Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Inaka Yosoko E!

Well, I bet you all thought I had a great time in the Lakes
region. And you'd be wrong! I didn't go there. I tried really
hard, but I ended up in an industrial wasteland of Tokyo.
Funny, I couldn't see Mount Fuji behind the smokestacks. :-)
So I hopped back on the train to Tokyo, and headed elsewhere.

See, Kawaguchi is NOT the same as Kawaguchi-ko. So to get to
Kawaguchi-KO, where the lake was, I would have gotten there
just in time to turn around and go back to get to Ellen's.

So I cut my losses and headed to Kyoto on the bullet train,
spent the night there, and got up early this a.m. to head out
to Nara, the cradle of Japanese culture. I saw a GIANT
Buddha, the Diabutsu, which is bigger than our house in New
Jersey. In fact, for many centuries it was the biggest bronze
object in the world.

Before that I strolled the rural side of Kyoto. It rained
heavily, but I was prepared due to my snazzy plastic
umbrella. How smart I felt buying such an impractical item
when it started to pour.

(Ellen thinks my buying said umbrella caused the monsoon
season we now seem to be having.)

Anyways, I went from Kyoto to Nara, where I proceeded to lose
said plastic umbrella, only to replace it a few hours later
with another one. Fear not.

Oh, I went to Yokohama yesterday - second largest city in
Japan, did you know? I rode the ferry, I walked the parks, I
hit the ramen museum.

Now some of you know the storied history I have with ramen. I
was considering skipping it in the interest of time. But I
didn't, and am I ever glad! They reconstructed an entire
block of ancient Japanese village. I didn't sample any of
their fine delicacies - lines too long, ramen too expensive
(it's supposed to be 12 cents, max!) but I took a ton of
pictures. I also learned about the ancient ramen carts and
the musical instruments their proprietors would play to lure
the poor college students of 1400 A.D.

So I am at Ellen's now. We didn't have concrete plans to meet
in the train station, so I had her paged. In fact, they had
ME page her, since my ugly English tones would attract her
attention. Ugh. I can only imagine the poor Japanese eardrums
bursting at "Paging Ellen Rubinstein, Ellen Rubinstein to the
Information Desk."

So anyways. She took me to a sushi restaurant where the
sushis come around on a conveyor belt and you just pick up
the plate with what you want. And such a bargain! Waay
cheaper than the dockside sushi in Tokyo. :-)

We're going to tour this part of Japan, the country side
(hence the subject line). Then Thursday it's back to Kyoto to
shrine-see, and then on to Kobe for a day to see that, and
then back to Kyoto another day, and finally up to Tokyo and
back to Chicago.

Oh! And two middle-aged Japanese women complimented me on my
chopsticking ability. Yeah!!

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