They don’t celebrate Memorial Day Weekend in Japan. But to me, that is the official start to the summer and I was feeling deprived. In April, there was an article in Metropolis (my new bible on All Things Japan) about where to go to the beach if you were stuck in Tokyo during the hot and humid summer.
There was a small photo of a nice deck with umbrellas in front of the ocean and the small blurb described it as a hip new beach hotel like the one the company ran in Bali. I checked out the website which was completely in Japanese but then found a blog that had some nice photos. I tried to make a reservation but no one at the hotel spoke English. I asked the American Club concierge to call for me and a day later, I had booked two rooms at the Sayan Terrace in Chiba. I was told that Onjuku beach was in southern Chiba and it would take us about 2.5 hours by car to get there. The weather forecast was for rain the entire weekend (torrential at times) but if I had cancelled the day before, I would have been charged 50% of the cost which didn’t sit well. So, Tom came home early on Friday and we were in the car by 5:30. The first hour was strictly highway but soon we were off and it wasn’t raining and the sky was still light at 6:30. The rest of the trip only took about 45 minutes and it was all along the coast. Our navigation system dropped us in the middle of town and after going in a very large circle we finally found the hotel. It was 7:30 when we checked in and they were stunned. I don’t think they thought we were coming because they just stood there staring at us. And then, they said the magic “choto mate kudasai” basically one minute please and they left the desk and didn’t return for quite some time. About 30 minutes later, our rooms were ready and they were really lovely. The kids had a huge room with three beds and a hang out area, a balcony and a large bathroom. Tom and I had a smaller room but a nicer terrace. The bathroom was mostly made of plastic. We went down for dinner and it was very fancy and had many courses (at least five) but at least we didn’t have to sit on the floor and most of the food was pretty good. After dinner it was back to the kids room for a game of apples to apples. The next morning was overcast but it wasn’t raining so after breakfast (a strange buffet of pita bread with egg salad, tuna salad, lettuce, tomato, fried potatoes and small sausage) we went for a long walk on the beach. There were at least two hundred surfers in the rough waves. The beach was littered with all kinds of interesting things that kept the girls busy while Tom and Hayden threw the football around. As we were finishing up, the rain began and we got in the car to tour around and look for lunch. Leaving the ocean, we climbed into a hillier terrain and our car drove through several tunnels that had been dug out of the mountain. There were rice paddies everywhere and not much else. The entire place was various shades of green. Hungry, with an English map in hand, we found the fresh delivery sushi restaurant and had lobster many ways. Tempura, sashimi, sushi, drowning in miso soup… all delicious. Each time someone ordered, the man would climb up on a stool and scoop whatever he needed out of a very large tank at the front of the restaurant. After lunch, we got back in the car and went in search of the bowling alley we had found on the way into town. We were wearing flip flops and had no socks, not to mention that we have BIG feet but Tom was not fazed. The bowling alley had everything we needed (the shoes came out of a funny vending machine) and we played two games each. The girls had their own lane with no gutters and Tom, Hayden and I competed against each other. After the first game, Hayden disgusted with his low score, went off to find the batting cages. Tom and I continued the competition. In the first game I beat him 104 to 99 and then he brought his A game and beat me 175 to 129. After bowling, we returned to the hotel for tea time in the lobby and the kids went upstairs to hang out. After another multi-coursed dinner, we played Scategories and Apples to Apples before turning in. I was awoken very early the next morning by Tom on his way out to swim. It was a little before 6 and the ocean was already crawling with wet-suited surfers. I took photos of Tom from the balcony – he was easy to spot as he was the only one without a wet suit. By seven, the sun had come out and it was getting hot. The kids woke up and we took our breakfast in a picnic basket out to the deck and ate under the umbrellas. We enjoyed a nice long morning on the deck until a man from the hotel came out around 12:15 and said “check out time. check out time jew ni ji (12:00). We were playing dumb and took our time packing up. I don’t know what the rush was – there was no one left at the hotel. But we packed up and got on the road back to Tokyo. We decided to take the Aqualine which is a bridge tunnel combination across Tokyo Bay with an overall length of 14 km, it includes a 4.4 km bridge and 9.6 km tunnel underneath the bay—the longest underwater tunnel for cars in the world. At the bridge-tunnel crossover point, there is an artificial island with a rest area consisting of restaurants, shops and amusement facilities. Air is supplied to the tunnel by a tower in the middle of the tunnel, called the Kaze no Tō (the tower of wind), which uses the bay’s almost-constant winds as a power source. The road opened in 1997 after 31 years of construction at a cost of 11.2 billion USD. It was the most surreal experience. You get on what looks like a normal bridge and you continue on it for quite awhile and then straight ahead you see what looks like a huge cruise ship only its the entrance to the tunnel (the bridge just stops and down you go). It was out of a sci-fi movie. Very cool. And when we came up on the other side, we were only 20 minutes away from our apartment. The entire trip took 1.5 hours. Happy Memorial Day.