#TBT: Japan April 2005: Laundry in Nagoya, Travel to Hakone, Hakone Ryokan

Laundry Day!

We woke up at 7am and packed everything except our week’s worth of dirty laundry. Went down to the front desk and got directions to the coin laundromat (this place is way too fancy-shmancy to have its own laundry facilities on site). The girl at the desk said it was about a 20 min walk and, after I valiantly (and stubbornly) tried to carry my share of the clothes we needed to wash, we decided to take a taxi. The girl in the main lobby would not let me hold my own bag, which turned out to be a good thing because the taxi driver had NO idea of what we were talking about or where this place was, even with a map. And even with the main lobby girl’s help, he still had to ask for directions as we got closer.

The washing machines in Japan are decidedly smaller than in the US and with that, along with Joe wearing clothes that are significantly larger than the average Japanese (and mine only slightly smaller), we wound up having to do 9 days’ worth of clothes in 4 loads (grin). Took about 2 hours, give or take. Prices were ¥400 (“big” washer…yeahright), ¥300 (medium) and ¥200 (small), and ¥100 per 10 minutes of gas dryer time.


“How to use the washing machine,” with cute little mermaid character to help you follow the precautions


“How to use the dryer” too.


At one point, I think the 3 of us were using every machine in the room


Proof that it’s REAL gas in the gas dryer…see the flame?

After our laundry was done, we went back to our hotel and did our final packing. Japan has a system where you can mail big packages, including luggage, to another destination. So for our next leg of the trip, which was only for 2 days, we packed our carry-on luggage and sent our “big” luggage on to Tokyo Disneyland, which was our destination for Sunday. It was less than $25 per bag and saved us the hassle of shlepping our big pieces with us (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Japan still offers luggage transportation services and let me tell you, it is WONDERFUL and SO convenient! We used Takkyubin, which is the company that Japan Rail Pass recommends. Because their logo is a mother cat holding a kitten, we started referring to it at the pussycat service).

After finally checking out, we had bell services hold our carry-ons (which still weighed a ton…Joe’s backpack was a good 35 pounds and his overnight bag was probably well over 40 pounds) while we had lunch at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant. The food was OK, although part of the meal was somewhat unidentifiable (grin).

Picked up our luggage and made our way to the train station. Spent quite a bit of time looking for postcards as well as for the place where we could make our Shinkansen reservations. Finally got that done and went on the Shinkansen for our 2-hour train ride to the Odawara station of Hakone.

We had misjudged the amount of time it would take to get to our next hotel (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Joe wrote about the issue in his post called “My Most Embarrassing Travel Mistake“), which was actually a ryokan (Japanese-style bed & breakfast) called “Hotel Taiseikan,” that also served us dinner. So we bought some bento boxes (pre-made meals in a box) in case we got there after the 6:30pm “last serving” deadline (and since I’m typing this at 6:55pm on the train from Odawara, I don’t think we’re gonna make it (wink).

Later on…

Well, it’s now 9:05pm and no, we didn’t make it anywhere near 6:30pm, but after our arrival at 7:50pm, they said they would serve us in our room at 8pm. After Joe called to let them know we would be late, they kept their ONE employee who (kinda, sorta) spoke English, so she could serve us. And what a dinner it was – I think there were 10 courses all together! 2 or 3 kinds of soup, and rice and Japanese noodles and vegetables and meats and fish and geez, I don’t remember what else. Oh yeah…cooked baby squid. I’m proud to say that I did TRY the baby squid…and hated it (wink). We specifically asked ahead of time for meals without sashimi for me…so at least I didn’t have to worry about anything raw(MODERN-DAY NOTE: my culinary tastes have broadened TREMENDOUSLY since 2005 and, short of raw horse and whale, there is very little I will not eat in Japan nowadays). Steve has gone to Morimoto in Philly (the place run by The Iron Chef) and he says a meal like that would have cost about $200 each at a restaurant. Usually they would serve us course by course, but since we had gotten there so late, they gave us everything at once. Here’s an idea of the spread they gave us:


I have no idea what I was holding in my chopsticks but, even if it was not raw, there was NO WAY I was gonna eat it.

