Tuesday, August 12, 2014

24 Amazing hours in Japan: Part 2

We got home at four AM. The house stunk of sake. I hoped the English teachers staying with us were OK, but I had more pressing concerns, namely, sleep.

We woke at ten AM, and out of coffee, stumbled from the house like hungry bears roused too soon from hibernation. We went to a coffee shop that had a morning set. With a morning set, you order a four dollar cup of coffee, and it comes with free toast and a boiled egg. I don’t get it either, but hey, 4 bucks ain’t bad for breakfast.

We arrived late to the rendezvous with our Hungarian artist friend, Chaba. We had been to his birthday party a few days back, and got to see his paintings. They were beautifully intricate paintings of insects around the Hida area. “I painted these to give the temples back to the insects.” It was a stunning collection, and Chaba walked us through the whole thing and had us count the hiding insects before we all ate birthday cake together.

He was more demanding this morning, “Good, you have car. May I use trunk?” Chaba said.  

Disoriented, the coffee not yet percolated through my own system, I nodded. He took a bag from his bicycle’s basket and stashed it in our trunk. Instantly I understood his demands for a car last night. He wanted us to drive. Chaba showed me the guide to the meteor. It had crash-landed 65 million years ago, and had been converted into a hotel for visiting aliens. The guide had great rules to follow including:

Humans believe they are an intelligent species, please don’t ruin this image for them.

Anyone who interferes with the natural evolution of Earth will be sent back in time.

The wine menu had both a Red giant and a White dwarf, and of course Blue Moon for the beer drinkers.

I was laughing my ass off when Chaba’s friend arrived. They piled into the tiny backseat of our Mistubishi Pajero mini. Chaba grunted his distaste at the stash of water bottles we’d been carelessly throwing into the backseat, and we were off.

Chaba barked directions and I did my best to keep up.

“Left ahead.”


“Now. Left.”

The car swerved to and fro but somehow I never missed a turn. We stopped at one point for Chaba and his guest to load up on sweets. Raquel and I used the opportunity to clean the car. They emerged with bags of cookies, and stared at our empty hands. I was totally confused. Why had they gotten so many cookies? Surely one bag would be enough.

We piled back in and headed through a tunnel and into the mountains. We stopped once to see the owner of the land. Chaba and his friend took their bags up to the front door while Raquel and I meekly followed, our hands empty. I understood, the cookies were gifts, bribery if you will. I guess the alien owner had a sweet tooth. But no one was home, so Chaba asked the neighbor if they knew where they were. He didn’t, so they got to keep their cookies. Raquel found some dogs and an old man came out to explain either the dogs, metaphysics, or where the owner of the land was, I had no idea and neither did Raquel. She smiled and we all waited for her to get her butt in the cramped car.

Onwards we went. From a four lane highway, to a two lane one, to a single lane road that snaked through forests hidden in the mountains. I asked Chaba what would happen if someone came the other way. He laughed and shrugged. Great. My navigator thought our deaths were hilarious.

Finally we arrived at the meteor. It’s a beautiful piece of art, truly. It’s ringed in a circle of stones (“the crater, you see?”) and is faded from its original alien colors by the earth’s high concentration of corrosive oxygen and rain. The inside looks like the kind of nest Jane Fonda would wrap herself around an alien lover in, and is complete with a TV for playing scifi movies (adult or otherwise). Chaba pointed out the button for the elevator down into the rest of the structure, but I wasn’t watching carefully, and couldn’t find it again. Damn alien architecture.


After seeing the meteor, we explored the surrounding area. It was an artist’s paradise. There were picnic tables with built in grills, a mountain river for keeping your beer cold, and a little house for when it snowed. The artists all party up there, and perform or sing or dance or do whatever it is they love.

“Even if you are not an artist, you can just bring something you think is beautiful and talk about it.”

I loved the place, and seeing as how aliens had been partying there for millennia, couldn’t wait for my turn on the stage.

When’s the next party?

“Whenever, you want to make facebook event?”

Chaba’s the best. He’s already invited us to stay at his daughter’s house in Hungary and poured me beers while picking my thought about science fiction and aliens, a scifi writer’s wet dream.

There was still more to see though, so we piled back into the car and continued up the path. The road grew more and more dilapidated as the forest grew more magical. Raquel had to keep getting out to pull branches from the path. Chaba explained that bears lived in the area, but it was much more common to see wild boars.

“Don’t worry, they’re only dangerous if they are worried about their young.”

Ah. Wonderful.

Finally we came to a stop at the end of a trail that was really little more than boulders pushed together. We got out, and strangely, walked back down the path the car had barely made it up. Beautiful trees towered overhead and ancient ferns grew thick on the forest floor. Surely a dinosaur would hop out of this prehistoric forest and swallow one of us up.

Chaba led us to the waterfall, through thick moss and the homes of frogs bigger than my fist. We sat in stunned silence for a moment, then all began to snap pictures of the beautiful place before the rain got any harder.

But it was really coming down. Like, typhoon bad. If there was a mudslide up here, we’d be trapped.

We got back to the road and headed back to car while Chaba and his friend walked down the path. I still don’t understand why we drove up that last leg. If there was ever a forest that wanted to swallow a car, that was the one, if there was ever a boulder ready to give way and dig the jeep into the mud, it lived on that last stretch. We drove back towards the meteor, concerned with the amount of new branches on the path. The forest was taking this place back, and it wasn’t waiting for us. I stopped the car one last time to explore a few abandoned cabins tucked into this primordial place. The rest of the group braved the rain for me.

After that we only stopped when a branch too big for Raquel to move fell across the path. We didn’t understand, an hour ago, she’d cleared everything, now there was a tree trunk blocking our escape. I got out too and we both tugged at the tree (it was just a branch, not a tree, thank the Kami, but it was still close to thirty feet long). The four of us managed to lug it off the path, then we noticed its larger brother that was still lodged on top of the house. If that one would’ve fallen we’d have had to have left the car.
We drove back towards civilization, glad to have experienced that alien place, and happy it let us survive.

Click here to find out what happened during the first part of the 24 hours!

Joe Darris Mitchell lives in Japan with his darling wife and a surprising amount of foreigners. If you enjoyed this story, why not share with your friends or hit that +1?


  1. I like the alien rules. I still try to live by them, but it ain't easy.