Hello Hatta

After only 25+ years in the UAE, we finally managed to make the road trip down to the elusive Hatta. I’m not sure why it took so long to get there, seeing as how it’s only an hour and a half away from home (way closer than Abu Dhabi), but somehow it always managed to evade us. The weather seemed to be turning for the better and with a long weekend at our disposal, we decided it was finally the right time to go.

Okay, so we did end up going round in circles for a bit thanks to Google Maps which seemed to be hell-bent on making us do rounds of Burj Khalifa, but we did eventually succeed in resetting our mental compasses and taking the right exit to be on our way. We left bright and early in the  morning, catching the sunrise and watched as the landscape changed from a cityscape to a desert and then to the rocky mountains that rose up before us.

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Happy National Day!

We took the Sharjah-Kalba road, which is parallel to the road that heads down to Fujairah, which would explain why the barren rocky landscape felt so familiar. We did our traditional spot a camel game, but it looked like even the camels were taking the day off to enjoy the National Day weekend away from all the traffic. Oh well, no ice-cream for anyone this time ^^

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Rocky Landscapes

Being early-birds paid off and we reached Hatta in good time, managing not only to avoid any traffic on the way, but also to secure a comfortable parking spot right next to Hatta Dam, which was where we were headed for some kayaking! Looking out at the dam was like looking at a sort of mountain oasis, a beautiful splash of glittering teal green surrounded by scraggly brown peaks, basking under a bright blue sky.

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First view of Hatta Dam

It was a stunning sight and a welcome relief of colour and we stopped for pictures before heading down to Hatta Kayak. Having never kayaked before, I was a bit uncertain as to whether we should be renting out kayaks, or if we should be stick to the familiar pedal boats, or better yet, taking a donut boat or a bicycle pontoon boat which I’d never seen before. We decided to be adventurous and take kayaks, and just prayed we wouldn’t topple over.

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Heading out in our kayaks

We left our mobile phones in the lockers, no one being willing to test just how waterproof they really are, and were pushed off into the lake in our colouful kayaks with assurances that any lack of swimming ability would not be a problem since we had our life jackets on. We managed to get a hang of the oars pretty quickly and soon decided it was time to turn around, head back and get our mobile phones out of the lockers so we could take some pictures out on the lake.

It was an amazing experience, not just kayaking for the first time, navigating around oncoming donut boats and dodging fellow kayakers while laughing at the struggling cyclists, but the place in itself was so peaceful, that after a while we just put down our oars and let the currents take us where they would, past leafless underwater trees and grey birds with long beaks. The weather had been great in the morning, but as we reached midday, the weather decided it wasn’t ready to turn into winter just yet and the temperature swung back to a sweltering 32°C.

After two hours of rowing, we were ready to head back in and head for lunch, but we were just half an hour shy of opening hours at the restaurant of choice, so we made a pit-stop at the fruit and vegetable market before going to Hatta Heritage Village to kill some time instead of going hiking as we had originally planned. It was an interesting experience, walking through the winding paths of the old village,  the remnants of lookout towers guarding us from either side.

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Lookout Tower

Being the National Day weekend, it was quite fitting that we had come to the Heritage Village so we could get a first hand view of how drastically the country has evolved over the last 46 years. We walked through homes and majlis and store rooms and outdoor kitchens, past the plain traditional kitchenware and beds to the more exotic tools and weapons like rifles called Umm Khams (a rifle that could load 5 bullets). Having been here for over 25 years, we are first hand witnesses of the evolution of the country, but this was another reminder of just how far a vision can carry you.

We were ready for lunch after having scaled up the rocky hill to the lookout point and the restaurant was ready for us at last. We ordered a chicken tanoor with some fatoosh, but being confused as usual about portion sizes, we opted for a 3 person tanoor to serve four. When the food came out, we realized even a 3 person serving was too big for us, none of us being heavy eaters. Nevertheless, we wolfed down as  much as we could, which was more than usual, thanks to all the kayaking and by the time we were done, it was time for some tea to keep us awake on the long drive back.

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Chicken tanoor!

Now, it’s common practice in the UAE, to head down to a cafeteria for tea… and Oman chips paratha… and now Lotus dessert. Exactly what this dessert is, I can’t exactly describe except that it has Lotus biscuits and tastes divine, like a soft cross between a caramel and a cheesecake. And if that doesn’t sound delicious enough.. did you hear me say “Lotus”? Enough said! So if you haven’t been to a cafeteria in the UAE before, it’s time to ditch that brunch and enjoy some of the finer things in life.

