(The Ryokan in Kyoto was great, but only offered internet on the computer in the lobby, so I was unable to post anything the past three nights, I did however, write two of the days up so far and will post them. This post was written 5/30/06)
Monday started with a Japanese breakfast prepared by our ryokan. Everything was delightful, but Mum and I particularly enjoyed the soft tofu and sauce they had for it.
Our first stop of the day was the Fushimi Inari shrine, which is most famous for the hundreds of orange tori (gates) lined up one after the other. Tech Support and I had been here before, but it was well worth a return.
We hiked up a bit, and wandered off the trail some.
I love the feel of shrines like this, tucked into the woods, with staircases leading off to the side and rocks dedicated to the ancestors. When wandering up these stairs I think whimsically of Miyazaki movies and wood sprites.
We also learned what the red bib (and on some dieties, red shower cap) are foor. Apparently they are for dieties and statues that are outside, never inside, because they feel bad for them being outside and want to give them something to protect them. The red color is related to buddhism (even though this was a Shinto Shrine, Japanese mix religions).
We hiked up as high as we could, time permitting, and then returned to the station because we had an appointment in Nara to meet with That Girl and her family.
The day wasn't as warm as that day in 2004 when a typhoon was blowing through lower Japan and Tech Support and I thought we would melt in Osaka, but the day was very warm.
In Nara our first stop was a traditional style restaraunt for some... interesting food. Certainly it was an experience. I enjoyed some of it, but admit to detesting the Japanese tendency of turning solids into jellies. Nonetheless, experiencing the traditional food of Nara was not something I would have been able to do without That Girl.
Like last time we were in Nara, deer were in plentiful supply. They are considered National Treasures and thus can do what they want mostly. We watched one casually cross a street. They are also very fat and healthy looking, with visitors feeding them "deer biscuits" all day long. We watched one deer who had somehow gotten a hold of an entire stack of deer biscuits attempt to eat them all. Another deer had walked directly into the kitchen of our restaurant earlier, and was led patiently out with the promise of more food.
Our first Temple was the Toudaji, which houses the daibutsu (Great Buddah).
We'd been here in 2004 and not much had changed, so I didn't take too many pictures. Our next stop was another Temple I believe, high up on the hill where you can get a good view of Nara.
A sign described the horrible death that awaits Pacman should he attempt to drink some of the shrine water.
We then hopped back in the car, which was great as my legs and feet were aching, and drove quite a ways out into Nara. We passed the ugly, modern city with it's garish signs and self proclaimed (in english) "World Famous Chinese Food" restaurants. Until we came to another Temple with a name that I have forgotten. We arrived 30 minutes before closing so missed most of the excitement, but did get to see the impressive buildings which are apparently the worlds oldest wooden structure.
I love the detail of the design.
We then were driven back to the train station, another long drive which gave us some time for chatting as we were parting ways with That Girl and her family for the rest of the trip. I very much enjoyed my time wandering with her and her new husband around Nara, and was sad to hug her goodbye. I'll see her back in the states soon enough.
At the train station we ran into one of those things that white people run into from time to time in Japan, a Japanese person who wants to practice English. I wonder what happens to those caucasians who don't speak English, probably some confusion. It doesn't matter for us though, as the very nice older Japanese man very importantly made sure we knew which train to get on (which we already knew, but humored him) and sat with us for two stops. He was a retiree who "didn't remember his past", had never been out of Japan but wanted to visit the east coast, and had very passible English, though he complained many English speakers spoke too fast. I could say the same of many Japanese. He also struggled over describing the way Sony's stock was falling. We said bye to him at his station, and chatted the rest of the way back to Kyoto.
There we went to a Kaiten Zushi (conveyorbelt sushi) restaurant we'd been to last time, where me and Tech Support ate Quite A Lot Of Sushi. It wasn't as good as the one That Girl had taken us to, but it was dirt cheap and worth it for the money.
Muji was closed, and thus we were unable to spend more money there.
Back at the hotel Mum and I attempted a Japanese style bath. We made it through the shower before discovering the bathtub had been heated to 9 zillion degrees. The baths of Japan are often too hot for me, but this one was also too hot for Mum. Still, I enjoyed the shower part, which involves sitting on a stool in a large room, soaping yourself and then pouring water over yourself.
And that was it for the adventures of the day.