Our “room” (more like a freakin’ condo!) is HUGE:


As you enter, there’s a 4’x11′ entry foyer where we leave our slippers (we already left our shoes near the front desk…the amazing thing was that when we’d leave our room and go to the hotel lobby, our shoes [and ONLY our shoes, no one else’s shoes] were already out, waiting for us! Anyway, you have to walk either barefoot or just in socks in the rooms…Japanese tradition, plus shoes or even slippers would ruin the delicate tatami floors)


There is a 8’x8′ entry room that we used for our luggage (sorry it’s blurry)


This is our 15’x18′ bedroom/eating room


The beds are Japanese-style futon mattresses on the floor, by the way. Not nearly as uncomfortable as you’d think. Either that or we were just too exhausted to care, by the end of the day.


This was a 6’x21′ porch that overlooked a garden and waterfall (we didn’t get to actually SEE the garden & waterfall until the next morning…but we heard the waterfall all night long. Made you have to pee. And the toilet was 20′ down the hall, in the parts of the room/condo that weren’t heated. With overnight temps in the 40’s. Oh joy.)


and a 15′ hallway that led to 2 of the 4 double closets on the right and a water closet (with a heated seat on the toilet) on the left (from this picture…I’m at the far end of the hallway…the entry foyer is the opening on the left side and 8′ x 8′ “luggage” room is directly in front of me, at the end of the hall). By the way, you see where the archways of the rooms are? Joe and (especially) Steve hit their heads on those ALL the time…..


Water closet with the weirdest toilet tank water-refill system we ever saw…the water was fed through a pipe to be OVER the tank and then poured in, like a water fountain.

Nearly all of this (except the water closet) has tatami mat flooring. The only thing we haven’t found yet is a shower

Tomorrow is Saturday and I believe we’re going to visit the Japanese-style baths. Joe found something like a Japanese-style “bath theme park,” where you can wear a bathing suit instead of the normal nude bathing. Good thing, huh?

Joe is trying to set up the computer for dial-up here in Hakone so I can get this note out. If you can read this, it worked (grin). More when I can…

Saturday morning…well, the good new is that we found our room with the tub. We just didn’t know how to use the doorknob (grin):


This hallway has closets on the right side, with extra blankets and pillows. At the end was what we thought was just a wall with wooden slats for decoration.


But nope! Turned out one of the slats was actually the “latch” to open what was not a wall, but a door that lead you into:


A modern-day sink setup. And if you walked through that tiny room, you discovered this:


A Japanese-style bath, made out of rocks! You sit on the little wooden stool, wash yourself and rinse with the bamboo buckets that are next to the tub (there are separate faucets, outside of the tub, to get the water from), and then sit and soak and contemplate in the rock tub, which is fed by the hot spring water.

The bad news is that Joe still can’t get the dialup to work, so I’m not sure when y’all will be able to read this.


Update…he got it to work! Yippee!

Our Weekly Recap 6/11/17 – 6/17/18

Hello, friends and HAPPY SATURDAY! Here’s a quick recap of our posts this week:

Joe wrote about:

Sharon wrote about:

Like this post? We have plenty more just like it and would love if you decided to hang around and clicked the button on the top of this page to follow our blog and get emailed notifications of when we post (it’s usually just once or twice a day). Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

Our Weekly Recap: 6/4/17 – 6/10/17

Hello, friends! In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of our posts this week:

Joe wrote about:

Sharon wrote about:

Like this post? We have plenty more just like it and would love if you decided to hang around and clicked the button on the top of this page to follow our blog and get emailed notifications of when we post (it’s usually just once or twice a day). Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

#TBT: Japan April 2005: World Expo in Aichi (Day 1)

The 2005 World Exposition in Aichi (just outside Nagoya) opened at 9:30am today so we woke up at 6:30am, got ready, and had a quick coffee and doughnut at the nearby Starbucks. I noticed that the Starbucks here was not as fastidious about recycling as they were in Kyoto…they only asked you to separate the paper vs plastic and had a garbage can that said, “Please dispose of your liquid here.” However, they also offered real  ceramic mugs if you were not “to go” and the employees helped you to empty your tray…though the latter might’ve been because they figured us foreigners didn’t know any better (grin).

