Dining Alone – Day 3

Dining Alone – Day 3

So I vowed to be frank and honest about what I was finding on my tour to Japan and this report is a little more difficult to write than others.   The most distressing part about this trip has been the noticeable lack of tourists everywhere we go.   In Tokyo we noticed it in the train station, when we only saw one other couple that appeared to be foreigners. Actually, they looked Japanese, but were clearly of Japanese descent – the shorts, crocs and the fact that the man was videoing the Shinkansen pulling out gave them away as not native Japanese!

On the train to Takayama I didn’t really expect to see any western faces – we were traveling mid-week on a mid-day train to a place that is not on the daily path.  However, it was on arrival in Takayama that we first started realizing how unusual was our journey.   There were no foreigners at our hotel – but lots of men in suits at breakfast this morning.   Last night we had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant, Suzuya, that serves the fabulous local Hida beef (a favorite from our trip a few years ago).    While there, one of the restaurant workers (just realized I’m not sure if he was the owner, the owners son or an employee) had plenty of time to chat with us, take our picture, look up our blog, post pictures on his page,  bring his computer over to our table so we could show him Esprit’s Youtube channel… you get the picture.   We were the only ones in there at the time.    Later  a lone Canadian came in and then, just before we left, a group of Australians materialized and livened up the place.   But the decided lack of tourists in the center of the tourist district was pretty compelling.

Up until today, though, it was all just personal observations and speculation that tourists weren’t around, since I had not been to this area of the country during this time of year and perhaps this is a normal lull after their April festival season.   Then we went to Furakawa and Shirakawa-go with a driver and the owner of the taxi company we use for our clients.  She took us to the overlook for Shirakawa-go.   When we were done she asked if I wanted to go to the loo, suggesting that the one here was preferable to some of the later alternatives.  We walked into the restaurant there and she stopped dead, looked back and me and said she’d never seen it empty.  It was 12:20pm.   I could tell by the tone of her voice and her demeanor that this verification of what she’d probably already seen with their business came as a shock.   I was just supposing that things were not as usual – her reaction said it all.

The town of Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site with its gassho, thatched-roof huts was certainly photogenic.  And it was easy to get some good pictures without a lot of tourists crowding into shots.  And it certainly was delightful to not have to fight crowds.   So there are blessings in all situations.  My last few trips have been during the high season in the fall and spring.   If you prefer to travel to destinations on the off season, or when there are NOT as many tourists around, then now is certainly the time to come to Japan.    However, remember that for a little while yet, you may be dining alone.

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