February 16, 2016

Trip to Omiya and Kawagoe/大宮と川越への旅

On February 14, my son and I rode the Shinkansen again. I had booked a hotel room for my son well in advance, but after returning home from his solo trip to Takasaki to take an entrance exam held on February 11, he said he wanted somebody to accompany him, so I booked another single room for myself, rather than cancelling his and booking a twin room.
2月14日、私と息子は、また新幹線に乗りました。息子用のホテルの一室は、ずっと前に予約していたのですが、2月11日に行われた入試(にゅうし)を受けるため高崎に一人で行って、一泊してから帰って来た息子は、誰か付き添って欲しいというので、息子の部屋をキャンセルしてツインルームを予約するのではなく、自分用にシングルをもう一部屋予約しました。

We were to take the 15:25 train on Hokuhoku Line to Echigo-Yuzawa to take the 15:44 Max Joetsu Shinkansen train, but I learned from the railroad company's website that the train was 20 minutes delayed due to strong wind, so I decided to take the 14:49 train on Joetsu Line. Eventually, we took another train on Hokuhoku Line, which was 19 minutes delayed but was a little earlier than the 14:49 train, at Shiozawa Station.
ほくほく線の越後湯沢行きの15:25の電車に乗り、15:44のMax上越新幹線に乗る予定だったのですが、その鉄道会社のHPで、電車が強風のため20分遅れていることが分かったので、上越線の14:49の電車に乗ることにしました。結局、ほくほく線の別の電車(19分遅れだったが、それでも14:49の電車よりちょっと早かった)に塩沢駅で乗りました。

So, we had to wait more than half an hour at Echigo-Yuzawa Station. I bought a can of beer, Echigo Beer, at the kiosk.
というわけで、越後湯沢駅で30分以上待つことになりました。私はキオスクでビールを一缶(エチゴビール)を買いました。
288 yen. Echigo Beer is Japan's first micro-brewery.
288円。エチゴビールは、全国第一号地ビールです。
I also bought a box of KitKat for my son.
息子用にキットカットを一箱買いました。
KitKat is considered Japan's first "jukensei ouen shouhin" (lit. test-taker cheering up product).
Giving KitKat to someone taking an entrance exam to pray for success is a custom that started in Kyushu, where KitKat sounds a lot like "Kitto kattoh!" (sure to win!) in Kyushu dialect ("Kitto katsu" in standard Japanese), and it's now a nationwide phenomenon.
キットカットは日本初の「受験生応援商品」と考えられています。受験生に合格祈願にキットカットを贈るのは、九州で始まった習慣です(九州では、キットカットが九州弁の「きっとかっと!(標準語では「きっと勝つ!」)」と発音が似ている)が、今では全国的な現象です。

You can write a message in the white space provided on the back of the box,
箱の裏にある白いスペースにメッセージを書いてもいいし、

or you can write a message on each individual package inside the box.
箱に入っている個包装のキットカットのそれぞれにメッセージを書いてもいいです。
My son said he didn't want the KitKat, so I had them all by myself (laugh).
息子はキットカットは要らないと言うので、私が全部食べました(笑)。

Echigo-Yuzawa Station
越後湯沢駅
Shown above is not a Max. A Max is a two-storied train.
上のはMaxではありません。Maxは二階建ての電車です。

Cloudy in Echigo-Yuzawa.
越後湯沢では、曇り。
It was only a 50-minute ride from Echigo-Yuzawa Station to Omiya Station.
越後湯沢駅から大宮駅までわずか50分でした。

In Omiya, it was sunny. The temperature hit 24 degrees C!
大宮では、天気でした。気温は摂氏24度まで行きました。

We checked in at the hotel, and headed for the exam site.
ホテルにチェックインし、試験場まで行きました。