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Time for dessert

If you’ve never been to Hatta, I would definitely recommend going at least once. And if you’re into hiking, then it’s definitely worth more than one visit. And don’t forget the cafeteria! 🙂

Flag Island

November 2 marks Flag Day in the UAE so what better way to celebrate the occasion than heading down to Sharjah’s very own Flag Island, home of the 7th tallest flag pole in the world. I left work early so I could catch up with my family there for a late lunch and some gorgeous views of the flag in what is finally great weather.

The weather was pretty fantastic for Flag Day too, with a beautiful breeze wafting the flag up in the beautiful blue sky, and gently rippling the waters of the Khalid Lagoon. One of my favourite things about going to the island is the view of Souq Al Jubail which, for the uninitiated, is actually a fruit, vegetable, meat and fish market all in one. If you think it looks pretty fancy during the day, you haven’t seen it at night, when it’s lit up in all its splendour. It’s on my must visit list for next year’s Sharjah Light Festival.

After a yummy late lunch at Jones the Grocer, we headed to the open air amphitheater where the Emirati-Japanese band Kharsha were performing.  We’d gone to see Kharsha perform in Al Ain a few months ago and it was nice to see how fast their team of drummers is growing.

I can’t say exactly why one of the team is wearing a teddy bear mask, but I do love their Flag Day themed outfits. Very chic! Unfortunately we were rather late, and it was time for prayers after just one performance, so we decided to head home…not before stopping at KSHTA, the food truck area.

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Time for karak!

Unfortunately for us, we’d already had our late lunch and it was too early for dinner so we didn’t get a chance to sample much, except for a nice hot cup of karak, but we did have enough time to narrow down where we wanted to eat the next time we stopped by.

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The fanciest place for a burger – Graffiti Burger

From burgers to shawarma, from greasy fries to zafrani karak, dynamite shrimp to the classical falafel, they have it all. Looks like I’m going to have to go back on an empty stomach . ^^

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Fancy a place to sit?

If I’m not wrong KSHTA is here till the 5th of January, so that gives us plenty of time to sample a little bit of everything and of course, with the running track at Flag Island, there’s also enough time to run it all off.

 

Weird and Wonderful Signs in Japan – Part 2

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How to dress when you’ve sent all your clothes to the laundry ^^

 

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In case you were wondering what takoyaki really is…

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Maybe if you’re drunk enough that’ll start looking like a person drinking

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Peek a boo!

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So you can banish all those second thoughts you were having 

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What’s not to love about a smiling kitty?

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Eat it, or else… 

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Here to make all short people in the world feel tall 😀

Missed Part 1 with all its weirdness?

Back to Japan – Final Day (Tokyo)

It felt good waking up late (okay later than usual, not late). We went down for our last ‘early’ breakfast and all of a sudden it seemed as though there were so many small things that needed to be done before we checked out. I went down to exchange some cash from the currency exchange machine (I still can’t understand why these aren’t more widespread in the world) and finally managed to send one out of four postcards I’d originally planned to send to friends in Korea. Then of course there was the last minute packing of all things banal that are considered dangerous by the airport, like hairbrushes and deodorants and bottles of cologne. Personally not carrying perfume is more dangerous than carrying it… it is possible to terrorise people with bad body odour. And last but not least was the hunt for a gift for our せんせいs who’d been absolutely amazing the whole trip. I set off on a walk to see if I could find any store that was open that had what we were looking for.

It was interesting to be out on a weekday morning, watching as everyone around me headed to work in their plain white shirts and sober trousers and skirts of blue, grey or black. I found it amazing that in a country filled with so much natural beauty (over 70% of Japan is forested), people chose to wear such demure colours. It’s not always been so and the kimono and yukata are a testament to that, so why now? Imagine how much more alive the city could be if only the people could break away from the corporate trappings of 50s and 60s sober office attire.

I walked past a grey torii that leads up to a shrine, sandwiched between the high rises yet fitting in so perfectly with the landscape. I stumbled upon a chair museum, if you would believe such a thing exists, and though curiosity would have me go in, being pressed for time, I went on ahead in search of a gift. There seemed to be a shop that might just have something nice but since it opened late, I headed back to the hotel with ma’s favourite sparkling apple Minute Maid and convinced ma to come back with me. We got back when the store opened, but unfortunately there was nothing there to be found except kawaii stationery that would distract the most serious of students.

