See No Common Sense

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This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, September 22, 2004 was originally posted on September 29, 2004.

DAY 340:  Tokyo is a huge sprawling metropolis with the area of 2,187 sq. km., almost 400 times larger than a football field.  With so many buildings spread out over such an expanse, it’s no wonder Tokyo was chosen to be the battlefield for Godzilla and all his monster movie enemies.  It’s so big that it is often called “Mega-Tokyo” in Japanese sci-fi anime films.

However, there is a retreat from Mega-Tokyo, just a couple of hours north by train:  Nikko, “one of the most popular day trips from Tokyo… Worth to slot into even the most whirlwind tour of Japan” (Lonely Planet).  Nikko is the site of sacred shrines and temples dating back to the 17th century, all in a mountainous countryside where bright colors come not from neon signs but from foliage.

Like most Japanese, Liz had the day off for the Japanese national holiday celebrating the Autumn Equinox, and led the way to Nikko on a day trip we’d extend to a day and a half trip since she didn’t have to do another corporate English training lesson until the evening of the next day.  We packed up weekender bags and head on out to Asakusa, the old area of Tokyo where the train to Nikko departed from, its beginning marked by what my friend Sam (Moscow) called “The Golden Turd,” a poorly-rendered golden flame sculpture atop the Asahi Brewing Company building.  Asakusa was also the home of a shrine within Tokyo, the Kannon-do Shrine.

We killed some time in the Asakusa area while waiting for the next train.  We strolled around the shops of souvenirs and Japanese sweets, most made of mochi (rice dough) and sweet red bean paste.  We wandered the Kannon-do Temple, crowded with people on their day off — some people treated the sacred shrine as a tourist attraction while some others legitimately prayed at a building under the towering pagoda.  At the entrance of the shrine was the traditional cauldron of incense, emitting sweet smelling smoke into the air — smoke that is supposed to give good luck if you surrounded yourself in it as much as you can

“A lot of students come here right before exams,” Liz told me.  Made common sense.


THE NORTHBOUND TRAIN TO NIKKO sped down the train tracks through Mega-Tokyo.  “Watch how long it takes before we see the country and you’ll see just how big Tokyo is,” Liz told me.  Building after building after building whizzed by with no break in between as we ate our bento box lunches that we got at a department store in Asakusa that sold big sushi rolls and assorted katsu pieces.  We finished our food and our beer all before Tokyo ended.  In fact, it wasn’t until I woke up from a decent nap that I noticed we were riding through the countryside, over an hour after departure. 

Liz and I didn’t have any hotel reservations in Nikko yet so we went to the tourist office at Nikko Train Station.  The older Japanese woman there made some calls for us and got Liz and me a reservation at a guest house in town with its own on-site onsen, the traditional Japanese steam bath, at roughly the same price if we roughed it in a youth hostel and had to pay for the public municipal onsen.  Liz’s Japanese skills contributed to the discount we got, although the Japanese woman wasn’t completely devoid of some English-speaking ability.

“You have a very beautiful face,” the old woman told me in semi-broken but comprehensible English.  “You have very big eyes.  Mine, very small.”  She was at a loss for English words to continue complimenting me and pulled out a dictionary — she appeared to be quite keen on learning and practicing new English words.  She spoke to Liz in Japanese and tried to tell me that I looked — according to her dictionary’s translation — “smart.”  She and Liz had more words to each other in Japanese.

“Oh, you mean ‘common sense’,” Liz corrected the old woman.  “She says you look like you have good common sense.”

“Arigato,” I said.  “Thank you, but I really don’t.”

Liz continued to translate.  “She says you look like you have the eyes and the common sense to explain things to people, like a teacher.”

Common sense?  Explain things to people?  Little did the old woman know that just a couple of minutes before, when we had arrived in the mountains, I asked Liz, “Are we higher up?”

“Uh, yeah.  Because we’re in the mountains.”


“I’M FEELING REALLY CALM IN MY SOUL right now,” Liz said as a bus took even higher up the mountains to the shrines.  “I like it here.”  With Liz’s erratic work schedule back in Mega-Tokyo, seeing green countryside and forests was always a welcoming treat for her.