The walk to the train station during the daylight (without luggage. Or rain.) gave us a much better idea of the part of Nagoya we were staying in. It seems to be a larger city than Kyoto, if not in size (not sure…haven’t checked a map), definitely in “new world modern,” as opposed to Kyoto’s traditionalism. Nagoya has MANY more stereotypical “Japanese businessmen,” as well as neon signs, restaurants open until 1 and 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning, etc. A definite change of pace from where we’ve spent the past 5 nights.


“Our” train station in Nagoya. It’s a LOT easier to negotiate the stairs without luggage!

After switching trains, we had to get on a HUGE line to get on the Linimo train, whose stations were built specifically for the Expo (but will remain a permanent part of the cities once the Expo closes its doors in September 2005).


I sure wouldn’t want to wait in THIS queue when it was filled up!

While on line the 3 of us were talking away, with our usual cynical and sarcastic senses of humor. I noticed there was an Asian-looking (and we assumed Japanese) man who seemed to understand everything that we were saying (he laughed at all the right places in our conversations). Turned out the guy was from Hawaii but was now living in Japan. It was nice to talk to someone in “unhalting” English, besides each other.


The line of people entering the fair from their tour buses. Picture taken from the Linimo train.

Finally got off the Linimo train and there was the Expo. It was HUGE!


Joe and I standing outside the Expo. Those 2 green guys are Kiccoro (the smaller, lighter green one) and Morizo (the one who is larger and darker green) the Expo’s mascots. EVERYTHING in Japan seems to have a mascot and Japan is the leader of “synergy”…Kiccoro and Morizo had their own cartoon on TV for months before the Expo started and they are EVERYWHERE a the Expo and, for that matter, in surrounding cities (i.e. department stores in Nagoya and even our hotel have racks with Kiccoro and Morizo merchandise).


The theme of the fair was Nature’s Wisdom, so the importance of “living in harmony with nature” was played on EVERYWHERE. Case in point…this recycling area outside the gates of the Expo…with spaces for paper, white plastic, clear plastic, liquid, wood, you name it. The Starbucks in Kyoto would’ve been proud!

Fortunately, we got to bypass the huge ticket line, because we had bought our tickets online. So, with tickets in hand, we went in.


Besides having to go through metal detectors before you could enter, guards checked all bags for not only dangerous items, but PET containers and any other food holders that couldn’t be recycled. THOSE had to be left behind.

The fair really is set up like Epcot, with big pavilions set up by corporations (Mitsubishi, the Shinkansen, etc) and smaller ones from dozens of countries from around the world. All of the pavilions have themes in the realm of Nature’s Wisdom (albeit sometimes with some poetic license…the U.S. Pavilion, for example, focused much more on it being Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday this year).

I won’t go into all of the details of all of the pavilions we went into, because we went into a LOT of ’em . Suffice to say that we went into about 6 or 8 corporate pavilions and probably a good dozen countries’ pavilions over the course of 11 or so hours. Some of the pavilions had foreign language headsets available for visitors who spoke English, Chinese or Korean, which was VERY helpful and VERY appreciated or we’d have definite problems in figuring out what was happening. The technology of some of the pavilions was just amazing, with HUGE high-def screens. And one of the hosts at the US pavilion had heard of Toxic Audio!


Joe and I were being geeks and wearing matching Toxic Audio shirts that day

We had lunch and dinner at the Expo, which, although tasty, were still pretty much “fair food.” Lunch was Japanese food:


Joe’s lunch


Steve’s lunch (Steve is a friend who traveled to Japan with us)


Sharon’s lunch (note the Kiccoro and Morizo on the…whatever it was [grin]!)

