Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beaches, Monkeys, and Crabs, Oh My!

Several people in Husband's office went on a trip to Shimoda over a 3-day weekend and were kind enough to invite us along. Unfortunately, a typhoon was either about to come through or had just come through, so there was a lot of wind and rain.

After a four hour drive, we arrived at the hotel just before sunset. If you don't speak a lot of Japanese and are looking for a beach getaway, this is a great place. It's owned and operated by English speakers and is across the street from the beach.

It may not look like much in the picture, but two of the kids almost got swept away by deceptively powerful incoming waves. You know, the kind that are only up to your ankles or shins and are fine for adults but are strong enough to knock over a seven-year-old. Don't worry, though, the kids are fine. They didn't want to stop playing on the beach even after that.

Shimoda is mostly known for it's beaches, but the hotel had some pamphlets with attractions around the end of the peninsula. There's a teeny little place about an hour away (on harrowing, windy, crazy spiraling roads, but every road on the peninsula is like that) that boasts of monkeys. The facility has obviously seen better days, but it was a neat way to spend part of an afternoon.

Don't let the bars fool you, it's the people that are in the cage, not the monkeys. The monkeys are wild and go wherever they please. People can also walk around as long as they don't have any food (for their own safety). After paying our admission fee, we were put on a bus to go down the hill and ushered into a small cement building that contained a small seating area, two broken bathrooms, and a counter selling slices of oranges and yams.
Please, sir, I want some more.

When we had handed out all the food, we went to check out the rest of the grounds.

Check out the people exhibit! They're so exotic and mysterious.

The monkeys have a nice beach view.

Driving back to our hotel, we took a route that brought us along the coast. This was taken from a scenic rest stop.

We also stopped briefly at the Minimiizu Aloe Center. All products contained aloe, from cosmetics to soft serve ice cream (delicious) to jelly desserts. The jelly dessert in question came in a tube like a glow stick; I had a free sample and I couldn't believe how good it was. I have no idea how that place could possibly stay in business at that size with so few people around, but I wish them continued success.

Back at the hotel, we heard tales of crabs living in the woods up the hill in the tsunami evacuation area. Crabs in the woods? We must see this for ourselves! Our friend's son said he wanted to see the crabs, but didn't want to walk all the way up there. Husband told him he was going to miss out because Husband was going to find a crab and wear it as a hat and not show him the picture.

The kid did decide at the last moment to come with us and it was totally worth the trip. I'm used to seeing orange salamanders after rain in Vermont, but orange crabs? I had no idea they lived in a tree-and-dirt environment.

Also, Husband is nothing if not true to his word. He did, in fact, catch a crab and wear it like a hat.
He named it Ralph.

Here's a video in which I try to get close to a crab, but it stopped moving, and I was afraid it wouldn't show up on the video because it was pretty well camouflaged. Poking it with a stick didn't make it move, so Husband reached out to pick it up. Not only did it bolt, but it jumped on my sandal. I had a brief but terrifying vision that it could climb up my pant leg, so I did what anybody would do — shrieked like a little girl and waved the camera about like a crazy person. Enjoy.

And on the way back downhill, we saw this guy.
I just like this photo.

The next day, a walk on the beach. The waves are a little more calm,  but a lot of doomed sea life has been washed up on the shore.

Small jellyfish, about the size of a bottle cap.

Barnacles on a bottle. We threw the bottle back to try to save that still littering? I guess it doesn't matter because it washed back up on shore almost immediately.

Portuguese Man-O-War!
I spent probably more time than I should have trying to rescue beached critters. I didn't touch the man-o-war, but I threw several bottlecap-looking jellyfish back and a couple things covered in barnacles. By Monday, a crew had gone over the beach and removed most of the debris, so our last beach walk of the trip was significantly more scenic and less depressing.

We also had the chance to try wasabi ice cream. I guess Shimoda is known for its wasabi, so it kind of makes sense. We had to try it once.
Not my picture, but that's what it looked like.
Least refreshing ice cream ever. 

It was the taste of wasabi peas (except definitely fresh wasabi, it's like the difference between canned and fresh pineapple) with the texture of soft serve ice cream. It was spicy enough to actually be a little difficult to eat, I had to pause between bites so my tongue could stop being both frozen and on fire at the same time. It was really peculiar.

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