Touring the temples and shrines of Nikko was indeed a relaxing retreat for us and the Mexican couple we met on the bus who looked just as confused as I would have been if not for traveling with Liz.  Liz invited them to join us and the four of us walked to the first shrine, the Rinnoji Temple.  Sulin and Arturo from Baja California were day-trippers from Tokyo on their three-week vacation trough Japan.  Liz planed tour guide for the three of us taking us through the shrine grounds, with its scenic gardens and pond full of big hungry fish.  She took us all afternoon from shrine to shrine, the main one being the Toshogu Temple, near the tomb of Ieyasu, the shogun who united Japan from the many different groups of feudal society in the 17th century.  The shogun (and the relief sculpture of him) may have been the center point of attention, but that honor went to the other well-known relief carving of three monkeys, depicting the famous “hear no evil, speak no even, see no evil” saying (picture above) — which inspired many souvenirs to sell tourists. 


AFTER JUST ONE AFTERNOON, all the temples and pagodas, as great as they were with their architecture and guardian demons, started to look a bit the same to me, coincidentally when the rain started getting a bit heavier.  Sulin and Arturo took a bus back to Nikko for a train back to Tokyo, while Liz and I head back into town for dinner.  We had our meal at a family restaurant reminiscent of Sizzler at a table with an interactive screen with many colorful attractive buttons with Japanese letters on them that I couldn’t help but push, since it made pictures come up of Winnie the Pooh.  This was all going on out of Liz’s eyesight who was at the front desk trying to arrange a transport after dinner to the guesthouse. 

“I think you just charged [a bunch of games] to our bill,” Liz informed me back at the table.  It didn’t even occur to me that that might be the case, but it turned out I had been pushing the “Yes, I accept the charges” button in Japanese over and over.  So much for having common sense.


A TAXI TOOK US to the Pension Sunshine, a nice cozy guesthouse with a room for us with two beds and a TV that ran an Autumn Equinox Day TV special, a variety show that talked about the biggest things in the world:  tallest man, biggest eel, etc.  At one point they found the two heaviest babies in the world — a massive 6-year-old from Russia and a massive 4-year-old from Georgia — and pit them together for an in-studio wrestling match.  The younger boy slapped the older one who ran off crying.

As funny as it was to see that, the main To Do at the guesthouse was use the onsen, the traditional Japanese steam bath.  The guesthouse had two individual ones, one indoor, one outdoor (but covered from the rain).  Liz gave me the outdoor one for the quintessential onsen experience.  The onsen was in its own little building in the backyard. 

I did the traditional onsen procedure as Liz had described it to me:  strip down to my bare ass, shower myself clean in the shower room and then enter the onsen for a hot, relaxing soak.  If I had been in a public onsen with other naked guys around, I might have felt a little more self-conscious with my nudity, even in the water because it was so clean it was crystal clear.  But with just me, I took full advantage of the steamy one-man nudist colony.  I set up my little camera at the edge of the hot water tub to take a bunch of onsen photos of myself.  There was no way to really get a good shot unless I really chanced putting the camera on the edge of the pool — leaving it susceptible for falling in or steam up or getting drenched with the water level rising from displacement of my own body — but I did it anyway for my own stupid amusement.  Not very good common sense — I don’t know what the old woman at the Nikko tourist office was talking about — I completely ignored the fact that I had a camera that broke because it got wet at Victoria Falls

I posed in silly poses that one can when he’s in an outdoor Japanese hot steam bath by himself in the middle of the countryside:  pretending to be a Vietcong soldier, as a hippie about to drown, and the gratuitous ass cheek shot.  Common sense?  Really now; that old woman had me all wrong.  If only she could have seen me then, she would have completely retracted her comments.

(With a photo like that last one, it’s no wonder that third monkey was covering his eyes.)






Next entry: Inner Child

Previous entry: Things to Do When Your Wallet is Missing




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Comments for “See No Common Sense”

  • DUDE, more warning before the ass shots!!!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  05:07 AM


  • NICE ASS!! LOL I also enjoyed the onsen when in Japan but never saw anything like that!!  I was interesting bathing at onsens.  A whole bunch of little japanese women running around naked indoors and out.  Glad to be first to see this one…...it’s the best yet!!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  05:20 AM


  • DUde! Overshare!!  Glad you had a blast at the onsen. Im sure your escapades will pop on the web somewhere: “spycam special: crazy american in japanese onsen”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  05:41 AM


  • I’m baaaack! Out of commission the last 2 weeks since I threw my back out…....not a fun time. ( Couldn’t even sit at puter for more than a couple of minutes.)  Desperately trying to catch up on Blog.  Erik: Great pics of Japan! (Nice buns!) Sounds like Liz is a great tour guide!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  07:57 AM


  • Td0t: Did you say earlier that you have been to Taiwan?  Were you there teaching English?  If so, I have a few questions about visas. Can I email you? Please let me know, k? Thanx

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  08:00 AM


  • Greeting from a SBR!

