Two Moldovans, Two Italians & a Japanese Onsen

After spending a wonderful week in Tokyo, we were ready to explore more of Japan.  Although, leaving Tokyo was difficult.  You could live there for decades and still never have enough time to see everything.

So, while we were slightly sad to leave, we were excited to open our eyes to another side of Japan. 

As with most things, our method of madness is pretty unusual.  For our next location, it was decided purely by looking at the weather map and seeing which city was avoiding the cold front that hit us in Tokyo.

We were desperate for some sunshine and decided on Hamamatsu.  It was a completely random pick and a city we had never even heard of.   All we knew was that it was supposed to be 62 and sunny the next day and that was enough for us. 

After brief searching, we found a very cheap Airbnb that warned of a small room, but promised a view of Mt. Fuji from the rooftop.  With that, we were convinced.

After sleeping in your car for four months, how small could small really be? 

We started our last morning in Tokyo walking in the rain to the train station.  For some reason, our backpacks were feeling lighter.  For the first few days, it was almost unbearable to hold such a load. Considering we’re not exactly the seasoned backpacker types, it was far from easy.

We’re road trippers.  We love having the comfort of our SUV, our four wheels, and a roof over our head.  But, comfortable isn’t what we strive for.

So, in order to break us out of our comfort zones and shake us up even further, we decided to go backpacking! 

Humans are incredible creatures and the body is magnificent.  With time, patience, and will, you can not only overcome what you thought you couldn’t, but it ceases to be uncomfortable.  Which is a great feeling. 

Needless to say, it was a good start to the day.  The only thing we were missing was some soup to warm our bodies and fill our bellies.  Without much effort or even looking, we stumbled upon a sign: “Vegan Ramen”.  Sold!

We walk in and quickly were seated.  The environment was so friendly, we instantly felt warmer even before the food arrived. 

We hesitantly asked if we could share the dish, considering we don’t eat much and hate to waste.  Also, it’s a little difficult to do take out under those conditions. 

Not only did they agree, but they brought us a separate plate, and there was an option for additional ramen for only $1.  Even though, we were full way before it got to that point. 

I never thought I’d say this, but there’s nothing quite like a hot bowl of ramen to get your morning started.  After loading it up with lots of fresh garlic, hot pepper, and pickled ginger, we had everything we needed to overcome the slight cold that was trying to crash our good time. 

Sweaty, full, and satisfied, we were ready to keep going. 

After much gratitude, bowing, and some farewells exchanged, we were on our way to our next adventure. 

Hamamatsu here we come! 

Well… at least that’s what we thought. 

When we put in the address to our Airbnb, we noticed the large discrepancy in the temperature. That 62 and sunny quickly transformed into a low 50s and rainy.  Apparently, the town we thought we were going to was over an hour away from where we had booked our room.  But, we couldn’t care less. 

Shimizu here we come! 

As soon as we got out of the train station, we could feel the incredible difference between the cities. Tokyo is bustling, full of people and vibrant with energy.  And here we were, feeling like we had just discovered a hidden town that had probably never seen a foreigner. 

Within seconds, this elderly couple stopped us in the street to talk with us.  Even though they spoke in Japanese, our skills were getting better and we could make out about 5% of what they were saying.

They asked us where we were from and how the hell did we get here, in so many words.  You could tell just how surprised they were to see us, but gracious and excited.  After a few short exchanges of hand gestures and broken Japanese, we said our goodbyes and continued to our Airbnb. 

We instantly fell in love with this place. There were tiny restaurants and beautifully designed lampposts lining the cobbled streets. Even the rain left a romantic aroma in the air. 

When we finally arrived to the coffee shop below the apartment in which we were to meet our host, he was nowhere to be found.  We laid our stuff down and started to wait, hoping that we wouldn’t be left stranded. 

Within a few minutes, two men walk by and spark up a conversation with us.

“Francés?” One of the men asked.

I quickly jumped up and brushed off my French to respond.  After a brief exchange, we realized neither of us was French, but in fact, they were Italian.

Even better, I thought, the both of us could at least understand some Italian.  At least better than French, and definitely better than Japanese.

We were excited to communicate with someone, and were even happier to find out they spoke English. 

It turned out that one of them was from Italy, but had lived in Japan for 15 years before moving back recently.  He used to teach Italian here and comes to visit once a year to see his friends and previous students.

The other man, who Boris had sparked up a conversation with turned out to also be from Italy but has been living in Shimizu for the past 20 years.  He told Boris that he was a chef and actually owned an Italian restaurant only a few blocks away. 

“Is the food good?” Boris asked.

“No, it’s horrible.” He replied.

“Then, we’re definitely going!” Boris exclaimed.  He always says that when a chef is humble and says the food is bad, that’s when you know it’s amazing! 

So, it was set, we were to have dinner at a real Italian place… in Japan!

Check out Part Two: here.

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