Biwako Valley – Omi Takashima – Shirahige Jinja Shrine – my perfect one day! A solitary trip was a much needed break for me, just to be on my own. Japan was an amazement primarily because it meant I would be all by myself in a new country. But here, with Divya and Saikat, people from the University and the I-house, it was never really a lone adventure. I loved that I am not alone, but also missed the feeling of being by oneself.
Getting off at Yamashina, and then boarding the train to Shiga, I had my entire day planned out. Traveling in Japan is never a hassle, because the system is amazing. Train timings, bus schedules and the connected network makes any trip smooth. The train to Shiga felt new – the green coaches running on the Kosei line – unlike the frequented JR line. As I was approaching Shiga, I could see the Biwako rope-way and that’s when the reality sunk in, that I am finally all by myself, away from family and everything close to me, miles apart, separated by the seas. It was an extravagant trip, up and down the rope-way, but I wanted it so badly. Getting down at Shiga, I hopped into a bus to Biwako Valley, and was eagerly peering out of the window to see the view that was getting closer. After a fun ride, I reached the top of the rope-way to a mesmerizing view of Biwa. I have read online, heard from people, and knew it in my brain that Biwa is a lake and not an ocean. But the sight was defying them all – a never-ending blue expanse surrounding me – Biwako (Biwa, the river). Equally surprising was the crowd at the Biwako Terrace. I haven’t so many people together in a long time. There were people everywhere, clicking photos, taking in the view. I joined the crowd, and got lost in the hustle. I missed India’s hustle and bustle, once again. A family wanted a photo of theirs clicked with Biwa in the background. I offered to help and what I got in return was a heartwarming Namaste and a photo of myself, with Biwa. That said, maybe I was being a creepy when I took a photo of a couple without asking them, purely because it was a beautiful frame, and then taking the liberty to show it off to them! Their blank faces is a fresh memory still. The bell and the heart-shaped view point, the xylophones, the fun games through the way up to Cafe 360, and the numerous people I met on the way as I climbed the steep hill made the best of my memories here so far. The Japanese duo I met at the swing surprised me by how they couldn’t say India apart from Indonesia. But thanks to them, I got a video of mine swinging onto the brim of the valley. All that said, coffee was still stupid with the same old cream mix, and no milk. The mini rope-ways up the Terrace and the games and activities were made for people in groups, and it was pretty awkward roaming about by myself. But again, this trip was more than just about petty feelings like that!
Grabbing a plate of Pinecone French fries, I relished my last couple of minutes in Biwako Terrace. I was running short of time to catch the train to Omi Takashima. I was constantly in a dilemma as to why was I actually doing it, sitting in the train to Omi Takashima. It was a relatively empty train, and trip felt lonely suddenly. I was unsure if it’d be worth it – the lone Tori Gate in the middle of Biwa – really?! But all through the Japan days, I have been wanting to see it, except these moments when I was actually traveling towards it. I felt like being alone in the middle of nowhere. But after a 2 km walk from the station, the moment I saw the Tori from a distance – every doubt melted at that moment of perfect bliss! The location of the view point was a huge advantage – it was in the middle of nowhere, not easily approachable – which meant there were too few people. And the ones who made it till there, were the ones who really wanted that moment of peace – staring at the other side of the world, through the Tori Gate. It is considered to be the gateway to heaven. Ironically, what made my day more than the view at the Tori was somewhere in the 2 km walk towards it. As I was walking through the empty road towards the Tori, I came across a tunnel beneath a bridge. Since there was nobody to ask if that’s the route to take, I ventured into it anyway – the best decision of the day. What lay ahead was a sight that would never go away from eyes – tranquil and endless Biwa – no less than an ocean, with only a tiny little stone fence between us – hardly a feet away from me. Being there, with nobody else in the vicinity, the expanse of water was liberating and strangely fulfilling. The lake made small waves, and it felt like a beach as they rose and fell, hitting the stone line along the shore. It felt like a divine intervention to make my wish true of going to a beach in a Japan. I had given up on the plan since there was none nearby, for a one-day trip. But there I was, lost in the waves of a lake that could have easily been passed off as an ocean in itself!
Heading back to I-house, I had a lot to tell Divya and a lot to write about, and a lot more to cherish for the rest of my life!