Our last resort, which was actually our first resort, was the antique store in Tokyu Plaza but since it had always been closed whenever we came and left, we’d never had a chance to go in. Today, we were confident that we’d finally be able to explore the place and have enough time to browse and be picky and choosy because which store opens later than 10am right? Wrong – we found our way to the store only to find out that it opens at 11am – which is when we were scheduled to leave. So much for that plan. Ma was very surprised – not at the fact that the store opened late, which is something one can explain away, but at the fact that it still closed early. When exactly does someone shop here?

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More rooftop gardens

With that unsolved mystery, we boarded the bus. We were scheduled to visit some gardens first before heading to the Japanese Muslim Association, but there were some stragglers, as is expected on the last day, and in the end we decided we’d be better off going straight to the JMA, especially since the day was threatening to be toasty with glaring sunshine.

We reached the centre shortly and it turned out to be a small and humble building with the men’s prayer room on the top most floor, the ladies prayer room and library on the 2nd floor and a nice place to gather for meals and lectures on the ground floor. Our attempts to take a picture in front of the building were hilariously thwarted by oncoming traffic but we succeeded at length and were finally led inside to the prayer hall where we met the president of the JMA. We learnt that the centre is run by Japanese reverts and aims to educate people about Islam by providing resources such as the Quran, tafseer and hadith all translated into Japanese for accessibility so people have a place to turn to to get quality information and none of that nonsensical propaganda being spewed by irresponsible media.

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Heading to the centre for Friday prayers

As we sat in the prayer hall, we were welcomed by Mr. Amin, president of the JMA and graduate of Al Azhar. He spoke to us in Arabic and thankfully, despite by lack of speaking ability, I was able to understand everything he said. Listening to him speak, I was surprised on a number of occasions. Good surprises included learning how the foundation of the centre had been supported by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and the opening of which had been attended by delegates from around the Muslim world. It was also good to learn that this centre represented a significant upgrade from their one room apartment that used to be the base of their work previously. Another thing we learnt, surprising for most, but something I had already discovered some several months ago, was that they broadcast their prayers live on Facebook, in particular the Friday prayer and the sermon, which meant countless Japanese Muslims around the world are now able to listen to a sermon in their own language.

I was surprised and also disappointed to learn that there are only about 10,000 Japanese Muslims in a population of over 100 million. What was reassuring though, was the knowledge that in a country where few practice any form of organised religion, courses about Islam have started to be offered at a university level, garnering much interest and inspiring many conversions. While we sat there, we were also introduced to Mr. Khalid, former president of the JMA, another Japanese graduate from Egypt who shared his story of how he reverted. It’s amazing to listen to the stories of how people reverted, each of them attracted by something different that spoke to their hearts.

We had to adjourn for Friday prayers and we went downstairs to do wudhu and waited patiently for the sermon to start. The sermon was delivered in Japanese and while my limited Japanese meant I could only get the gist of what was being said, it was enough to understand that they were discussing the dangers of pride.

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Library of books translated into Japanese

After prayers, we headed downstairs for lunch with the rest of the congregation which was then followed by an open Q&A session, and we did have a lot of questions. Some of the things we were most curious about were how Japan, despite its close proximity to Indonesia and Malaysia, had such a low population of Muslims and what was being done to reach out to the youth. Another important question we had was on what was being done to support reverts in the community. They were deep questions with answers that left us reassured at the optimism expressed by both the president and former president of the JMA. Our lunch of butter chicken with a solid orange dye that stained our fingers, salad, naan and the seasonal sweet cherries followed by cheesecake had dragged on and when our guide came in to check on us we knew it was time to say goodbye.

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The men who are making a difference

We left the centre with two lovely ladies, both Japanese reverts who would accompany us for the rest of the day as we went to the Edo Museum, Tokyo Skytree and finally, to the airport. On our way to the Edo Museum, we passed the Ryogoku Kokugikan, where sumo matches take place and I’m tempted to add this to my list of things to see if I ever get a chance to come back to Japan.

We stood at the foot of my favourite escalator leading up to the museum, in two lines, and I got handed the same entrance ticket that I was handed 2 years ago- the lady in blue with the long hair before we were allowed to go up. The last time we’d come here, I had been too tired to take in much and the size of the museum had been amplified in my memory by the exhaustion. This time, I was determined to take it slow and take the first exit out to the seats by the museum shops if required. Thankfully though, we didn’t need to and this time we were able to get through the whole museum, which no longer seemed as big as I had remembered it.

