Journey in Japan Part 29: Swings and sound and boats

Journey in Japan Part 29: Swings and sound and boats

My hotel breakfast is of the ‘classic’ help-yourself-to-as-much-food-as-you-like style. Not wanting to look greedy, I grab a bowl of rice, some pickled cucumber, a pot of Nattō, a salad, and a couple of croissants. Nattō for breakfast, that will wake anybody up, even the dead. I add mustard to abolish the abhorrent taste.

The day is overcast and threatening rain, but oddly I can’t find my umbrella. This happens a lot actually. The rain stops, I leave my umbrella outside a shop, and when I leave the shop I have completely forgotten about it. Without an umbrella I desperately hope the rain holds off. Quite predictably, the moment I leave the hotel, it starts to rain.

Today I have just two things on my list of things to see. Two things, both very far apart; and this is Japan, so I am bound to see something else interesting along the way. Like a shop in the shape of a boat, for instance.

I head into Arc City, and to the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments. This is the largest municipal museum of musical instruments in Asia, and was the very first of its kind to open up in Japan. The museum has an incredible 1,200 musical instruments on display. It costs just ¥400 to enter.

For most of the instruments there are two sets of headphones. I take great pleasure in looking at each instrument, studying its shape, and guessing how I think it would have sounded, before selecting a pair of headphones and listening to how it sounds. A great way to kill a morning.

The museum has instruments from all over the world; huge sections divided by continent. I learn all kinds of facts about music here. I am particularity interested in transverse flutes, shakuhachi flutes, and Japanese taiko and tsuzumi drums. I also discover that the very first Japanese-made piano was made right here in Hamamatsu. That might explain all of the music shops, Romantic era traffic lights, museums, and two concert halls.

There is a ‘hands-on room’ where I get to enjoy playing various instruments. The spinet piano is probably my favorite to play. I end up losing track of time in the museum, and leave after two or three hours.

Outside, the Cicadas continue to make music of their own, despite the extremely heavy rain. At least one guy seems to be enjoying the downpour.

I take shelter from the weather inside Hamamatsu Station. After taking seven escalators to the 8th floor of the shopping complex, I arrive at a bookshop. In Japan it is perfectly fine to stand around or sit around reading books in a bookshop. It is also fine to stand in a convenience store for hours, reading magazines; completely normal in Japan. I kill fifteen minutes here, before heading back down, to find that the storm has intensified.

Everyone at the station seems just about as prepared as me. They huddle around without umbrellas, waiting for the rain to stop. I dash to Seven Eleven and pay ¥540 for perhaps my sixth umbrella of this journey. The buildings around me enveloped in a white mist of falling water; and I was planning on going to the beach today too.

A time passes and I find myself sitting on the only bench in that lonely shopping arcade. I can’t go back to my hotel for a few more hours thanks to cleaning. The safest place to be in a storm like this is probably a shop shaped like a boat, I imagine.

After a while the rain calms itself down, so I walk to the beach. It takes me one hour. The beach is special because it contains the Nakatajima Sand Dunes. It is also a conservation area for the Nesting Loggerhead Sea Turtle. They land on this beach during the summer to lay their eggs.

“Prazer em recebê-los!” says a drawing of a Loggerhead Sea Turtle, in fluent Portuguese.
“Nice to meet you, too!” I reply, in fluent English.

The area of sand dunes here are amongst the three largest in Japan, and the wooden fences are here to help conserve them. “Do not damage the fences!” a sign warns. The wind is a lot stronger here, and my umbrella is no good; unless I want umbrella number six turned inside-out by the wind.

By the time I reach the sea, I am completely soaked. I was really hoping to see a turtle, but I sadly can’t find any; not too surprising really, they are a rare and endangered species. After the beach I head into a nearby park. There is a big man-made hill in the park built specifically as a tsunami evacuation point. There is also a windmill and a set of swings. I rest my legs for a while.

On my walk back to the hotel, I pass a Pachinko parlor called, ‘God’. I also pass dozens of construction sites promising modern skyscrapers; office blocks and apartments. It seems that the southern part of Hamamatsu is the last and latest to be developed, perhaps in four or five years this place won’t seem so desolate.

The rain stops just before I cross the river.

After walking for an hour, alone, my thoughts begin to wander and I drift off into daydream.

Back at the hotel I can’t recall walking here, but I am here all the same. I dry off, then spend some time researching my trains for tomorrow. It turns out I have another four and a half hour local train marathon to endure. I don’t really mind though; I am finally heading back home, back to Tokyo after forty-eight days of being away.

Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I return to Tokyo in time for two massive festivals, and meet a dog in a bar by clicking here.

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From England, Luke is a writer and editor living on the edge of Tokyo. He enjoys finding the strange and wonderful amongst the seemingly mundane moments of everyday life and travel, and writing about them.

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