Dinners were Korean and I had my first taste of kimchee. YUCK!


Outside of the Korean restaurant. Note the international symbol for “soft serve ice cream” outside the door. The Japanese apparently love their soft serve ice cream…it’s EVERYWHERE. I’m personally not a fan of soft serve, but I’ll save my “I saw a picture advertising hard ice cream somewhere and I can’t find the store” story for a Tokyo Disneyland entry.

By 9pm or so, we were cold and tired so we retraced our route back to the hotel and went to bed. Tomorrow (Thursday) is Day Two of the World Expo.

 

Our Weekly Recap 5/28/17 – 6/3/17

Hello, friends! In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of our posts this week:

Joe wrote about:

Sharon wrote about:

Like this post? We have plenty more just like it and would love if you decided to hang around and clicked the button on the top of this page to follow our blog and get emailed notifications of when we post (it’s usually just once or twice a day). Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

#TBT: Japan April 2005: Cherry Blossoms on Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, Travel to Nagoya

We have about 45 minutes on this Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Nagoya, so I can start to write what we’ve done today.

Joe and Steve (Steve is a friends of ours who went on this trip as well) decided that a real, sit-down breakfast was in order today, so they went to our hotel’s breakfast buffet. I’m not a “big breakfast” person (give me a cup of coffee in the morning and I’m good for 3 hours) so I stayed in the room and had a can of iced coffee and the double-chocolate chip marshmallow cookie that I had bought from Starbuck’s yesterday, while I packed.


This is less than half of our luggage, not including Steve’s stuff. And we only brought 8 days’ worth of clothes, allowing time for doing laundry!

After the guys came back from breakfast (choices of scrambled eggs, bacon, Vienna sausages, corn flakes, french fries, grilled fish, beef stew with noodles, coffee, juice, tea and Japanese food), we finished packing, checked out of our hotel and left our bags with the bell check (who gave us a ticket, put our stuff on a cart, threw a net over it all and left it off to the side of the lobby. Hey, it’s Japan and people here are honest – who’s gonna steal it?). We then took a bus to the Philosopher’s Path.

Now, when I went on the Philosopher’s Path in April 1994, it rained. All day. So I was really looking forward to seeing it in sunshine this trip. Buddha must not like that idea though, because it’s been raining today. All day. Sigh.


I’ve discovered that my backpack sticks out so far behind me that when I hold an umbrella, part of the backpack still gets wet. So I went to the “100 yen” store near our hotel and picked up rain ponchos for the 3 of us. I wrapped the sleeves of the poncho around my front and would either hold them or stick them into the pockets of my coat, to make sure the poncho didn’t fly up and let my backpack get wet. I think it made quite a fashion statement, don’t you? Undoing and then re-doing this contraption was a LOT of work!

Anyway, the Philosopher’s Path is a small street along a stream, maybe about 2km long. It’s lined with small shops and restaurants, as well as hundreds of cherry trees. Since it’s spring, the cherry blossoms are blooming, which make for some lovely scenery on the walk on the Path.


Through rain, sleet, snow and hail…Joey can still read guide books and maps (grin). I think he carried about 20 pounds of books in his backpack every day (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Nowadays he has his TripIt all ready, and a bazillion web pages bookmarked LOL! Still a ton of info but at least it’s lighter than in 2005).

We stopped at a tea room and had a short break with some tea and small tea candies and cakes.


Outside of the tea room building.

The snack was served Japanese-style, so we had to leave our shoes in little cubby holes near the door (the employees even helped me take off my poncho and put it in a back room for safekeeping…and to make sure the floor didn’t get too wet), then we sat on small pillows on top of tatami mat flooring.


Window view of the garden that was outside the tea room. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the ceilings in this place were VERY low…Steve is about 6’2″ and when he got up to go to the men’s room, he nearly cracked his head open on a low ceiling beam.


