nothing like camping on one of Fuji's slopes, or riding in plane or helicopter hovering above her peaks. But hey, at least I had seen the mountain in person. And also, visits to several unique castles, temples and shrines during this adventure afforded my camera lens an adequate workout. Sculptures, architecture, and colorful media adverts were, indeed, almost more visually compelling than people watching.

Perhaps the biggest shock during this trip was the persistent, rude animals: deer in Nara Park. Warning signs in this area illustrated that reindeer often pursue, and attack humans in attempts to get handouts: food, not money. Okay, I had seen these postings, but I had not actually considered the notion that pleasant, docile, kind looking creatures could possibly become threatening. In Nara National Park, hundreds of deer are entertained routinely by tourists on expansive acres of green grass. People stroke, fondle, and photograph these new friends in close quarters. Presently, I was kneeling, fiddling with my mobile phone camera in the bright sunlight while trying to find the last few cookie treats in my pocket. Behind my back I could vaguely hear voices rising, a crowd in the background was shouting. I distinctly heard someone scream. It was only when I heard the rattling of antlers, and thud of body blows close by did I become alarmed. Turning just in time I saw two, large, male deer, dangerously close, standing on their hind legs, racks locked, front hooves pounding and pawing frantically at each other. They were struggling over turf, very close to where I was kneeling. One stag had declared that I was to be his principle feeder. Earlier he had snatched a small program booklet from my pocket in search of cookie crumbs. This deer appeared to be actually reading the typed pages.

I guess you can probably say that now I have "seen" Japan. But, I am not satisfied because I still would like to have seen more of Mt. Fuji, closer, rather than fleeting glimpses between fluffy clouds. I like high adventures, but avoiding monkeys that bite, bears that maul, and deer with hard, dangerous pointy antlers tops my list. I think now I am ready to try sleeping overnight on the Great Wall in China. Seeing the glorious sunset and sunrise is perhaps reasonably predictable, and clearly promises not to be as dangerous as Japan's National Parks. Choosing safety in adventures is always a wise choice.


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