    Found this blog a few weeks ago and have been reading at work, am up to Morocco at the moment so catching up.

    Just thought I would come out of anonymity and post a comment.

    Hope to be caught up soon…...

    rlj

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  03:02 PM


  • awe… man ... You’ve opened yourself(backdoored) my friend to alot of P(b)uns .. (Butt) seriously, “You must work out ” hahaha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  04:29 PM


  • I was hungry for sushi after seeing those GIANT rolls…...and then suddenly by the end of the blog my appetite disappated….perhaps the crack of your ass peeking out of the water had something to do with it.  All I can say is “Hoorah” there was no sign of “poo” in this entry….other than the “Golden Turd”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  05:14 PM


  • i was laughing my ass off at the vietcong and hippy shots until i got to the last 2 pix. i agree w/ oogy: “OVERSHARING!”

    this post has been rated: SP for Soft Porn!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  05:24 PM


  • We can aways count on Erik for photoGRAPHIC overshares! First the poop, then the puke, now the butt!

    JANICE: Sorry to hear about your back, but I’m glad you are back. I wasn’t teaching in Taiwan. I was only there for 4 days visit a friend who is teaching. I am planning to move there next August. Please email me and we can compare notes!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  05:36 PM


  • Realy question before I comment on the rest - what is the difference between a temple and a pagoda - is there one? Also, after all the Chinese temples and buildings with the guardian animals, it’s sad to not see them…

    The water shots are hilarious - esp just the buns one - but hmm, did I _really_ need to see it? I guess so, b/c you put it on here… smile Can’t wait for Markyt’s comments… wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:02 PM


  • Great pics- nice comic relief.  My personal fave is the vietnam one.  Alas, you are right….Harold and Kumar is the true movie to honor Jersey….because they obviously see the value in the ‘Boken whereas Zach Braff ignores it completely.  Road Trip to the Cherry Hill White Castle when you get back!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:06 PM


  • RLJ:  Thanks for breaking the silence!  Welcome aboard officially, and pass the word along!

    Don’t worry if you’re behind; I’m still behind too…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:11 PM


  • CONCERNING MY ASS…  Sorry if I’ve offended any of you (or made you go blind); I was just going for that not-so-perfect ass humor in lines with Will Ferrell in “Old School.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:14 PM


  • NOELLE:  “Temple” = the house like building (or rather, the entire complex of buildings, just like in China)

    “Pagoda” is the tower-like building, evolved from Indian Buddhists’ “stupa”.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:18 PM


  • woooooooo!!! nice ass!!!! though after watching “a dirty shame” (john waters film) last night, your butt photos doesn’t phase me much. that film had the most male frontal nudity shots i have ever seen in a non-porn movie. and selma blair with the 72 triple J size boobs that looked very fake. that was one demented film. if you come across it in another country as a bootleg for $1, get it. otherwise don’t overpay for it.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:20 PM


  • JEN102:  “Road Trip to the Cherry Hill White Castle”.  I’m SO down.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:21 PM


  • ALICE:  Thanks for the generous donation!  You’re on the new postcard mailing list!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:32 PM


  • LISA:  Thanks for your pledge!  Email me your postal address for a postcard!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:39 PM


  • DUAINE:  Thanks for the pledge!  Do I have your postal address?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:41 PM


  • SHELLE:  So glad you’re still in touch since our days in Zambia!  Thanks for your pledge!  (I have your address.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  06:42 PM


  • FALL TV event: ABC’s new series, LOST.

    http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost/stuff.html

    http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost/about.html

    A airline crashes on an island and…“The band of friends, family, enemies and strangers must work together against the cruel weather and harsh terrain if they want to stay alive. But the island holds many secrets, including the intense howls of the mysterious creatures stalking the jungle, which fill them all with fear. Fortunately, thanks to the calm leadership of quick-thinking Jack and level-headed Kate, they have hope. But even heroes have secrets, as the survivors will come to learn.

