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Oizumi Gakuen and Yoshida House

Yoshida House

We arrived at Narita airport after a 12 hour flight starting at 5.30 am and arriving at 4.45 pm local time (7.45 pm to us NZ time) to find it very hot and humid. We whisked through customs and immigration and figured out the cheapest way to get to our funky guest house Yoshida House way out the other side of Tokyo at was to take three trains. Firstly we took a Keisei limited express (the slowest and cheapest at Y1000) to Nippori interchanged to the JR Yamanote inner circle running to Ikebukuro where there was another crazy interchange, this time with no English titles to tell what we should do.

The ticket machine in Japanese with the hole in the wall

After bashing our heads against a brick wall trying to figure out the money machines, we noticed a red button with a little sign in English saying "Help" and pressed it. Almost immediately a head peered out through a little trap door and waved at the machine to put money in for two and press 230 which we did. Then there was the uncertain question whether this train would stop at Oizumi Gakuen, the little suburban stop where Yoshida was located.

When we arrived we found the little neighborhood didn't resemble anything the internet map said. But a kind young woman led us a block towards our destination, which began to make sense except the 7-11 was in the wrong place. Then another kind friendly Japanese man told us there were several 7-11s and sent us further towards our destination in the dark residential streets. Finally I began to explore up alleyways and finally stumbled on Yoshida House in the dark almost unable to be seen because it is so heavily covered in vegetation!

This is a truly far out watering hole, frequented by long-term expatriates, which we discovered on the internet when our Japan Lonely Planet had only uncharacteristic upper class accommodation. We have a double bunk room for only Y3500 a night for both of us which is well under Tokyo rates. We get free air con, free internet and a kitchen we can use to cook for free. A washing machine we can pay for and the wonder of wonders, I tried out wireless on my laptop and have free international coverage from somewhere - goodness knows where, so using my computer is virtually as if I was sitting in the house at home.

Sakano at Yoshida

Yoshida House has been a real home to us. We have stayed three times and come back again and again because we know and like the people here and the house and Oizumi Gakuen are a really nice place to be when in Tokyo. Sakano has been both patient and helpful and our contact with Shon catalyzed the most creative phase of our travel round rural Japan. Above all we love to be in a house covered in creepers and green plants in the biggest concrete jungle on the planet.

Shon at Yoshida

Returning to our two bunk room at Yoshida in the evening after our stay in Kyoto was the next thing to a home coming. Sakano, the proprietor was still there to greet us, protesting mildly that he had wanted to go because he had a friend staying at his home, waving a note he had written saying "Dear Chris King - I welcome the Second Coming" - finessing the fact it was actually our third visit.

Yoshida is absolutely covered in greenery and creepers !

Today is packing day and making the multi-stage transit from Oizumi Gakuen, our quiet residential neighbourhood on the North Western fringes of Tokyo to Narita, a city 45 kms East, making at least two changes of train after dragging our overload baggage on a trolley the mile or so to the station, grateful even to spend the night sleepless in the plane at the thought of having a whole house to wander through and a comfortable bed to sleep in on our return.

Rice harvest painting using different varieties of rice previewing the tsunami that followed

Urban garden communes

Views of the local temple and cemetery near Yoshida House

Views of the local residential neighbourhoods up the small side streets

The neighbourhood was split by a stream with footpaths on either side

Another nearby temple with a radiant altar

Views from the nearby shopping center of Oizumi Gakuen

All the services here are very pricey and things like fruit are very expensive and of ridiculously flawless quality. I saw an apple for $4 the size of a small pumpkin and grapes that look like they were stage set models. However technological stuff and imported Chinese textiles are competitively cheap. There is almost no such thing as bread and butter and cheese although we have found how to find a Supermarket which has some small stocks.

Extraordinarily elegantly packaged produce in the mall

Endless varieties of mushrooms

Elegantly packed seafood of all descriptions

A connoisseur's variety of green teas on sale

Perfection in just deserts

A back street two-dollar shop

Next to a little sake bar

Two massive push bike parks, one multi-storey secured
for rail commuters to get to and from home

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