We walked past huge scale models of so many different places and I wished at that moment that I could change my profession to model builder and do something at the same time fun, fulfilling and maddeningly frustrating. As we walked through displays of Edo period Japan, we came across a statue of Iyeyasu (he seems to have followed us all the way here) and also came across, quite fittingly, a description of Tanabata – on Tanabata! As we strolled around, we ran into せんせい’s friend, who had been our lunch buddy at our favourite Indian restaurant. She had brought us all sweets as a parting gift, and remembering that ma and I couldn’t have eggs, brought us special snacks with no egg. We were moved by the thoughtfulness of her gesture and wished we had more time to spend in Japan so we could get to know her better.

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Iyeyasu

We had enough time to appreciate the original Mac of the 90s, pose for pictures on penny farthings and in cycle rickshaws, to print out newspaper articles from the day we were born, to visit the restroom and browse all the museum shops. We were spoilt for time. At the museum shop I was lucky enough to find a book describing furoshiki techniques, which would help with the bag we’d bought earlier during the trip at Nakamise. After much browsing around, we were finally ready to head to Tokyo Skytree.

Having missed going up Namsan Tower when we were in Korea, we were determined to go up Skytree this time but by the time we got there, we decided we had other more important things to do – like find something dad had asked for, or an alternative should fate thwart our plans and also to find a gift for the せんせいs. And so it was that we walked away from Skytree. While Z went to help our guide with something and to get our final commemorative coins for the trip, ma and I went on to get the gifts. I retraced the familiar path back to the shop where we had picked up a gift for ma two years ago, only to find that nothing had changed over the years. The shop was exactly as it was, even the deceptive mirror display which makes everything larger than it actually is (so deceptive in fact that ma was convinced we were buying the wrong size of Edo Kiriko glass, until we moved it off the mirror). With dad’s gift picked out, we watched the care with which the glass was carefully cleaned and packed. They guided me through the tax-free procedure and the lady there, noticing it was my birthday, wished me and even let us pick out origami stars for fun.

Final haul of commemorative coins as promised

That done, we now had time to pick out a gift for the せんせいs and as luck would have it, we found just what we were looking for, in the same store. We managed to convey to them, through a mix of Japanese and English and much body language exactly how we wanted them packed and when we told them it was a gift, they helped us picked out the wrapping and stickers and in a few minutes all the things we’d come here to do were done.

Z was still missing, so we decided to roam around a bit more, which is when we discovered the most intricately carved crystal sake cups, which we fell in love with at first sight. The price tag, was not quite as lovable, but it didn’t stop us from admiring the handiwork for a long time. While we were there, the saleslady brought to our attention the fact that the craftsmen from the company that makes all the things we’d bought, were  actually in store and demoing their work. Unfortunately for us, the craftsman had just packed away his tools so we didn’t get to see him at work, but did get to take a picture with him instead.

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Hello Kitty all dressed up for Tanabata

With that, we left ma to rest her legs indoors while Z and I walked out to get some shots of the Skytree. The sun had only just begun to set, leaving behind a burning red sky in the distance. Soon the tower would be lit up, as it had been on our first visit. Z also got his hands on a brand new flavour of Calpis at the base of the tower, declared it to be terrible, but didn’t hesitate in offering it to ma to cross-check if it really was all that bad. It was. With that quick verification, we were ready for dinner at Amara.

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Saying goodbye

Dinner was more papad and steaming naan with sweet butter chicken, and ma declared she wouldn’t have butter chicken for months once we got back. I was just glad for the protein before the long flight and sad at the fact that we’d forgotten once again to share a dish to avoid all the wastage.

It was as we sat there, wondering how time had flown and discussing how we’d all be back to work come Sunday, that the singing began. せんせい had come out with a cake, accompanied by her friend’s daughter all dressed up, singing happy birthday… to me. In the time Z had been away, he’d planned everything under the guise of helping our guide with something, when really our guide had been helping him plan out the elaborate surprise complete with cakes and prerequisite halal checks. It was a completely unexpected surprise because ma had given me a birthday card already in the morning and I thought we’d naturally be celebrating once we got back home. I was moved to tears, which is not something that happens often, and definitely never happens in public. Despite all the grief he’d given me, despite not having bought a suitcase this time around, he’d more than made up for it with the surprise. He’d also got our tour buddies to sign a card for me, which I got filled with all their wishes. And in typical Z style, I got my one funny card – a singing sheep. ^^ I even got gifts, not just from Z, but also from one of our tour buddies who knew how much I love models and even from our guide who’d been with us from the JMA. I got to celebrate my birthday with amazing people on Tanabata in Japan. What more could I have asked for?