Joe on the floor of the tea room.


The food I ordered…it was all written in Japanese, so I’m not positive what I had, but it looked and tasted like (from left to right) butter cookies, green tea cake and peach-flavored panna cotta.

About an hour later, at the end of the path, we found a small restaurant and had lunch. I had udon noodles with bits of curried beef, Steve had a beef and rice “stew” called donburi and Joe had eel over rice with a side of soup. This was one of the few places that had “serve yourself” ice water. Steve is an avid iced tea drinker and can easily get a half-dozen refills in the US, but with the tiny glasses he was continually getting in Japan without refills, I think he was thrilled to be able to get up and get his own drink. He must’ve gotten up at least 5 times (wink).

We caught a bus back to our hotel, where we JUST made the shuttle to Kyoto Station. Got our reserved seats for the 16:00 Shinkasen and now here we are, on our way to Nagoya. More later…

Okeedoke…it’s later. I was writing the first part of today’s notes around 4:30pm. It’s now close to 9pm. We had to take a subway from the train station to the hotel…which took us up and down 2 flights of stairs…with 3 HUGE suitcases, 3 carry-ons and 3 knapsacks. Now THAT was fun. Not!!! Fortunately, our legs have gotten stronger from 4 or 5 straight days of walking and steps to and from temples, but I don’t think any of us were in shape enough to carry all that crap those kinds of vertical distances. But with lots of rests, we eventually got to where we needed to go.

Our hotel, the Nagoya Tokyu Hotel, is just GORGEOUS and Joe thinks that it’s the first time in all the years we’ve been using it that Expedia actually “did us good” (grin) (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Yeah, Expedia. Joe was already dabbling in “points and miles” during this trip, but not to the extent he does now). I mean, this place has TempurPedic pillows in the rooms! (grin) When we entered from the rain, the hotel staff came with, not only umbrella holders, but towels to wipe ourselves off! Just an incredible place. I think the fanciest place Joe and I have ever stayed was The Plaza in NYC and although I like the decor of The Plaza better, the service here is just amazing.


The outside of the Nagoya Tokyu Hotel.


Front lobby, looking towards the check-in counters.


Front lobby, looking in the other direction.


Japanese people LOVE to shop and this hotel had almost a mini-mall in it!


LOTS of shopping.


And, of course, each storefront was perfect.

Anyway, once we were checked in and had our room keys, the first thing we did was unpack and take pictures of the room:


A view from the doorway.


Triple adult occupancy in Japanese hotel rooms was pretty hard to come by, so we had requested a day bed for all of our hotels, since the best we could get was “2 twin beds,” and we figured we’d take turns sleeping on the cot. We discovered in EVERY hotel that offered “twin beds” that “twin beds” are the equivalent of slight smaller than an American double bed. So although you see 3 beds in this picture, we got rid of the 3rd bed after the 1st night. Joe and I just cuddled close. Such a sacrifice (wink).


Joe getting the computer hooked up. ASAP. By my request. Of course (grin).


The problem with always having the camera is that you’re hardly in any pictures. Thank god for mirrors!


And THIS is why I married someone 6′ tall. To help me take pictures of stuff I’m otherwise too short to take pictures of.


This is what we took a picture of, together. Exciting, huh?


View outside our window.

After taking shots of everything including the bathroom…


We thought this mirror, which had an area that did not fog up, was SO cool. In my humble opinion, it would’ve been even cooler if the non-fog area was about 9″ lower (wink) (MODERN-DAY NOTE: When we re-did our guest bathroom in 2006, we got a mirror with an anti-fog option).

…we went out in search of dinner. I was pushing for the nearby Denny’s, just to see how it compares to Denny’s in the US, but I was outvoted. We finally settled on a British-style pub called “Queen’s Head.”


Not the greatest picture of the Queen’s Head menu.

