There Was No Mountain


In Shimizu, when the mountain is out, you can apparently see Mt. Fuji from all over town. In theory you would see it from here,


or from high atop this Ferris wheel. But nope, even though the sky above us was clear, the mountain was in hiding and my adventures here were of a different sort. Today I went out on my own, in a country where I speak about seven words of the language and read exactly none.


My first mission was to find an ATM, and believe it or not, a 7 Eleven is where to do it. By the way, I’ve seen quite a few of those cute Shiba Inu dogs, which of course look right at home here.


You know how a 7 Eleven sells all sorts of snack food? This one was no exception.


This is their recycling installation, for the eco-minded among us.


And the manhole cover near the store, much more beautiful than it had to be.


And beauty was my mission, as I was looking for this museum. It had no sign in English, so I asked a young man who was walking in. He smiled, nodded, and proceeded to pay for my entrance ticket. The Japanese are a wonderfully welcoming people.



Inside, the architecture was as beautiful as it was outside.



There was a lovely display of wooden boats, and the level of fine detail on each of them was amazing.



The Shimizu/Shizuoka area is known for tea production, and from these displays I surmised that it was a mainstay of the local economy in the past, and that these jackets were typically worn by tea workers. I was the only person in that part of the museum and I didn’t see any signs in English, so surmise is the best I have to offer.


On my way to find lunch, I discovered that hair appointments here cost about what I am used to paying. Just remove the last two zeroes on those prices and you’ll have a number that is about 10% higher than the current value of the US dollar.


Walking through a market while looking for a place to eat I saw these beautiful dried squid, just about the size of your hand. I tried a sample, and it was very chewy, but tasty.



Japanese restaurants are known for having plastic displays of their menu out front, and I thought this one looked the best, especially because it had oden, which I love and saw nowhere else. However, I unwittingly chose perhaps the most challenging restaurant out of the 20-25 choices I had in front of me.


That no one spoke English pretty much goes without saying, because to my surprise, wherever we go in Japan, no one speaks English. But this place didn’t offer a sympathetic server who might struggle through a few words and gestures with me, because here you order from a screen.

A tiny young woman seated me on a stool in front of the screen, and went back to greeting people who were passing by. I had no idea what to do. I went back to her, practically took her by the hand, and pointed to the plastic foods I wanted, then went back to the screen and shrugged sheepishly. When she was sure she knew what I wanted she poked at a few things on the screen and left me.


I surreptitiously glanced at people around me and noticed food was arriving in front of them on a conveyor belt, which stopped in front of the diner who had placed the order. Wow.


Then I saw that the people on either side of me at the counter were tapping the green canister over their tea cups, and wow again, everyone had a little hot water spout that delivered water at perfect tea temperature.


Not long after that the conveyor stopped in front of me, so I understood that this was my bowl of oden. I removed it, but the screen kept beeping at me until I realized that I had to press a button to indicate that I had received it.



If you haven’t had oden, it’s a delicious stew made with a dashi broth and filled with various fish cakes, daikon slices, agar cake, and other delicacies. I think I made a faux pas in ordering it, since it’s a cold-weather dish, but I love it so I didn’t care. That and some prawn, fish, and vegetable tempura left me happily stuffed and cost about $17, as compared to the minuscule $32 sashimi bites in Tokyo.



We had only a short stop in Shimizu, so I headed back to the ship after lunch, inordinately pleased with myself for navigating my first day on my own in Japan, however awkwardly. On the pier this guy was making noodle-stuffed omelets that he garnished with various sauces, and many of the crew members were buying them, for under $5.


As we were getting ready to sail away, this group of little kids performed dances and songs for us. My balcony is on the equivalent of the seventh floor, so it was too high up to guess their ages accurately, but consensus among the passengers was that they were in kindergarten or first grade. Those kids sang and danced their hearts out for us, including some really disciplined and highly coordinated running all over the place to make different shapes as a group. They finished up with a rousing rendition of YMCA, which has never before sounded so great.

Shimizu is a sweet little town that I was sorry to leave. And I didn’t even mind missing Mt. Fuji.

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