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Happy birthday to me ^^

We polished of all the yummy goodness of the cake and it was finally time to head to the airport. As we got together for what would be our final headcount, オサマさん declared I had the best brother, and for the most part, he’s not wrong. We climbed on to the bus and the mic was passed around for our final Q&As and last minute messages to each other before we pulled up at the airport. Checking in proved to be a hassle with new rules regarding hand luggage, in which a purse no matter how tiny it is counts as hand luggage, so all the ladies with us with a trolley bag and a purse were forced to stuff their purses in their bags before being allowed to check in. Thankfully, we had not just our せんせいs but also our guide and the ladies from the JMA to help us out and after much redistribution of luggage it was time to say goodbye.

Both せんせいs would be staying back in Japan for a few more weeks, our guide would go back to his job with a new group from a new place on another day, and the ladies from the JMA would go back to life as usual. And us… well we would all go back to the familiar daily grind come Sunday, with only Whatsapp left to connect us during the week, shared memories of our trip together and a promise to get together for a reunion once we all got back.

It was an entertaining wait in the lounge as we were amused throughly by our in house MC and I was tempted to go out and buy her one of those portable battery operated mikes that you see children holding so she could entertain us with her newly acquired guide skills on the plane which would probably go something like this

“On your left is a patch of clouds. On your right is a never ending sky of blue. Who knows exactly where we are, but the important question is why aren’t you married yet?”

We boarded the plane, and almost immediately and unexpectedly fell asleep for the next 4 hours. The rest of the time was spent watching anime after anime (Z continued his Harry Potter marathon that had started on the flight here) and when the plane touched down we were all ready for a breakfast of karak chai and Oman Chips paratha.

It’s good to be home.

Missed Day 9 Part 3 in Nikko?

Back to Japan – Day 9 Part 3 (Nikko)

Lake Yunoko was a wild card on our trip which didn’t just catch me by surprise – it left me breathless. The bus pulled up at a parking area where we got off to the most sulphuric smell coming from the water, a pungent reminder of Japan’s violent volcanic presence, and watched as the placid water suddenly plunged into a turbulent and frothy white fall- the Yudaki falls. Watching the water suddenly drop off the edge I thought how the water was a reflection of our lives. The calm and seemingly endless routine of life, at once plunged into sudden chaos taking you deep into uncharted territory where you fight your way through obstacles driven on only by the hope of rest at the end of your struggle. A bit like how this waterfall would turn into a river which would eventually quietly meet Lake Chuzenji for some much needed rest.

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Yudaki Falls. If photos could capture smells, you’d be closing your browser right about now.

From the falls we began our 3km hike around Lake Yunoko – a naturally dammed lake which had formed with an eruption of Mt. Mitake. Unlike lake Kawaguchi and Lake Chuzenji, this lake was untrammeled by the trappings of commerce and touristy attractions like swan boats leaving us a pristine view of nature to appreciate in silence and the soft rustling of leaves. We were not competing for space with hordes of tourists in the narrow path that took us around the lake. Instead, we walked at leisure, at our own pace, appreciating the serenity of the lake afforded to us by the brief openings in the leafy cover and for once, I did not feel compelled to take many pictures, as though the silence would cement the memory for me instead.

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The untrammeled beauty of Lake Yunoko

Ma went on ahead, Z lingered somewhere behind and I took it all in in relative solitude interrupted only by fleeting conversations with our tour buddies. And as I walked, slowly realizing just how cold it had become, we came across a break in the trees through which we began to watch as lines flew through the air, landing still in the water, almost imperceptible if not for the widening pool of ripples in a lake softly disturbed as you would a sleeping child. There, standing waist deep in the water, were men who were fly fishing in complete silence. In fact, it was so quiet that you would never have noticed them standing there in their gear if it hadn’t been for the betraying ripples.

