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    > 2002





<!-- March 26, 2003 -->

9:05am, Tokyo Time.
Location: Bullet train to Kyoto

Just finished drinking coffee from a can. We bought it for 120 yen from a vending machine in Tokyo station. Dave says it gets hot when you shake it, but it could be just that the vending machine keeps it hot, I don't know. Good coffee, though, oddly enough.

Apparently, this train goes about 200kph. Dave won't say that he's correct about that - so afraid of giving false information. His famous saying is "I'm probably wrong; in fact, I usually am, but..."

* * *

Kyoto Station is huge and beautiful. It was built in 1997 and has a 15th floor observation tower/floor that we climbed to. The 11th and 12th floors are food courts. We ate Japanese fast food there. I had rice, thin-sliced pork with onions (pretty standard food) for 450yen and then had a crepe filled with banana, chocolate sauce, ice cream and whipped cream for 380 yen. Dave had 3 of these. He's addicted.

Sitting beside us in the food court was a group of Japanese girls who were clearly infatuated with Dave. They all turned to gawk at him as we welked away. I feel oddly invisible here. Daves says it's hard for female "gaijin" (foreigners) because people seem to have more respect for male teachers. No one wants to learn from a female. Weird. Well, too bad for them, as I would be an outstanding English teacher.

We went to the free tourism info and figured out where our Ryoken was locted and booked a free tour with a student for the next day.

We walked up the street to our first temple: Higashi Hongan-ji. Built in 1602, it was supposed to produce a rift in the power of another school of Buddhism.

It was a beautiful day. The temple was very quiet. It's the largest wooden structure in the world, I think it said. (Maybe largest wooden temple, I can't remember.)

They had this rope on display that is made from the hair of suporters, as the rope of the time was very poor quality. The hair-rope was used in building the temple. They also displayed sleds (or "sledge" as the sign said in Engrish) used to tote the wood.

Then on to check into our ryokan, "Ryokan Kazuki". After a difficult check-in (no one spoke English) we went walking south-east. We tried to go to Chion-in (a large, important temple) but it was already closed. So we wandered around the nearby gardens a while. Dave got another dessert crepe. Then we walked south along some back streets.

We discovered this amazing area of artisan shops, cobblestone streets, old-style Japanese gardens, restaurants and tea houses. Beautiful. Saw a Geisha with her "assistant" and stumbled on a few other temples as we wandered.

Walked back to the ryokan, stopping by some cool sites on the way (including Gion, an old-style street/area that looks like you're stepping into history). We got back around 6:30pm and got ready quickly for the onsen - a Japanese public bath. We put on our yakatori (robes) and went down only to be confounded by the Japanese Kongee... couldn't tell which was the men's and which was for females.

Dave got ME to peek into both to see which was which, but there were no naked bodies by which to tell, so we had to go ask. Thankfully, a woman showed us. We soaked for a while, but had to leave on time for dinner at 7:30pm.

You have to wash before getting in, so I hope that means it's clean enough. My doctor has warned me about using jacuzzi tubs, as they're a breeding ground for bacteria. But the Japanese are much more sanitary, it seems, and wash before getting into the tub. Actually, you get a stool and a bucket and go to a tap, filling the bucket with water. You sit on the stool, naked of course, to wash with the soaps provided. Quite odd to do, publicly. The only other thing I have to report is that it was damn HOT.

Dinner was a huge extravagant traditional Jpanaese affair. We had the Kyoto specialty, Shabu-Shabu: thinly sliced beef boiled in a light broth. You swirl the beef and veggies in the broth and then drop them in sauce. YUM!

Many different dishes were served; can't remember them all. The only thing Dave and I couldn't eat was what looked like fish terrine. Or maybe it was foie gras. Either way, it was gross and our server said she doesn't like it either ("watashi-mo"). It was all topped off with yummy mango pudding.

Then they came and turned down our futons (which are stored in closets until it's time for bed, since you eat and sleep in the same room). They put them out on the tatami mats and put huge duvets over them. Surprisingly comfy for sleeping on the floor.

Dave loves the tatami mats. They're quite expensive, but I'd say they're not as soft/comfortable as carpeting, but softer than hardwood floors. And I'm sure for they're better for those hot, humid summers in Japan.

Dave and his dessert crepe
car sickness

Listening to:
Nothing. Don't the Japanese SPEAK on public transit?