Friday, April 17, 2009

Japan 2009: to Kyoto

Well, today began rather early, when Brendan woke up for good at 2:00 am local time. He read, restlessly, for a while & finally Charlie & I were as awake as he was... so we decided to have a tea party at 3:00 am :) I made tea & got out the candies we’d bought yesterday, & we put one of our favourite Miyazaki films (the only one we brought this trip) “The Cat Returns” into the laptop & we settled-in to watch & pass the bags of candy around (& sip tea). It’s a lovely movie, quiet & sweet, with just enough action. Whenever we watch our Japanese movies with English subs, Brendan & I retranslate some of the subs for Charlie (we don’t always agree with the translations :) & so we passed a very nice hour & a half. Brendan then resumed reading by flashlight (& Charlie & I dozed) until a little after 5:00, when they got up & Brendan had a shower & then got into the ofuro for a bit.

I suggested to Brendan that I type the rest of his memories of yesterday for him, so he won’t get too far ahead of himself & forget the details of our travels. He’d started his first travelling blog post yesterday but didn’t get much past our arrival at the ryokan. I really would like him to do as much of the typing (& therefore, composing) of his blog posts by himself, but he’s only just becoming independant at school with typing his schoolwork (he’s had scribing assistance for as long as I can remember), & I really don’t want him to lose his thoughts about our trip, so I’ve decided to assist as necessary. (The main reason I have mixed feelings about scribing for him is that it’s really hard to make it purely his work- we bounce back & forth about how things are worded, or he loses his train of thought & I have to prompt, & things get lost as I try to catch up with his voice...)

After typing the rest of his day, Brendan & Charlie decided to go out & hit the local “conbini” (convenience store) for some food for the train. I am the only one of us who absolutely adores “eikiben”, or train bentou (Charlie finds them full of greyish-looking food that may or may not taste good, & Brendan only eats what he can obviously identify- usually rice- but I just love it all, no matter if I know what it is or not), so I am the only one who knows for sure where her next meal is coming from :) Today is cooler & cloudy, & the weather report shows rain is likely, although no rain yet this morning. (Yesterday was gorgeous- sunny & mid-70’s :) Today looks good for spending 3 hours on a train, at least. The guys came back from the store with, among other things, bowl noodle & ice cream, & both are being consumed as I type (Charlie, the ice cream & Brendan the bowl noodle). Brendan has been “natsukashii” (nostalgic) about the bowl noodle he had last time we were in Japan (so many more types to choose from than in the US), so I think he found this an equivalent experience to my finding sakura trees yesterday :) He also brought us 2 mitsuya ciders (my favourite soda) so I’m having that- it’s not quite 8:00 am right now (& breakfast is at 8:30), but we have been up since 2:00-ish...

In Kyoto: It’s a good thing today was a travel day, since 3 hours on a train is a much better way to cope with jet-lag than trying to sight-see. We packed up after breakfast & the innkeeper called a taxi for us to arrive at 10:15. We thanked our host & hostess profusely for a lovely stay & were transferred to the care of an equally attentive taxi-driver for the trip to Tokyo station. The traffic became denser & denser as we progressed through town, & it was interesting to see different parts of Tokyo, at least in passing. Once we got to the station we puzzled out the signs to the office to pick up the JR Rail passes we’d bought while still in the US (advantages: less expensive fares, unlimited use of the JR system trains while the pass is active, & no hassles with using credit cards to pay, since they’re already paid-for). It took about half an hour to get them, which tried Brendan’s patience, but we were finally on our way to a place to sit & wait (just another half hour) until we could make our way to the platform for the 12:03 Hikari (one of the shinkansen lines) to Kyoto. I found some likely-looking eikiben (train-station bentou lunches) & bought 2 different ones for us to pass around. Charlie came up with some pastries to add to lunch, & Brendan bought us drinks with his spending money (we’ve decided to give him 1000 en daily- which is about $10.00 US- to use or save as he wishes- more lessons in financial planning :). We boarded & found our seats, stowed the big bags, & settled in for lunch & 3 hours to rest. Charlie was the only one who dozed, though. Brendan spent a lot of time trying to snap pictures & take little videos out the train window. I was starving, so I worked my way through the bentou- Charlie & Brendan were forced to join me in defense of their own lunches :) Charlie actually liked a lot of what he saw & ate, too. Then the guys played cards & I finished reading my newly-purchased Bleach Volume 38 & looked at one of the Kyoto books. Next thing we knew we were at Kyoto Station & looking for another taxi...

