Monday, April 27, 2009

Japan 2009: Thursday & Friday, April 23 & 24

We had arranged for a taxi to pick us up to go to Kyoto Station at 11:00 am, so we made sure we were packed & ready to go early. It was not easy to get everything efficiently in our bags, & we were really glad for our rolling luggage... There was time before leaving to take one last walk around the block, so we did. Charlie & Brendan showed me the temple with the dekkai (huge) bell that they’d visited a couple of days ago- it was really impressive, with the striker as big as a telephone pole.

Our taxi arrived & we made it to the station with no difficulties. There was a waiting room near our platform, so I left Charlie & Brendan there & went in search of eikiben (lunch). It really was a search, too, since there were at least 5 different places selling all sorts of bentou. After making my difficult choice, I went back & waited just about 10 more minutes with the guys until it was time to haul our luggage up the escalator (no small thing) to the platform. I got a picture of the shinkansen pulling in :) -it’s a pretty impressive sight no matter how many times you ride it.

Our 3-hour train ride was pretty uneventful. We had been instructed to call a person from the rental company from Kyoto & also from Tokyo station when we arrived, because they were going to meet us at the Nakano station & take us to the apartment there. We got a bit turned around when it came to finding the platform for the trip to Nakano Station, but a very nice gentleman standing nearby made sure we got on going in the right direction. We were pretty tried by this time, so it was a great relief to find the trip to meet Makoto-san at the station only took 15 minutes. He kindly took over rolling one of our bags, so Brendan found hiimself free of encumbrances at last. The streets in Nakano were just as narrow & twisty as our Ueno neighbourhood, but the area is much newer. Our apartment is over a 7-11 :) with a master bedroom & tatami room with futon for Brendan. The kitchen/dining/living room area is cosy, but comfortable. There’s a small ofuro, but it works :) The biggest disappointment is that the internet connection advertised doesn’t actually work :(. However, the tv does so we’ve been getting our NHK (Japanese equvalent to PBS) fix instead.

Charlie & I headed out to shop for dinner & breakfast (there are loads of conbini & even a fresh veggie market nearby), then hurried home to cook, since we were fading fast. Brendan tried the ofuro after dinner & we wound down to sleep after a long day of trains & stations.

Friday morning Brendan slept longer than Charlie & I did- amazing :) We had a nice breakfast of toast, tea, apple, & a sweet roll. This was the only non-travel day so far that we had to be somewhere on time, so we watched our NHK shows & the clock until it was time to take the train to Kichijoji Station to meet Shizuka & Jon.

We got there a bit early, but there was a lovely panya (bakery) right outside the station, so we stopped in & had second breakfast, just like the hobbits :) Brendan found some fried potato cakes that he really liked, so we decided to come back before taking the train home to get take-out. We found Shizuka & Jon just about the time we’d hope to meet them, then we all headed out for a ~2 km walk to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. It was so wonderful to see their familiar faces! The walk to the museum was through a lovely park, like something out of a Miyazaki movie, & we had a great time catching up while we walked. I think Brendan was the most relaxed I’d seen him on the trip so far :)

The museum was as amazing as we’d heard. All of the buildings are in the old-fashioned style of a Ghibli movie & gorgeously decorated, from the stained glass in all the windows (featuring characters from the movies) to the gardens all over (& on the roof, with a large robot from Laputa as the centrepiece),
& even to the bathrooms, which were quaintly gorgeous. The exhibits featured different kinds of animation, with some hands-on stuff, & also a replica of Hayao Miyazaki’s studio & study. There was even a 20-minute original film (the ticket for the film contains a couple of cels from one of Miyazaki’s films & it was fun figuring out which ones we had) featuring characters from “My Neighbour Totoro” & was really cute.

After the museum we walked back toward Kichijoji to eat lunch at a restaurant run by a friend of Shizuka & Jon’s, who had also been an exchange student to the US. We were to meet another friend of theirs, Kae-san, who would be spending the afternoon with us. The restaurant featured fresh, mostly veggie, Japanese food, & an interesting assortment of teas. The meals came on wooden trays with a multitude of bowls large & small, & included rice, soup, & pickles along with the main course. Mine was an assortment of dishes, including manju made with cabbage (very soft & mochi-like), sashimi, fresh veggies lightly seasoned, & duck- which I gave to Shizuka :)
Brendan had steamed vegetables & tofu, & Charlie’s was an interesting-looking pork dish (which turned out to be cold). It was all delicious. Dessert was mango sorbet with two, small, exquisitely sweet tomatoes with a tart/sweet sauce on the side, & it was also absolutely delicious. In the middle of lunch another friend of Shizuka & Jon’s from exchange student days, Mami-san, arrived unexpectedly (being also a friend of the restaurant manager’s) & joined in the fun. We had a wonderful time talking & laughing together.

After lunch we all walked over to Yuzawaya, which is a many-floored store selling craft supplies, among other things (including clothes). Shizuka had printed a multi-page advertisement from Yuzawaya from the internet for me a few months ago so I could see what they sell, & I’d been really looking forward to going there ever since! By the time we got there, though, I found that I really had to focus on looking at one or two kinds of things because I was just so exhausted from all the travel (I’ve been finding it a bit hard to think clearly from mid-afternoon on lately, all from being so tired). So I decided to look at the knitting & crochet books (I wanted to find a crochet book for our friend Momoko-san, back at home) & also the fabrics, since I’d seen in the advert they have character fabric from popular tv shows. I’ve been wanting to re-cover Brendan quilt for a while (it’s one I made right after Charlie & I were married & it’s looking really shabby these days...) & I knew he would love it if I used some special fabric from our trip.

The knitting & sewing department took up one whole floor (or so I thought...) & I found a nice crochet book pretty quickly, but didn’t have much luck finding the fabric (although I found a couple small pieces of chirimen fabric for me). We had split up our group & decided to meet every so often, so that’s all I accomplished before our first meeting time. Brendan was happy to have found another Kamen Rider book, so we asked him to look for some small gifts for his friends next, & I looked at bentou boxes on my way back to the knitting department to meet Shizuka & Kae-san. Kae-san decided to go with me to try & find the fabrics, & when we went to the next floor, there it was! There was another whole floor of fabrics, it turned out. We found two different Kamen Rider fabrics & I bought a meter of each. Then we met up with everyone & went downstairs to the bookstore to look around.

Shizuka, Jon & friends walked us back to the train station before saying goodbye. We’d had such fun spending time with them- I think it was the most relaxed I’d felt all this trip & Brendan had obviously had a wonderful time, too. We stopped at the panya for take-home yummies, then found our train & headed back to our apartment in Nakano. We stopped at a conbini for more dinner food, then trudged home, tired, but definitely happy :) When I unwrapped the fabric I’d bought, Brendan was delighted! He spent a lot of time looking at the fabrics & chatting about them :) I was less than delighted to discover that the omiyage I’d packed this morning to give our friends was still in my bag :( I’ll have to get Kae-san’s address & send it to her when I get home! (I can give Shizuka & Jon’s to them when I see them...)

We had a relaxed evening eating dinner & watching goofy Japanese game shows on tv (Brendan loves the “batsu-gamu” part- the penalty when the contestants, usually comedians, get things wrong- they’re really goofy). Tomorrow, we go in search of an internet cafe so I can post this :)


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