I had fried chicken and chips (fries), Steve had a pasta and eggplant dish and Joe had fish & chips. My fries were perfect, but I now know why the Japanese are not known for their fried chicken (wink). Joe said his fish and chips were “right”…just that the tartar sauce tasted different from what we’re used to. But hey, it was closer to “home food” than we’d had in days (wink).

After a quick stop at Circle K for dessert, we went back to the room.

The guys are currently watching TV (they think it’s a Japanese version of “Antique Road Show”) and I’m going to contemplate going to sleep pretty soon.

Tomorrow is the World’s Fair….

#TBT: Japan Trip April 2005: Johnnie Hillwalker’s Johnnie Kyoto Walking Tour

Another day filled with not so much stress. Hehehe…now we’re even starting to talk like Japanese people.

We took the 8am shuttle bus to Kyoto Station and had breakfast at Starbucks.


Figure roughly 100 yen to the dollar…look at those prices! (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Those were 2005 prices. I just looked at their site and, as an example, a Tall Coffee Frappuccino (top item on the far right of the sign) is now 420 yen, Grande is 460 yen and Venti is 500 yen).

I’ll tell you…even somewhere as familiar as Starbucks is an adventure when you’re in another country. Japan is VERY big into recycling and trying to throw out your garbage when you’re done with your meal can take nearly as long as the meal itself:

  • Leftover liquid and ice go into the “liquids” garbage (where it sounds like it goes into a garbage disposal).
  • Plastic cups and clear lids go into the “clear plastic” container.
  • White plastic lids and plastic cutlery go into the “white plastic” container.
  • Paper cups, cup holders, napkins and wooden stirrers go into the “paper and combustibles” container.
  • Dishes and trays go onto their respective piles.

I almost took a picture of it all but got too self-conscious about taking picture of, well, GARBAGE! (grin). You know, after 4 days of coffee in a can (they sell it in ALL the vending machines, hot or cold, VERY milky and VERY sweet, just the way I like it) or bad coffee from restaurants, it sure was GOOD to drink some REAL coffee for a change!

MODERN-DAY NOTE about the following paragraphs: in the past few years, Johnnie Hillwalker (now age 87ish?) has retired and the WaRaiDo Guide Network has taken over the walking tours. However these notes are from 2005.

Anyway, after breakfast, we went on Johnnie Hillwalker’s Johnnie Kyoto Walking Tour. Joe had found Johnnie’s website (MODERN-DAY NOTE: website updated. Original website is a dead link) during his thorough-bordering-on-obsessive search of the internet of things to do in the cities in Japan that we were visiting. When I heard about “the little old man who does walking tours of Japan,” I decided we HAD to go on it.

Johnnie is a 70-something year-old man who leads people on a 3 kilometer walk around Kyoto in about 5 hours. We visited several Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples, places of local commerce (fan makers, pastry makers, ceramics, tatami mat producers, etc) and Johnnie explained about all of them. It was a VERY interesting tour.

OK, so I just realized that I managed to explain a 5-hour tour in about 3 lines of print. How about some more stories and some pictures…

We met Johnnie at the designated place, just outside Kyoto Station. There were about 30 of us on the tour that day…about 20 were from countries that spoke English as a primary language (mainly the US, but I heard British and Australian accents too) and the rest spoken German an another language or two I didn’t pick up on.

Our first stop was at Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, which is only a block or two away from Kyoto Station. It was originally built as a Buddhist temple in 1602, but due to frequent fires, the current buildings are “only” from 1895.


Overall view of Higashi Hongan-ji temple, except for the “big” building.


HERE’S the big building (wink). The “Founder’s Hall” of Higashi Hongan-ji, which you may enter after taking your shoes off (you can see people doing that in the background of the picture…they even give you plastic bags to put them in), is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. I like the guy with the Playboy bunny hat, don’t you? He was on our tour. Guy was from Long Island. Remember him…I’ve got a story about him in a minute.