...Which led us to what I’m beginning to think is a Kyoto phenomenon: the taxi driver who doesn’t know how to get you where you want to go. This happened to us the last time we were here, too. We had an older (male) driver & we even had the instructions written in Japanese (to a place that was pretty well known), but he had to ask a few other drivers for advice to find the place. In his defense, the Japanese system for indentifying buildings is very complicated & the streets are numerous & extremely narrow- but I do remember thinking last time, “This guy drives a taxi & he can’t read a map?” I found myself thinking the same thing today. We had another older man driving us, & he puzzled mightily over the map & instructions printed in Japanese, & even had his cell phone out to call one of the numbers on the directions we had, when we spotted a younger man (a shuttle-bus driver) grinning at our scenario through a window. We nodded him over & he consulted with our stone-faced driver & convinced him that he could do it, I guess, because our guy put the phone away & drove off (I mouthed “arigatou” to our rescuer) & in less than 10 minutes we were there. Such a fuss..,

Fortunately, we were in raptures over our Kyoto home-away-from-home & the hurry-up-&-wait couldn’t really put a damper on our enthusiasm once we were there. We are staying in a remodeled, “machiya” (old-fashioned Kyoto-style) house. It is gorgeous! It’s one of a row of homes reached by an alley with a gate, off a narrow, one-way street. It’s two-storey (very steep stairs) with 2 bedrooms & the breezeway for hanging clothes to dry upstairs, & the kitchen, dining area, washer room, ofuro, & bathroom (separate rooms, as is traditional here) downstairs. Small, but comfortable. Brendan’s first priority was to get some online time to make up for the last few days offline, so I pulled out the timer (he gets 40 minute “sessions” of computer time at home, so why not keep things consistent here?) & figured out the wireless set-up for him. Charlie & I read the book of instructions for everything in the house & then made a shopping list. The nearest supermarket was much farther than the nearest conbini (on the map in the instruction book), so we decided to do the conbini thing until we got our bearings. I showed Brendan how to download pictures from our 3 cameras- his job between computer sessions- & Charlie & I left him to go get food.

The conbini (a 7-11) was about a large city block away, just across the large street where our little street ends, which was a relief. We were back before Brendan had even finished his session, which was a good thing because the poor kid quietly self-destructed as soon as the laptop closed. It was about 5:00 pm, & he’d been up since 2:00 am-ish, so it’s no wonder. I was able to get his evening medicine into him (with some grape soda :) & he did manage a few chips for dinner (sigh). Although Charlie coaxed him to change into jammies, he planted himself on his futon fully clothed & fell right to sleep.

Charlie & I had a more leisurely dinner of onigiri, chips & salad, then I watched an anime online while Charlie began sorting out his bed & bedding & ended-up falling asleep (I wondered why he was so quiet...). He came back down half & hour later & we giggled a bit over his nap, then we looked at books & got some ideas for what to do tomorrow, which looks like it’s going to be beautiful. Brendan & his jet-lag will be a factor, but the books say that most temples & jinjas (temple= Buddhist, jinja= Shinto) are open early- yay! The area we’re staying in was the historic centre for ceramics in Kyoto, & there’s a temple & a street of ceramics shops within a ten-minute walk of our machiya- seems like a good place to start!



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