    My take: great show! i saw the second episode last night and i was stuck on the tube! For those who’s missed the show, tivo it on Saturday at 8pm. they’re re-showing both episodes (2hrs).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  07:00 PM


  • With everyone so enthralled with Erik’s butt… We’ve forgotten that his “Ass” is still on the line re: Nepal. So what’s the verdict?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  07:17 PM


  • WELCOME TO INDIA….!!! Keep me posted.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  08:16 PM


  • That vietcong shot is awesome, very Martin Sheen-esque… cracked me up.

    Posted by Dan  on  09/29  at  09:01 PM


  • LovePenny - isn’t LOST AWESOME?!??!? I LOVE that show. It’s great. JJ Abrams is a personal hero of mine… and since ALIAS isn’t on till January, gotta get a fix now…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/29  at  09:29 PM


  • TD0T:  re: Nepal…  Nothing set in stone yet; the whole India visa set me out on another wild goose chase.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/30  at  04:14 AM


  • DAN:  Thanks for the donation!  You’re on the new list.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/30  at  04:17 AM


  • I’m off to Kyoto today… Nothing new has been written yet, so my ass will have to hold the fort for a while…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/30  at  04:29 AM


  • DUNLAVEY:  We MUST see Conan (live) again before he tones it down for the 11:30 audience!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/30  at  04:50 AM


  • At least in Japan you’re getting pop culture updates. smile And you have 5 years, unless Jay starts to tank, till Conan switches spots…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/30  at  05:47 PM


  • NOELLE - you got TV reception?

    haha..

    butt cheeks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/30  at  06:17 PM


  • Hey, speaking of Mega Tokyo, I just saw a great Manga in the movies the other day—Innocence (Ghost in the Shell 2). Very good movie, Erik!

    Yeah seems like it’s most def good that you have Liz as your guide…I’d be totally lost out there!

    Word Life.

    Moman!!

    Posted by Moman  on  09/30  at  07:03 PM


  • Erik:  So when are you and Liz going to do Karaoke?????

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/30  at  08:52 PM


  • you know the word karaoke is Japanese for “sings badly after alcohol” , right??  smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/01  at  12:59 AM


  • Markyt - NOT YET - but tomorrow I get Directv with TIVO!!!

    SO THERE.
    Besides, I live and work in the entertainment capital of the world - I know inside stuff going on - before you in Jersey do… so there.
    Yeah, so I’m defensive, leave me alone…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/01  at  02:58 AM


  • Janice - we already went for a three hour karaoke marathon! 

    Darcy - what are you talking about?  wink  Actually there are quite a few really good singers here!  Karaoke is awesome!

    Noelle - congrats on getting awesome tv.  I still don’t have ‘real’ tv and only pull what I can off antenna (which is surprisingly like 11 channels).  Figure, why should I pay US$60 a month for about two channels in English?  I don’t need the other 50 Japanese ones that’s for sure!  But I’m envious of anyone who has cable, satellite or other suped-up tv thing.  smile

    Posted by Liz  on  10/01  at  07:24 AM


  • GREETINGS FROM KYOTO…Im in an NCHUZ (No Camera Hook Up Zone) so the entries will be delayed…

    LIZ:  You definitely have to make it out to Kyoto one day…  Im in the north west suburbs by the mountains and its even impressing templed out old me…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/01  at  09:36 AM


  • Erik:  Looking forward to your Blog entry about Karaoke with Liz.  I hope there are pics and an audio!
    Liz:  So who outsang who? Did you sing the theme song from Grease?LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/02  at  02:56 AM


  • Janice - we both sang our hearts out! It was an 80s hit marathon LOL.  Of course we sang Grease!

    Posted by Liz  on  10/02  at  07:50 AM


  • ERIK TGT - Already put in the call for Conan tickets - they should be ready by the time you get back to NYC.
    Um, you ARE coming home aren’t you?!

    Posted by dunlavey  on  10/02  at  09:06 AM


  • DUNLAVEY:  Home, yes.  For the love of Triumph, yes.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/02  at  04:26 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Inner Child

Previous entry:
Things to Do When Your Wallet is Missing




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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