Sara Ettlinger’s Cherry Blossom Hot Spring Tour

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Saturday 13 april 4am london time – text from british airways to say our plane from london was delayed by 6 hours.

Boarded the plane. Seen all the movies. Sleeping pill. Wake up in Japan.

Panic for an hour trying to reschedule the connecting flight was unnecessary as when we landed we got a certificate showing BA delay. Handed that in at solaseed air and were put on the next flight to Kagoshima. We landed in Kagoshima at 3 and are already sitting outside waiting for a bus to Izumi which leaves in ten minutes. Almost at hotel Tokah which is in Izumi which is the bottom tip of Japan. Don’t have a street address but we will get there.

Day 1

15 April breakfast of raw egg on rice did not go down well so we opted for toast and jam.  We started with a tour of the samurai homes in Izumi. Pic of me dressed up as a samurai to follow. Then we cycled 20km and we climbed 350m mainly uphill with a flying downhill to lunch. Delicious 4 course meal followed by a foot bath. Along the way we hit one rocky path and I hit the front brakes too hard and flipped over so now I have a smashed watch and bruises to add to my Patagonia scar. A lot more uphill to follow to the park of cherry blossoms but not a flower in sight. Too warm apparently. We rode 42 km in total. Climbed 680 m in total. And we made it to our hotel in minemata which is famous for mercury poison disease. if the earthquake tsunami and nuclear threats were not enough to put us off. Thanks for all your inspirational messages. With love from us on day 1 of our cycle.

Day 2

Sleeping on the floor must be good for us as we missed the 8 o clock wake up. Coley would not enjoy the morning here as the only coffee comes in a can out the vending machine. Breakfast was rice with a sort of fried egg, miso soup, eal, raw fish, okra and tofu.  We then set off on a 50km cycle along the coast line. Not many cherry blossoms in sight but the road was lined with beautiful azaleas. Lunch was a picnic bought at 7 11 and although Amira chose sandwiches, fried chicken, Soya beans and a chocolate croissant ( which was more like raw dough)  all we ate was a salad. After lunch was a challenging hill that we could not conquer so we walked forgetting that our bikes had all our clothes on so pushing it up the hill was as challenging as riding. We were rewarded with an amazing downhill run to our hotel which is a traditional Japanese hotel with an onsen. Basically that’s a shared hot bath where you bath with other naked Japanese women inside and outside. Does not sound so kosher but very relaxing. We are now sitting in the lobby waiting for you to call us. Xx

Day 3

17 april. It was pouring with rain when we set off from our 100 year old riakan in yunoko for Yatsushiro. Our first stop was a shrine at the top of 777 steps. Having climbed the steps and with about 77km to go we rewarded ourself with a McDonald’s double burger and large fries and large coke much to the horror of out goji berry eating  canadian cycle team.
We stopped to buy knives at an authentic knife maker who showed us his ancestors samurai swords.
We then cycled  55 km along the Kuma river to hito Yoshi. It was flat and beautiful. After 79 km in all today we arrived at another beautiful riakan and went to the onsen ( the hot spring with naked women) to try recover from the ride. A large beer and lots more Japanese food dressed in a kimono it was a great day. Exhausted and sore

Day 4

Wow. Today tops it. We climbed 540m up over 20km. Never before have I cycled so long in gear 1 1. But we were rewarded with a downhill of 7km and 500m down. It was stunning scenery. The world at our feet. Trees, waterfalls, flowers, tea, plantations and the occasional Japanese farmer. I slowed down to enjoy the view and kept reminding myself that I am 47 with three children and a husband so I need to brake carefully. Amira waited patiently for me at the bottom. We are about to have a late lunch of miso ramen and then we have 23km with a headwind but flat to go. Enjoy your coffee and think of us.

Day 5

We had a Shabbat experience today. We cycled along a stunning river path, stoping at waterfalls and bridges with Amazing views. After a few hours we came to a small village at 13.45 where we were supposed to have lunch. The first restaurant owner was too nervous to let us in and said she has no more rice. Two teenagers came out to stare at us and Amira conned one into holding a sign in Hebrew saying Japan loves Danielle which she photographed. Our guide asked the other teenager if there was another restaurant in town she pulled out her phone and then ran off down the road. Next thing we were all invited to her parents home and seated in the garden to eat fish, tempura, rice and other delicacies. Including hot coffee. In return I gave her a credo cap! People are good and there is a god. Shabbat shalom.

Day 6

The last day started with a very steep climb. 400m over 7km and then what goes up must come down so we flew down the mountain and onto a busy highway where the Canadians got their adrenalin fix racing the trucks at 50 km an hour down the highway. The reward for survival was an Italian meal of pizza, pasta, caprese salad and tiramisu and real coffee just two minutes from hotel Tokah where we started. We covered 320 km in total. The end.

Day 7

And on the seventh day god created Tokyo. We arrived early at Kagoshima airport so to kill half an hour we went for a massage as one does after cycling 320 km. We found a train ticket machine at the airport so bought a ticket for the train in Tokyo. When we landed we took the monorail and then a tube and came out at shinbashi station. We asked a lady for directions and followed her to The Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza. Amira picked a winner this time. The hotel has a lobby on the 16 th floor with a view of the Tokyo tower. In the morning we ventured out but it was pouring with rain so took refuge in a cheap Korean dept store opposite the hotel that we were told was interesting. We then walked down Chuo dori street, Ginza’s leading shopping street which was closed off for pedestrians on Sunday. Lunch was a buffet at the hotel for $30 which was amazing food. After lunch we walked to the imperial palace through the gardens. From there we took a metro to shibuya where we sat at Starbucks and watched the people walk by. We walked around the area and saw people queuing at Pablo so joined the queue and bought a cheesecake which we have just devoured in our room. About to go to sleep as the alarm is set for 3am and then it’s a taxi to Haneda airport and British airways home. Tokyo is a world in itself.

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