The weather was really nice yesterday and I had my classroom window open as often as I could (it needs to be closed during lessons) and I felt a constant urge to go outside and hang around in a park or something (which is totally not like me). I was eager to learn all about my students’ weekend plans, and was disappointed time after time when they all reported less-than-exciting plans, like work at the office, study at a cram-school or clean at home. Everybody was happy about the weather, yet they’d all planned inside activities they’d rather not do. So inspired by my students’ uninspiring weekend plans I vowed to really make the most of the weather and the free time this weekend. And it wasn’t hard at all to convince Yasu to come with me, on a trip to Biwa Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Japan.
First stop Otsu, a city at the bottom of the lake and only 40 minutes by train from Tsukamoto. After a short walk from the station we already arrived at the lovely lake. For some reason, I really love to be near water, like lakes, rivers seas and oceans, the only thing I don’t like are garden ponds, because they are artificial, too shallow and usually filled with nasty fish and often visited by swarms of insects. After a brisk walk by the lakeshore we bought tickets for the Michigan paddlewheel boat that offered ‘cruises’ on Biwa Lake.
It was a boat with a very American theme, but still with a very Japanese feel. The people working on the boat were too polite and inflexible, guests on the ship were sitting on the floor instead of the benches, and the food they served were poor imitations of American food, mostly because they were prepared with domestically produced ingredients. Nachos, chips and cheese and even Coca Cola just don’t taste good here.
But all that didn’t matter so much, because the lake was beautiful, the weather was sunny but breezy and the air smelled fantastically fresh and healthy. We spent most of our time on top of the boat looking out over the lake and sometimes spying on the shore cities with huge binoculars.
They also provided us with an opportunity to play Captain of the Michigan by presenting us with costumes that didn’t even resemble the clothes of the actual captain, still it was fun. Except for the part where I took my sunglasses off to don a captain’s hat and forgot to take my adored sunglasses with me after the costume party. I knew exactly where I left them, but when I returned to get them, they were nowhere to be found. Someone else had clearly taken them, and being in Japan I assumed and dearly hoped they would have turned them over to the ship’s crew to be put in their lost & found, but to my extreme disappointment I seemed to have expected too much. My beloved red sunglasses with sparkling stones on the sides were gone.
After the cruise with a view we went for a train with a view. We were traveling north next to the Western shore of the lake to Omi-Maiko. A little beach resort, with white beaches and barbecue tables (which we weren’t sure were operating now, as it was very sunny but not very warm). But by the time we arrived at the tiny station of Omi-Maiko it had started to rain… The beach didn’t look good in the suddenly cold and rainy atmosphere so we wanted to catch the next train further north, to go around the lake, only that train wasn’t due for another 45 minutes! So we caught a train back to Otsu, and travelled on to castle-town Hikone with a transfer in a very special and tiny city named Yasu.
All the train traveling, although comfortable, made us tired so we found ourselves a decent and cheap hotel for the night. We’re going to get up early tomorrow for a trip to the second largest island in Biwa Lake and a climb up to Hikone Castle.