A small fountain can be found outside all Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. It is considered to be “holy” water of sorts and you’re supposed to rinse your hands and mouth with it, in order to purify you inside and out. Mr. Playboy Bunny, upon finding the fountain, took the opportunity to fill his water bottle with it. Typical clueless American.


A somewhat fuzzy view of the Amida Buddha (as per Johnnie, there are lots of Buddhas but Amida is the most important Buddha), inside the Founder’s Hall. 80% of all Japanese people are Buddhist and 70% believe in Shinto so there is a lot of overlap between the two.


Johnnie showing us how one prays to Amida Buddha.


One of the sleds that was used to carry felled trees from the mountains to be used to build the temple.


An example of the rope, made of human hair, that was used to help build the temple.

The next part of our tour was to walk through some streets in Kyoto that are home of the “industrial” people…those who, for generations, have made goods on the first floor of the buildings, while they lived on the second and third floors. Specific neighborhoods or blocks would be well-known for their paper fans, prayer beads, etc. Some of the old traditions of local commerce are dying out, especially with the younger people wanting to work with computers and other more technologically-advanced, higher-paying careers, but those who still make such products keep going.


A typical “industrial” street in Kyoto.


Making Buddhist prayer beads.


Producing fresh tofu.


Making fans.


Putting the gold paint on the ends of the fans. This guy is more anal-retentive than ME!


The final results. For sale, of course (grin).


Making tatami mats. Yeah OK, these people didn’t let the Industrial Revolution pass them by (grin).


Making ceramic bowls. They were all hand-painted and VERY expensive (think $30+ per saucer), except for the “Seconds” that were for sale for $2 to $10 each.

Our next stop was the Shosei-En Garden. It is a strolling garden that belongs to Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, although the two properties are separate and not connected. It dates back to the ninth century, when it was built by Prince Minamoto Noturu.


Shosei-En Garden is a typical Japanese manicured garden.


These carp were HUGE and boy, did they like the lunch that Johnnie brought them!


Joe enjoying hanami (cherry blossoms). Or maybe he was just reading one of his maps (grin).


Closeup of hanami.

Our next stop was to visit a Shinto shrine. You can tell that it’s Shinto because of the rope hanging from the doorway (the rope designates the boundary of a sacred place).


This particular shrine we visited is the one that Johnnie is a member of, and he has made a donation to have a paper lantern with his name on it.

Next stop was a small Buddhist cemetary. Each grave site is small because Buddhists are traditionally cremated, so they need less space. They usually place the ashes of several family members underneath one stone grave marker.


The wooden sticks are made by loved ones and are left at the grave site to show that they visited. They also often leave flowers or plants and/or burn incense at the grave site.


Johnnie said that leaving a jar of sake, like at this gravestone, is NOT traditional (grin).

Our next stop was in front of a store that made sushi. We all got to taste a piece of vegetable sushi. Not bad, but I still like California and eel rolls better.

Next was a brief stop at the former site of the Nintendo Card Playing Company, which eventually turned into the computer and video game giant that it is today.


Sign declaring the Nintendo Playing Card Company on the now-abandoned building.


Outside of the building. Notice that the architecture is very American.


A very poor shot of the inside of the building (Sorry…I had to take the picture through a glass window with a metal screen in it and not use a flash).


Johnnie preparing to give each of us a card as a souvenier.

The next stop on our tour was a local shop that sold candy made out of bean paste, as well as different types of Japanese tea. Like so many other businesses in Kyoto, the store had been in the family for many, many generations. We got free samples of the barley tea (yuck) and a bean paste pastry here (not bad, but, of course, not sweet enough and, as pretty and differently decorated as the candies were, they all tasted the same).


Outside shot of the tea and bean paste candy shop


Making bean paste candy.


Close-up of making bean paste candy.

Next stop was another shrine. This one was called Toyokuni Shrine. I don’t know about the guys, but by this point, I was starting to get “shrined out” (grin) so I didn’t pay as much attention to the history of it, nor (perhaps thankfully?) did I take as many pictures of it.


