My little guy and I took our first trip to a Japanese beach last weekend. Our big guy really wanted to come, too, but it wasn’t meant to be. Wil was “asked” last-minute to attend a training course which conflicted with our planned trip. I contemplated cancelling our hotel and train tickets, but knew that would mean even more disappointment for Liam.
So, Liam and I donned our back packs last Friday morning and enjoyed a chauffeured ride – thanks, Wil! – to the train station. I’m particularly grateful for his assistance, due to the rain that was viciously pummeling Tokyo that day. At that point, I wasn’t exactly enthused by the idea of a beach trip, but there was no turning back.
I’m glad we went. We had a nice weekend, despite my concerns of travelling more than three hours from home for two nights with just my 5-year-old for company. Feed the kid enough junk food – thanks, Japan! – and give him a few new toys – thanks, Japan! – and he’s a pretty good companion.
The deluge softened to a light drizzle by the time we checked in to Tokyu Shimoda hotel, on the Izu penninsula. It was time to explore. We threw on our rain coats and ventured down the seaside hill the hotel sits atop. Crabs scuttled as we descended the hotel stairs down to the coast. Liam hurried me onward. He wasn’t bothered in the least by the stormy skies.
Although I would have wished for a sunnier trip, there’s beauty in a gray day at the sea. The Pacific was brooding, reminding me of the North Sea off Scotland, where gray days should pretty much simply be known as days. There was no sparkle in the water, no clear demarcation of sky and sea, just a gentle blurring of water and air.
We followed the road briefly before finding a small, sandy beach. We wriggled out of our shoes so the damp sand could tickle our feet and Liam instantly conjured up a big stick to play with. He set to work drawing a portrait of me.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel, stopping first in the basement to obtain ice cream from a vending machine. (Later, I’d buy coffee, orange juice and a can of lemon chuhai, a delicious Japanese concoction of pop and shochu, alcohol distilled from rice, barley or sweet potatoes. Yes. You can get alcohol from a vending machine. Thanks, Japan!) Oddly, our room had a balcony — nice view of the mountains and ocean — but no furniture. Turns out, Liam’s not bothered by rain or by a lack of a chair or even a lack of a spoon. (That’s green tea (matcha) ice cream I’m scarfing down.)
He was eager to try out the mini beach toy set I’d purchased from the 100 yen shop before our trip, so at his urging, we returned to the windy beach.
The next morning, the weather cleared and we walked to the Shimoda aquarium, where we spent a few hours. Liam carried a cartoon map one of the hotel staff had given him and he carefully navigated us into Shimoda, looking out for the landmarks drawn on the map. He took his role very seriously. By the time it started raining again at 3:30, we’d explored a good bit of the city. We climbed hills; smelled beautiful hydrangeas; visited temples, including Ryosen-Ji Temple where Commodore Perry signed the Shimoda Treaty — opening up the port to American ships — in 1854; ate ice cream; and rode a cable car up Mt. Nesugata.
Liam surprised me with his enthusiasm for exploring Shimoda. He’s getting pretty good at this travel stuff.
Even though it was raining, Liam begged for one more foray to the beach. My beach umbrella wasn’t quite what I envisioned when we booked the trip!
We missed Wil tremendously, but I’m so glad I didn’t follow my initial instinct to cancel. My boy and I had fun together. Thanks, Japan!
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