Then, we headed back to the hotel.
それからホテルに戻りました。
I struggled again to take a bath in the tiny "unit bath" (I really hate it!). At 6:30, p.m., we went out for dinner. My son suggested a Japanese restaurant he found on his way to the exam site, but I suggested we go to the station building or elsewhere. Before we reached the station, we found GUSTO.
小さな「ユニットバス」(ホント大嫌いです)で苦労して入浴し、午後6:30、夕飯を食べるため出かけました。息子は、試験会場に行く途中で見つけた和食の店はどうかと言ったのですが、私は駅ビルかどこかに行こうと言いました。駅に着く前に、ガストを見つけました。
Draft beer for me: 484 yen
生ビール(私用):484円
Avocado and shrimp salad for my son and me: 646 yen
アボカドシュリンプサラダ(息子と私用): 646円
Tuna tataki with miso soup (for me): 970 yen
まぐろ(たたき)味噌汁(私用): 970円

Pork yose nabe for my son: 808 yen
豚寄せ鍋: 808円
Ponzu sauce:
ポン酢だれ:
Decanter red (500 ml): 430 yen
デキャンタ赤(500 ml):430円
My son ordered "set drink bar" (214 yen).
息子は「セットドリンクバー」を頼みました(214円)。

Feb. 15
2/15

I woke up before 6 o'clock in the morning, and woke up my son at 7:30. 
私は朝の6時前に起き、7:30に息子を起こしました。

Breakfast
朝食
 I had three packs of natto!
納豆を3パック食べました!
And, 3 cups of coffee in total.
コーヒーは全部で三杯。


I had already more than enough so that I could skip lunch, but the home-made curry was hard to pass, so I had some.
すでに、昼食を食べずにすむ程、一杯食べたのですが、自家製カレーを見過ごせないので、ちょっと食べました。  

My son had much less than I did. After one bowl of rice, he had rice gruel.
息子は私よりずっと小食でした。ご飯を一杯食べた後、おかゆを食べました。
 It was nearly 9 o'clock.
すでに9時近くでした。
We parted at the exam site. It was cold (probably lower than 10 degrees C), and it was very windy. I thought for a moment that I would give up visiting some interesting places and just spend the whole day in department stores and so on. 
試験会場で別れました。寒く(多分10度以下)、また風がとても強かったです。興味深い場所を訪れるのを止め、デパートなどで一日過ごそうか、とちょっと思いました。

I started to walk toward Omiya Koen. Before long, I reached one entrance to the park.
大宮公園に向かって歩き始めました。まもなく、公園の入口に着きました。
The park contains a large number of red pine trees, as well as cherry trees.
この公園には、桜の木と赤松(アカマツ)の木が数多くあります。
I wondered if I could find some matsutake mushrooms in the fall...
秋になったら、松茸(マツタケ)が採れるのかなあ、と思いました。



Monument for Aoki Konyo, who encouraged the cultivation of sweet potatoes to avoid starvation in the Edo period.
江戸時代に、餓死を防ぐため薩摩芋(サツマイモ)の栽培を奨励した、青木昆陽の碑

Stalls
売店
Signboard showing the way to the zoo.
動物園への道を示す看板。
Closed on Mondays.
月曜日は閉館です。
I found one entrance to Hikawa Jinja (Shrine).
氷川神社の入り口を見つけました。
This Hikawa Jinja, Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Jinja, is the Central Shrine of more than 200 Hikawa shrines in the Kanto area, and has a history of more than 2,000 years.
この氷川神社(武蔵一宮氷川神社)は、関東にある200以上の氷川神社の総本社で、2,000年以上の歴史があります。




The approach to the Shrine is 2 km long!
参道の距離は2キロもあります。
Unfortunately, the dango (dumpling) store was closed that day.
残念なことに、団子屋は、この日閉まっていました。

Luckily, I found a library. I thought I could read some newspapers there. Unfortunately, it was closed that day. It's closed on Mondays. Zoo, museum (there is one museum, Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore, in Omiya Koen, ), library... Mondays are not very good days for tourists.
運よく、図書館を見つけました。ここで新聞を読めると思ったのですが、残念ながら、この日は閉まっていました。月曜日は休館です。動物園、博物館(大宮公園には博物館があります(埼玉県立歴史と民俗の博物館))、図書館、...。月曜日は、旅行者にとってはあまり良くない日です。
I reached Omiya Daini (Second) Koen.
大宮第二公園に着きました。
Ume (Japanese apricot) trees were in full bloom.
梅の木が満開でした。

