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Do As Tokyo Does Orange Picking, in the Dark
(Entered Dec. 09, 2008)
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When you go to an orange grove to pick oranges, is it better to go in the daytime, when the warmth of the sun is shining down on you, or should you go at night, when it's cold and dark, like a thief...? The Hato Bus company has something to say about that.
Mikan picking is just one of the myriad of tours Hato Bus offers, and the day started off like most Hato Bus tours do, with an early morning departure from Hamamatsucho bus terminal. We were only on the road for 30 minutes or so when it was announced that we'd be stopping for a while. Were we there already? No. We'd arrived at some strange man-made island out in the middle of Tokyo bay that was between this underwater tunnel and a bridge, that connects Tokyo with Chiba. It sounds more interesting than it really was though, and if you're thinking that it doesn't sound interesting at all, well case in point. I'm not sure what the island's purpose was, but it was full of little restaurants, convenience stores, cafes, gift shops and what have you. Five floors of them! It even had a Starbucks. We spent like 40 minutes there and I was like, 'Can we leave soon?'.

Man made island in the middle of Tokyo Bay

We finally hit the road again but quickly pulled over for another stop, this time at a little vegetable market out in the countryside. It might sound quaint and all, but the place had definitely seen better days. The shop was packed with three Hato Bus tour groups though, so I guess they must be doing something right. Perhaps the big draw here was that we all got to scoop one hand in a bucket of peanuts and whatever we could grab (with one hand), we could take for free. Here's Kumi having a go.

free handful of peanuts

The day wore on but we weren't picking mikans yet. Our next stop was some place in the hills that supposedly had great autumn leaf viewing. However a huge traffic jam ensured that we sat around on the bus for about 2 hours... We did at least get a pretty tasty lunchbox.
When we finally arrived, the bus let us out to walk around. They told us to be back in about 2 hours. Another 2 hours? I wondered if we'd ever get to pick some mikans...
We had to walk through this weird radioactive tunnel to get to the viewing spot.

radioactive tunnel

It was a nice day at least, clear and warm, but the leaves where still pretty green in my book.
Don't be fooled into thinking that nobody is around. The area was packed with hordes of people. This shot was taken from a small bridge, looking up the river.

not quite fall yet

After this we piled back into the bus, and began another long journey to wherever the mikans were. We arrived at the perfect mikan picking time (according to Hato Bus). Dusk.

mikan picking at dusk kumi

Which in the hills of Chiba quickly became night. Mikan picking in the dark! Almost all my shots were ruined because I didn't have my tripod. Had to resort to using my flash.

mikan picking at night mike

The goal of mikan picking is to stand around eating as many as you can, and one guy on our bus apparently ate 12 of them, but I had a different agenda. Annoyed at having to pick mikans in near total darkness, I resolved to strip those mikan trees bare! It was cold and dark, my fingers were numb, but while others ate, Kumi and I picked for all we were worth.

mikan tree in the dark, what fun!

We lost count as we filled our bags and pockets with mikans, but when we got home we counted our booty and discovered we'd come away with 42 fruits! Not bad, but still not enough to cover the tour expense.

mikan oranges at home in a pile

I've learned my lesson though. Next time I'll do all the planning and driving myself. All the most enjoyable day trips I've had in Tokyo were the ones where I've taken that approach anyway.
In the meantime though, it's time to get busy eating!



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