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 [1.16] Around Hikone Last updated 
26 Jan 1999 

From JCMU to Hikone JR Train Station 16 Jan 1999
It was a beautiful sunny January day today -- at least 40 degrees F. So, I hopped on my bike and snapped a bunch of pictures of things I see every time I ride into town to go shopping or to hop on a train. Here's the tour:

Lawson Station, Sign
Lawson Station is the most useful thing since sliced bread. In fact, if you need some sliced bread at 2:18 AM, that's where you go. They are everywhere I go. As far as Hikone, South Hikone, and Kyoto, I've seen no less than 20 different Lawson Stations. This one is about a two minute walk from JCMU. The sign says "Sake" and "Tabako" which means "Liquor" and "Cigarettes". It's your basic 24-hour convenience store, except with all kinds of Japanese stuff like dried squid "jerky" and ready-to-eat refrigerated sushi meals in plastic containers. I'll get some pictures of the inside someday.

Shiruman Lakeside Restaurant Back Corner/Sign, Front Door
It's not the best restaurant in Japan, but it's close to JCMU, and it has some decent Japanese cuisine. Note the tanuki statue by the door. A tanuki is a "raccoon dog." You see these everywhere in Japan near the front doors of just about any business. I'll get more pictures of them later and give you a more detailed explanation, but here's the quick explanation: merchants that display them believe that they will bring prosperity to their business. The thing you see at the bottom of this page is a tanuki statue (a mythical version of the real animal).
See [1.09] for a picture of a meal I have eaten here.

Not too far after Shiruman, there's a small cemetery. Notice how closely the graves are packed together compared to a typical American cemetery.

Along the main road (Matsubara-Michigan Dori, or "Pine Grove Michigan Street") away from JCMU are many fields covered with long greenhouse-type enclosures. I've seen quite a few of these in the area. In this particular picture you can see Hikone Castle way off in the distance on the horizon (on the right, almost at the edge of the picture).

Jack & Betty Amenity Spot
I personally have never been here, but apparently it's a nice hole-in-the wall bar that'll serve you free shots of something that's 190 proof. Like I said, I've haven't been there as of this writing.

Old Gas Station Sign
Speaking of 190 proof, here's a picture of an old gasoline price sign from the gas station down the road a little. Current prices are higher than this, I believe, but you can get the general idea. Keep in mind that those prices are yen per liter. So, multiply by 4 to get a very rough estimate of cents per gallon. I think the top number is high octane (hah-ee-ahh-ku), the middle number is regular (reh-gyu-raah), and the bottom is diesel.
Remember: Gas in the USA is cheap! I don't wanna hear anyone complain about gas prices in the USA until they pass $3.50/gallon.

Pachinko Derby 21
Yes, Pachinko in Japan is everywhere. I haven't tried it myself (I will, just to say I did), but here's a picture of the pachinko place not too far from JCMU.

Champon Tei (Restaurant) Side1, Sign, Side2
This is one of my favorite ramen restaurants because it's so close to JCMU and because it's always tasty and very filling. I'll take a picture of the food sometime, but here's a quick description: ordering "champon" will get you a giant bowl of piping hot ramen noodles (no, not like the ones you buy in the grocery store for 25 cents) topped with cabbage, pork, and a little grease. Makes my mouth water just typing it...

Structures Like This
This particularly large structure (I'm not sure if it's a business or a house) has an interesting "garage". I've seen these around -- most of the time people won't have garages, they'll have these translucent sheilds under which to park their cars.

Vegetables and Mountains
There are quite a few large vegetable gardens in Hikone -- Hikone actually has a lot of space compared to the famous cities you probably picture in your mind when you think of Japan. Some people have their own personal vegetable garden, and some people have a large one that obviously feeds more people.

Strange Swan Boats
Here are some strange boats that I see on lake Biwa when I take the scenic lakeside route (Matsubara Beach Road) into town.

Ok, it doesn't sound too exciting. But where I come from (that would be Michigan), bamboo does not just "grow out of the ground." It certainly does here!