I headed for Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. While strolling, I found just a lot of magnificent trees in private houses.
大宮盆栽美術館に向かいました。歩いていると、個人宅に素晴らしい木々を多数見つけました。

Omiya is famous for its bonsai. I reached the Museum.
大宮は盆栽で有名だそうです。美術館に着きました。
Website of the Omiya Bonsai Museum in English




You can take photos of these bonsai on both sides of this path, but not others.
この道の両側の盆栽の写真を撮ってもいいですが、他のはダメです。













You can also take photos of the bonsai in the entrance hall.
入口にある盆栽も撮影可能です。





It had started to rain on my way to the Museum. I was hoping it would let up soon, but it wouldn't. I gave up visiting Bonsai Shiki no Ie and Omiya Bonsai Mura. Besides, I wanted to visit Kawagoe in the afternoon.
美術館に来る途中、雨が降ってきて、私はすぐ止んでほしいと思ったのですが、止みそうないので、盆栽四季の家と大宮盆栽村に行くのは諦めました。それに、午後は川越に行きたかったので。
Bonsai Shiki no Ie/盆栽四季の家 (Japanese only)
Omiya Bonsai Mura/大宮盆栽村 (Japanese only)

It's a 20-minute ride from Omiya JR Station to Kawagoe JR Station. From the East exit of Kawagoe Station, I walked down the Crea Mall, which is quite long, 1.2 km!
JR大宮駅からJR川越駅まで20分です。川越駅の東口から、クレアモールを通ります。このモールはとても長く、1.2キロもあります。


I finally reached the Taisho Roman Yume Dori.
やっと大正浪漫夢通りに着きました。


One store caught my eye. Store dealing in sake and koji.
一つの店に目が留まりました。酒と麹の店です。






Renkei ji (temple):
蓮馨寺(れんけいじ):




I reached the "Kurazukuri no Machinami".
「蔵づくりの町並み」に着きました。



Kashi ya yokocho
菓子屋横丁





I found one interesting store:
面白い店を見つけました:
Japanese maple soft-serve ice cream
和メープルソフト:
Maple syrup made in Chichibu?!
秩父で作られたメープルシロップ?!

Toki no Kane:
時の鐘:
One of the must-sees in Kawagoe.
川越では必見です。
Unfortunately, under restoration.
残念ながら修復中。

Other stores I found interesting:
他に私が面白いと思った店:

Okara (soy pulp) doughnut shop:
おからドーナッツの店:


Kitchen knife shop:
包丁の店:

Shop specializing in chopsticks:
箸専門の店:
I went back to Omiya, and visited some department stores, which I found quite boring. Instead of going to a coffee shop to kill time, I bought one large cup of coffee at a Lawson (180 yen) and a pack of petit cheese souffle and went to the building where the exam was taking place. I waited for my son on the first floor.
大宮に戻り、デパートを幾つか見ましたが、退屈なので、喫茶店に行って時間をつぶす代わりに、ローソンでコーヒーLサイズ(180円)とプチチーズスフレを買って、試験が行われているビルに行きました。一階で息子を待ちました。

Just when I was about to take a sip, I found a sign which says, "Refrain from eating and smoking here." So, I had to drink the coffee outside!
コーヒーを飲もうと思った瞬間、「飲食とタバコはご遠慮下さい」という看板を見つけたので、外でコーヒーを飲みました!
I had the petit cheese souffle on the Shinkansen train back home. I gave half of it to my son.
プチチーズスフレは帰りの新幹線で食べました。半分は息子にあげました。
Very tasty, but I thought it should contain more cheese.
とても美味しかったですが、もっとチーズが入っていたほうがいいと思いました。

