Tuesday was a truly remarkable day. We drove about 3 hours to Yamanashi, an area Jeff and I have been to before. On the way, we stopped for a bit due to Maria's carsickness, and ended up finding an AMAZING hiking spot on the side of the road in the mountains, with waterfalls, and with scary little rickety wooden bridges (oh, and brilliant fall colors to make Jeff the photographer happy).
Shortly after this stop, we found our little noodle shop. We went to the same noodle shop the weekend of my birthday. It is absolutely tiny, with a big, beautiful round cut of tree for a table, and one counter. It was full of many Japanese people eating lunch, but they quickly made space for us to join them at the table. The owner remembered us and thanked us for coming again. She even remembered what part of Japan we are living in! I got to practice my Japanese, and everyone marveled at getting to eat lunch with three interesting foreigners. Maria even got pictures of the group of us! And they were all astonished when Maria stood up. Everyone exclaimed, "ashi wa nagai!" (her legs are long!) All in all, it was a very quirky, and very Japanese experience.
After entering Yamanashi, Maria wasn't ready to get naked yet, so we walked around the town a bit, down some curious side alleys. We ended up seeing a small temple with some beautiful trees and an interesting graveyard on the side of a mountain. Finally, we made it up the mountain to the outdoor onsen... and Maria and I became "bathing buddies." The onsen we went to is the same one Jeff and I went to for my birthday. It's amazing because it's all outdoor on the mountainside, with a view of Mount Fuji. At first, Fuji couldn't be seen due to clouds. But as we sat, we willed the clouds away, and finally, I heard one woman gasp, "Ah! Fuji-san!" By the time we got out of the onsen, we were able to enjoy a clear view of Fuji-san in the sunset. Amazing. (And the ice cream we ate was good too! Yuzu- a variety of citrus- oishii!)