Last weekend I went on a weekend trip with Hana, Robbie and Marlys to Niijima.
We left straight after work on Friday and got on a train to Tokyo. To be honest I hadn't thought much about the trip, I had mainly been focusing on my appendicitis, which had me wondering whether I might have to cancel at the last minute. I was taking antibiotics - and had a genuine fear that my appendix may burst on the trip. This seriously worried me as I had done my research and knew that there was no medical facilities let alone a hospital on the island.
Just to let you know (aka my parents) that the second course of antibiotics worked a treat and for the first time in a while I feel completely normal (physically that is). What a relief.
We had some time in Tokyo so we went to Frijoles, the Mexican restaurant in Roppongi. I always end up going to this restaurant because most of my friends are American, and as I have recently learnt, Americans are obsessed by Mexican food. Geographically, I can understand how Mexican food is popular in America, but personally, I don't see how people can love it so much... They (the American passport holders) will often make comments like: "dont you just really miss Mexican food"....hmm, sorry, but no... isn't it quite unhealthy? I guess I haven't been to Mexico, or a Mexican restaurant in America, so I can't judge, I will just say that at this point in my life I do not understand this phenomenon. Well, I'll get back onto talking about Niijima then shall I?
We took an over-night ferry from Tokyo Bay to the Island. We boarded the ferry for 11PM and arrived in Niijima the next morning at...hmm, I'm going to say around 7AM, but that might be a little off. We got the cheapest possible tickets (which were still pretty expensive). Our tickets came without a seat or cabin or anything fancy that you might expect from a sleeper ferry. Our tickets bought us the luxury of having to sit upon the deck of the boat - and we were given tarpaulin mats as our only source of comfort. Although I was skeptical, the ferry ride turned out to be a definite highlight of the trip.
What happened on the ferry ride?
We had snacks - a nice warm breeze, a speaker system...we were surrounded by groups of young, cool Japanese people, who seemed to also be having little over-night parties/picnics on the deck. The Tokyo skyline shone bright and beautiful as we sailed south of it into the darkness. We befriended a large group of friends who turned out to be members of a punk band from Yokohama. One of them took out a large piece of fresh fish from a cooler - and sliced it into delicious pieces of sashimi. This was then seasoned with fresh pieces of garlic, ginger and other yummy things. It was without a doubt, the best sashimi I have ever tried in my life. I also got the chance to practice Japanese. I ended up talking to one of the one guys for what felt like a good amount of time. He was sat in a very comfortable looking portable chair. I figure that he was so comfortable he couldn't be bothered to move. Which is great, because then he had no choice but to talk to me and attempt to make sense of my nonsensical Japanese. One of the greatest things that happened on the ferry, was that I slept. I slept well. I put my head down at around 1am and woke up about an hour before the boat got in. I managed to sleep on a piece of tarpaulin covering a hard solid deck floor using my luggage as a pillow.
When we alighted the ferry a man with our name on a cardboard plaque was waiting to take us to our accommodation. We stayed at a place called Surf Station off Habushi beach. The four of us stayed in one room. We showered and napped and then made our way to habushi beach. What a beautiful beach. I am not one to go into landscape descriptions, so I will just wait until one of my friends from the trip uploads some images onto the internet.
On the beach befriended two girls who turned out to be in the American military based around Kamakura. They seemed friendly enough, although I found their muscular bodies quite intimidating. Pretty much two of the toughest chicks I've ever come across.
Day 1 on Habushi beach:
Outside the Surf Station:
We then walked to a nearby bike rental shop, rented 4 bikes and cycled to the other end of the island to another beach. On the way we stopped for lunch at a soba place, where this picture was taken:
The beach on the northern side of the island was much more child-friendly. Here we saw a foreign girl alone. I decided to start talking to her. As it happened she was staying in Japan for a month staying with a friend. When I asked her she told me that her friend lived in Hitachi-Ota, and town in northern Ibaraki where Robbie works. The girls name is Charlie, and she pretty much stuck with us for the rest of the weekend.
Later we went with Charlie to a local restaurant. I made her order a bibimbap because she had never tried it, I was so excited because its pretty much the only nice Korean food and she had never experienced it before. Unfortunately it was cold and she had a very un-enjoyable meal. What added salt to the wound was that my meal was hot and delicious and I couldn't even share it with her because it had meat and shes a vegetarian.
Following this we went to a bar on the beach called "wax". There was a really great local party. The DJ was actually playing garage music - which I got very excited about. The music, setting and vibe was excellent. The stage was lit up but no one was dancing for a long time. Sometimes this can happen, especially in Japan where people tend to be very shy. Luckily for Niijima we were there to lead the way. By this point our group of four had grown to eight. Us, Charlie, the two army girls who we had met earlier, and a random girl I befriended. Slowly the dance floor filled up and a very fun night was had. The locals on the island were great - I made an effort to dance with them all. Well, naturally that is a complete exaggeration, but I'm trying to create a picture here.
When the party finished at about 11 (early, I know... but we got there at about 8. so we had been there long enough I suppose) - we cycled to the onsen. Niijima island has a 24 hour onsen which resembles a greek ruin site. Its pretty awesome, especially at night. And its free! Also, this onsen is mixed sex, but you have to wear a swimming costume (unlike most onsens in Japan where the sexes are separated and bathe in the nude).
On Sunday we hired a car to explore the North East of the Island. The only way to get to the other side of the island is by car, as you much drive through a tunnel. Charlie had made friends with the old guy who ran a local souvenir shop, he rented his car to us for 5000 yen for 24 hours (thats 50 dollars - maybe about 30 pounds).
I was the designated driver of the most ridiculous vehicle I've ever come across. It was odd driving with a stick after driving an automatic for a year, but I eventually got the hang... sort of. Anyway, we drove around some mountainous country roads which felt very Jurassic Park - we also found a completely empty beautiful beach where we stayed until the sun set. It was pretty damn amazing. Again... I'll try find some picture of all this, and add them as I go.
The guy whose car we borrowed with Robbie:
View from up the mountain:
Here's some rocks I climbed on:
The empty beach:
On Sunday night we went to a local Italian style restaurant. We pretty much stayed there drinking coctails, listening to Ricky Martin (whose posters lined the walls - don't ask) and eating pizza. On the cycle back we stopped for shaved ice.
On Monday we cycled around the island, relaxed on the beach one last time and then took a speed boat back to Tokyo.
We passed through the JET orientation in Shinjuku, where we took some of the new Ibaraki JETs out to a ezakaya. They seemed ok - the usual mix of normal and socially inept.
Unfortunately I was really tired writing this - so it could have been better. The End.