***
My son got this present from the hotel.
息子はホテルからこんなプレゼントをもらいました。
The bag contained one KiKat packet.
袋にはキットカットが一つ入ってました。
I didn't mention above, but I bought this umbrella at the Bonsai Art Museum for 2,000 yen.
上述しませんでしたが、盆栽美術館でこの傘を買いました。2,000円です。
Pricey, but I needed one to go to the nearest station, Toro Station. Besides, it is very well made, and can be a good memento of my visit to the museum.
高価でしたが、最寄の駅(土呂駅)まで行くのに傘が必要でした。それにとても良くできているので、美術館に行ったいい記念になると思います。
***
I was unable to take good photos of Kawagoe due to some problems with my camera. Here are links to some of the YouTube videos I found. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
カメラの問題で川越のいい写真が撮れませんでした。私が見つけたYouTubeのビデオのリンクを貼りますので、良かったら見て下さい。
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksFXBW5UyUI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR3U6PoILy4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQgBoePG1gE

13 comments:

okasan said...

This must be a stressful time for students who need to write the University entrance exams. The Japanese student I hosted last year told me that he is writing 10 exams from January 16 to February 25! I am sure your presence with your son gives him great comfort. During this time you took the opportunity to explore different part of the city and revisiting your home town and found some interesting things along the way. Thank you for sharing!

Hiroyuki said...

okasan: I'm sure that the Jan. 16 test was the first part of the two-day "Center Test" and the Feb. 25 test was the secondary test of a national/public university in the former period. Some students also take the secondary test of a national/public university in the latter period, which is held on March 12.

Yes, very stressful indeed.

ErinBear said...

It is so hard to go through all of these tests. Your son is lucky to have your support! Meanwhile, it's sad that so many things were closed on Monday for this trip, but the Bonsai Museum looked fascinating. Too bad it started to rain, so that you couldn't enjoy it all. Best wishes to your son as he continues with his tests!

Take care,
Erin from California

Hiroyuki said...

ErinBear: Thanks! I hope the juken (entrance exam) season will end soon!

Anonymous said...

You have a good, healthy appetite! It's nice to see people eat well ^_^ I think you were feeling some of your son's stress, maybe? Hearing you talk about your son's exam experience brought me back to almost 20 years ago when a Japanese boy I liked was studying to get into medical school. I mailed him chocolate for Valentine's Day from overseas but he probably didn't have time to pay much attention to food or to me since it was during exam season. I didn't realize how stressful it was for him until seeing this post and the comments above. I waited with anticipation for White Day when he was supposed to reply, but never heard a peep. Now I understand maybe he was just too busy.

Hiroyuki said...

Anonymous: Healthy appetite?! I used to be a big eater, and I still can be on an occasion like this.

My son needs to control his food consumption before taking an exam. Too much food in the stomach is bad for the brain, right?

Sorry to hear about your story. Exams for medical schools are extremely difficult to solve.

okasan said...

キットカットについて、全然知りませんでした、なるほどな。

Hiroyuki said...

okasan: According to this site

http://happism.cyzowoman.com/2013/01/post_1851.html

Nestle Japan started a jukensei (test taker) cheering up campaign in 2003. A large number of manufacturers have followed suit, such as Meiji, which sells "U Curl" (うカール)
http://catalog-p.meiji.co.jp/products/sweets/snack_biscuit/010201/05001.html
U Curl = Ukaru = 受かる = Pass (the text)

okasan said...

I love information like this, so interesting to know! Thanks!

9895039531 seeandoh said...

The Kit Kat and Sure to Win message given by presenting one to an exam taker is a new information for us. Hope your son could clear the Medical Exams. The photos of the Bonsai garden looks very beautiful. It is a wonderful and unique Japanese art. Also the photos of several monuments in Tokyo are informative and gives a fantastic view of the suburbs.

Hiroyuki said...

seeandoh: Thanks for your comment, but my son didn't take an exam for a medical school. He wants to go to an applied chemistry department.

Kawagoe is called ko-Edo, or small Edo (the present Tokyo).

A Hairy Viking said...

Such beautiful bonsai! I love natto but miss the fresh stuff. Over here it is all frozen and the natto is tiny. Do you have a good recipe to make it at home? I would like to try making it myself. Thanks Hiroyuki-san.

Hiroyuki said...

A Hairy Viking: Sorry, I've never made natto from scratch, but I'm sure you can find some nice recipes simply by searching with words like "making natto".