Saturday, April 18, 2009

Japan 2009: Kyoto Day 1

Well, today began at 3:30 am instead of 1:30, a great improvement! Brendan read & watched Inuyasha on the laptop until we joined him at 6:00 am for breakfast. He had his favourite ramen brand from home, although he found the flavour was distinctly different, even though the only outward difference was the writing in the package being in Japanese rather than English... Charlie & I had a sweet roll from the conbini (I had green tea, too) & we all had the delicious Japanese orange juice. We decided to make an early trip to the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple (& then Brendan could shower & have a soak when we got home), so we headed out around 7:00.

Everything was very quiet & it was cool, but sunny & perfect for walking. We crossed the wide main street (Gojodori) & headed to the next neighbourhood over, made up of narrow, hilly roads that twisted up to the temple. We passed lots of shops selling ceramics (as promised) & some sweets shops as well, but none were open yet. The road ended at the bottom of the steps to the Kiyomizu-Dera (“-dera” means “temple”), which was founded in the 600’s & whose oldest present buildings date from the 16oo’s. It was still quiet there, just a group of older Japanese visitors & a few families. We wandered around, finding all sorts of treasures: a beautiful sakura still in bloom; beautifully-painted buildings, some surrounded with silky banners; temple buildings small & large; & beautiful views. Brendan & Charlie paid their respects at some of the little temples, placing money in the boxes, ringing the bell, & saying a prayer. I bought an assortment of omamori- they were kindly labelled in English, too, & I chose some general good luck ones (small & round), a happiness one (square white) & a completely gorgeous blue, pentagonal one for “victory” (all are made from brocade fabrics, with the name of the temple woven into them).

About the time we were getting ready to leave, the tourists started to arrive... and arrive... and arrive. It was amazing to watch busloads & busloads of schoolkids in full seifuku walking in groups (led by uniformed ladies with flags) up the narrow streets to the temple. I was fascinated by all the different uniforms. We stopped at the bottom of the hill (where the buses were all parked) & Brendan & I bought hot coffee in cans to refresh ourselves, while Charlie looked around the omiyage (gift) shop that was conveniently situated to serve the bus visitors. On our way back down to our main street (& home) we passed more sweets & ceramics shops, just beginning their business day, so I think we’ll just have to go back!

It was just another 10 minutes to home, then Brendan had a computer session, a shower, & I filled the big ofuro for him to soak in- he said it was heavenly :) (The Japanese way of bathing is to shower first, sitting on a little bench next to the tub & using a hand-held type shower head that hangs halfway down the wall. Then, once you’re clean, you hop in the big tub for a soak. When you’re done in the ofuro, you cover it up & save the water for the next person. You can even reheat the water later on, which we’ll be doing...).

After ofuro time, we went out exploring again, this time in search of lunch of some sort. We went in a new direction & found a couple more conbini, a supermarket, a couple of wagashi (tradition sweets served with tea) shops, & a take-out sushi shop. The take-out sushi was irresistable- Brendan charged right up & asked the owner (in Japanese) if there was any avocado sushi (Brendan’s favourite), but there wasn’t... Charlie & I found some yummy cucumber rolls & chirashi (a combination of delicious items scattered over seasoned rice) sushi, which we bought. We found some of Brendan’s preferred bowl noodle, among other things, at one of the conbini, so we headed home with our lunch-makings. The bowl noodle proved a bit problematic- the flavour Brendan likes only comes in the “dekkai” (“huge”) size, & he wasn’t feeling “dekkai” hungry, so we decided to break it up into 2 servings, which worked better than expected (the rest is in the fridge, waiting for his next yen for noodles :).

We all rested after lunch, in an attempt to push our bed-times later into the evening, so that we’ll sleep longer into the morning. Brendan did fall asleep, which was a plus :) We woke him up in time to head back out to the grocery store at about 3:00, to get food for supper & breakfast. I hit the wagashi shop first & the lady there was lovely- she gave us samples of sakura senbei- crackers with sakura flowers & other sweet flavours in them- & fresh mochi with sweet fillings. Charlie, who is notoriously dislikes mochi (a special sticky rice that’s been pounded to a sticky, chewy paste), actually liked the fresh ones we sampled there. Then we went to the market, where Charlie found fresh strawberries to add to our dinner. They were particularly delicious...

After dinner Brendan & I worked on his next blog post, but he was self-destructing rapidly from jet-lag, so we encouraged him to read for a bit, to keep him up for as long as possible. He lasted until about 7:10, then ran upstairs, put his jammies on, & fell into bed. He was asleep literally in minutes & didn’t even move when the phone rang...

The phone call was from our landlords, a Japanese and American couple, who were helping us figure out how to use the television. They’d only just installed a new tv system last month & didn’t have the instructions in the house manual yet. We are not uaually that interested in tv (although it’s fun to watch the Japanese shows, especially kids’ programming & comedy shows), but Brendan & I are hoping very much to watch our Kamen Rider & Super Sentai shows tomorrow morning from 7:00-8:00. We usually watch them with English subs on the internet some time during the week after they’re shown in Japan, but it does give us a thrill to see them in real-time in Japan. We managed to catch them last visit & hope we can do so tomorrow. After some fiddling around with remotes & menus, Charlie & I got the cable tv working & watched a rerun episode of Bleach together, just for fun (I translated as much as possible for him).

So, the ofuro has reheated (it talks to you when you press the reheat button & plays a little tune when it’s done- not unlike my rice cooker at home :). Guess I’ll head into the shower & then soak a bit. Tomorrow looks to be cooler & maybe rainy, so we’ll see what happens, then decide what adventures to undertake. Oyasuminasai! (Good night!)



At 11:44 AM, Blogger AnneC said...

Wow that sounds like awesome fun! So cool to hear that you folks are in Japan again. Japan is very high on my list of places I really want to visit at some point...I just wish airports/airplanes weren't so awful (as in confusing, crowded, etc.) these days...

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Larew said...

I'm curious... what is Brendan doing at the dragon water fixture? Does one do something special with the water?


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