Johnnie in front of the Toyokuni shrine. Probably the best picture I got of Johnnie (grin).


Decent shot of the inside of the shrine.


Multiple Torii gates next to the shrine, in combination with the statues of the foxes, indicate that this shrine was an Inari shrine. There are several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari across Japan. Inari is the Shinto god of rice, and foxes are thought to be his messengers. Therefore, many fox statues can be found at Inari shrines (see picture of inside the shrine). The Torii gates are usually paid by individuals, groups and businesses…usually in the hope that their donation (and advertisement of their names on the gates?) will please the gods and, in turn, will help them in business matters. By the way, please note that this shot includes Mr. Playboy Bunny again…with a full bottle of water. Totally clueless. Thank heaven we visited all of those shrines, or he would’ve dehydrated!

Behind Toyokuni Shrine was the largest bell in all of Kyoto. Although hundreds of years old (it was built in the 16th century), it’s still in use for ceremonies and holidays.


Far-away view of the big bell


Close-up of the bell, including the hand-painted ceiling.

The end of the tour, where Johnnie bid us goodbye, left us near Kiyomuzidera Temple, which is a set of Buddhist buildings at the edge of the mountains on the west side of Kyoto. It was easily a STEEP mile up, with more hills and steps than we had done in all previous days combined, but according to Johnnie, the area was “most beautiful” (wink), with the buildings, many trees and plants and cherry blossoms in full view and, since we were so high, a gorgeous view of the city.


First thing we came upon when we got to the top of the hill was this HUGE cemetary. My guess is that it’s probably filled with all of the people who died of heart attacks after walking up the hill!


A short description of what we had climbed the hill for and were about to see. Brought to you by Fujicolor film! (grin)


First building in the temple area.


Back view of the same building, but it gives you an idea of how high up we were.


More buildings in the temple “compound.”


This temple is being refurbished for your future enjoyment! (wink)


Joe in front of the main building of the Kiyomuzidera Temple.


Shot of me looking at Kyoto.


Fountain for purification at the temple. Mr. Playboy Bunny must’ve been thrilled…he could get a refill!


There were several gardens at the temple site, as well as on the way down (we took a different path down the hill, for variety). During the walk, I found this small cherry tree in full bloom.


As the blossoms fall off the trees here, they go into the river and are washed away. Pretty, huh?

There were several shops on the long, steep hill going towards and away from the temple, though there wasn’t much “stuff” that we found very interesting in those. Since we were hungry though, we each got what we think is the equivalent of a cream puff, albeit with custard, not cream, on the inside. The wrapper for the pastry was another perfect example of Engrish:


Recently I have become very healthy. My hopes have begun to swell. Dreams have increased one by one.
WTF???

Took a bus back to the hotel and ate at a restaurant adjacent to it, called Die Gute. I had steak, Joe had pasta and Steve had a beef stew.


My appetizer/salad. I had no idea of what I was eating at that moment. Sardines, maybe? Well, the steak was good.


Can’t ruin beef stew.

Very good and definitely worth the price.

After dinner, we did some walking around a local supermarket (“Oh look, they sell Del Monte and Hershey’s products!”) and a 100 yen store. Didn’t buy anything yet, save for some small stuff, because we’re still at the beginning of the trip and will have to shlep it all with us for over 2 more weeks.

As of this writing, we’re in the midst of doing laundry at the hotel’s laundry facility…they have a whopping 2 small washers and 2 small dryers. For the whole hotel. And we’re 3 people. AND there’s another hotel patron who is doing HER laundry (she was from California, but originally from Long Island and didn’t like Japan at all. She liked Hong Kong better. More action. OK lady…whatever). It’s gonna take us forever for our stuff to dry (update…we were drying stuff until about 2am).

Tomorrow we see the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, then go on our way to Nagoya, to see the World’s Fair Exhibition. We’ll have internet access in Nagoya too, so my next message will be written from there. Until then, sayonara!

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