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The first time I’ve seen someone fly fishing

I watched mesmerized and later, when I stumbled upon a fisherman standing quite close to the trail, I asked him for a picture, so I could remember that men need not be loud to have their presence felt, but can move the world with patience, in silence and chosen solitude. The trail continued, and we came across the body of a fisherman lying on the bank of the lake. オサマさん, who had gone down to investigate, came back with the reassurance that the fisherman was very much alive and just fast asleep. He reminded me of the puzzle my dad had once put together, of a fisherman surrounded by trees, asleep by the lake. I wonder, if I should fall asleep there, what I would feel awakening in the darkness, undisturbed by street lights, the buzz of electricity and the familiar sound of cars and traffic, with only the light of the moon filtering through the dark canopy. I wonder if I should feel scared, or alone or perhaps closer to God and the Earth. I wonder if I should panic, or lie back and stare up at the sky, my eyes adjusting to the dark to trace outlines of the leafy canopy hiding the starts. I wonder if the sound of insects should scare me, or be welcome company… I wonder…

As we rounded off the trail, past enticing signs that lead up to Usagi Jima (Rabbit Island), I could spot ma at a distance in the middle of a photo shoot thanks to the ever obliging オサマさん who was capturing the moment for her while Z and I caught up. I ran all the way up to her and discovered that she was as much in love with this place as I was. With that settled, we began to think out loud on what it would be like if we could just stay there and what we would do to get by. I decided I would simply open a store that would stay open past 4pm, which is when the only store we’d seen there closes, and in doing so I should be able to tap into the night crowd. ^^

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On the trail

The weather had been divine- chilly but not distractingly so, like winter mornings back home or a summer afternoon spent at Nuwara Eliya. I was loth to leave, but we had to. It was going to be a long and winding drive back down the mountain and the driver had invited 4 people up to the front for enviable views of how those tight turns are navigated by the big bus. Z went up and I stayed back to enjoy the last views of the lake flying past our window. I was surprised that I hadn’t experienced any motion sickness on the way or down here. In Korea I’d been okay but it had been tough on Z whereas in SL I was in a bad sort of way. Perhaps it had something to do with the weather, or perhaps it was the less than daredevil driving on narrow two way roads.

We made our way down the mountain to much applause and began the long drive home to Tokyo thoroughly entertained by our in-house MC who had now taken control of the mic. We reached the familiar rest area with its origami decorated restrooms, took a moment to stretch our legs and went to the store to look for something, anything really that was halal because by this point all my rice and fried chicken had said farewell and left me a splitting headache as a parting gift. As soon as we went in, we came across the one vending machine that I’d been looking for at every train station since we landed in Japan- the vending machine that dispenses actual food – as in nice hot food…french fries and burgers and the whole unhealthy yet delicious lot.

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Do you come in a halal edition?

Despite the hunger pangs we had to pass since we couldn’t be sure if it was halal (no idea what oil they use) so we walked hungrily back to the bus, me with an ornamin C and ma with an enthusiastically purchased jasmine tea. At this point I was craving anything salty that was NOT salted nuts and I would have killed for a pack of crisps. And just as I said this to ma, Z got on the bus… with a halal pack of Pringles. God works in mysterious ways. This pack of Pringles, I enthusiastically devoured, while ma tried to pass of her failure of jasmine tea to Z…who liked it. Success!

The skies darkened around us as the mood in the bus began to lighten up thanks to our resident MC’s efforts which left us in stitches of laughter despite our exhaustion. We learnt that one of our tour buddies had been on the same exchange program that our せんせい had been on years ago, in which she had met her husband. There were songs and stories and finally we were all asked to share what we had loved most about the trip- from the places to the food. The sukiyaki was a clear winner along with Mt. Fuji, but there are always outliers – like the one person who only enjoyed plain Japanese rice and another person whose favourite place was the company of his newfound friend. ^^ For me personally today’s visit to Nikko had been the highlight of my trip along with the mouthwatering yakiniku where I had to exercise the most self-control.

The mic passed down the bus, from one person to another, all of us sharing our thoughts on the trip. I just wanted to thank our せんせい, both of them in fact, for their patience in deciphering the halal quotient of ingredients for any and every food you could find in Japan, and that too in record time. I also wanted to thank everyone for having looked after ma as well as they had but I was too shy to say anything so I’ll just say it here instead.

Time seemed to fly and the bus ride back seemed nowhere as long as when we had set out in the morning. Before we knew it we were back in front of our hotel and walking towards dinner which was waiting for us at Saray Akasaka. This time our dinner buddy was せんせい’s daughter and in all her bubbly enthusiasm we exchanged all possible forms of social media contact details and that’s when it hit me. The trip was coming to an end. The next day would be our last and then who knew when we’d all come together again. With that thought, we headed back to the hotel to pack in preparation for our early checkout. It would be the last night I’d sleep on my bead filled pillow. The last night we would attempt to make tea in the kettle that doubles in a practical thermos the way only Japanese products can. There were a lot of lasts on a day that had been filled with firsts.

Missed Day 9 Part 2 in Nikko?

Stayed tuned for our last day in Tokyo!