Moat Connects with Lake Biwa View 1, View 2
Hikone Castle's moat is connected to lake Biwa, and many boats are docked here -- sometimes right next to residences. There are always fisherman at the moat, almost any time of the day or night.

Views of Hikone from Johoku Dori (North Castle Street)
View 1 - A quaint part of the street
View 2 - A house
View 3 - A house
View 4 - A side street with Mt. Ibuki in the distance
View 5 - Sidewalk next to Hikone Castle's secondary moat
View 6 - View south (into town) from an elevated walkway
View 7 - Previous view zoomed
View 8 - Hikone Castle (zoomed) from an elevated walkway
Off in the distance on the right side of "view 7" you can see the top of AL Plaza. It's the orange square with the white dove -- the "Heiwado" logo.

Views around AL Plaza and the Hikone JR Train Station
Once downtown, I took a series of pictures and sewed them into this panorama. It's not seamless, but it gives you a nice wide view. You can see the train station directly ahead, AL Plaza, and the Heiwado dove logo on top of AL Plaza. Facing the other direction (northwest) gives you this view. Here's a picture of AL Plaza from across the street (facing west).

Directly in front of the train station there's a statue of Ii Naomasa-zo, the first Lord of Hikone Castle. Facing east, facing northwest, from the 5th floor of AL Plaza, facing east.

Again from the 5th floor of AL Plaza, this picture shows Hikone JR (that's Japan Railways) Train Station and two temples or castles in the distance. I'll have to consult with maps or someone who knows to figure out which ones they are.

Miscellaneous Stuff Left Over
Across the street from AL Plaza, there's a restaurant, and I took a picture of its plastic food display. It's not the best example, but I wanted to show the practice -- Japanese restaurants often have displays in front with plastic replicas of their dishes. They are usually quite realistic, and list the names and prices of the dishes. It's an easy way to shop for a restaurant when you are walking or biking around.

Right next door to that restaurant is a barber shop. I got my haircut there, and here's how it worked:
I walked in.
I saw about 12 employees (barbers and otherwise).
All 12 greeted me in perfect unison: "irasshaimase!"
One offered for me to remove my coat and bag, and showed me to a chair.
A lady ran up and covered me with a towel and plastic hair blanket.
A barber ran up and asked me how I wanted it cut. I told him.
He started to cut. Then he ran off after cutting.
Another lady ran up and asked about my sideburns.
I did want them cut, so she ran off and came back with shaving cream.
She applied it quickly. Then she ran off.
A young man ran up and flipped out a 6 inch razor blade. A large knife, that is.
He proceeded to shave. Quickly. I proceeded to worry. Motionlessly.
He ran off.
Another lady ran up with a hot towel and cleaned off the shaving cream.
She ran off.
Another barber ran up and cleaned up all the edges.
When done, I stood up, and all the 12 employees chimed in unison: "otsukaresama deshita!"
I went to the cash register, an employee ran up, took my 1700 yen graciously, and ran off.
I walked toward the door, and an older barber (maybe the owner?) ran up to me.
He said "thank you" to me in English (the only English I heard the whole time) and bowed.
I replied and walked out.

It was certainly different than your average US barber shop! By the way, "irasshaimase" is what every store owner recites when they see any customer. It basically means "welcome to our store." If you go shopping, you'll hear it 25 times in one day. "Otsukaresama deshita" means something like "you must be tired after going through all of that!" It's a more specific form of "thank you." If you asked someone to do something tiring, strenuous, or time-consuming, you would say it to them when they finished doing it for you.

And the last picture I have laying around from that day is a fashion observation. Here's a picture of some school girls wearing baggy legwarmers. These things are quite popular (the ones in this picture are not quite as ostentatious as others that I have seen). Some are huge, baggy socks that are connected by strings to something above the knee. They look like sweatpants with holes cut out where the front of the knee is and also behind the knee (leaving just strings on the side).

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