Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The James Visit Japan: Day 1

Just as I predicted, the mother and the grandparents were wide eyed (double meaning intended) and itching to get going at 4 AM. Thanks, jet lag!

Jerry stayed in bed until Emily got up for school, though. What a thoughtful Mom! She was even thoughtful enough to get a pot of coffee going when she got up. Making coffee is one of the fews ways in which I prove myself useful to Emily, nonetheless, I was more than happy to remain balled up on the couch and to get a few extra minutes of shut eye.

I guess I'll have to invent some new way to be useful.

So anyways, other than the fact that there was a third person in our apartment, it was a pretty standard Wednesday morning. We drank coffee, checked our email, and exchanged early morning grumpy sounds.

The three of us went to the train station together and stopped at McDonald's for more coffee and for breakfast to bring up to the grandparents, who are sleeping in a hotel. I pointed out to Jerry the part of the McDonald's menu that lists smiles as costing 0 yen. It is goofy, but then so am I.

From there, Emily went to spend a half day at Fukuoka High School, while Jerry and I went to the hotel to deliver the previously alluded to coffee, egg mcmuffins, and hash browns.

The grandparents were dressed and ready to go when we knocked on thier door, so immeadiately after inhaling our nutricious breakfasts, we hit the ground in search of adventure...well, we actually just went for a walk.

We walked from the Manten Hotel in front of Takaoka Station, up to Daiwa and Otaya street, stopped at the Takaoka Daibutsu where I told them every single thing that I know about Buddist temples (it didn't take too long), walked all through Kojo park looking at the shrines, statues, and two, count them, two sakura blossoms, doubled back to stroll through the zoo, and then hiked our way back to Daiwa for some coffee and a little light snack at the french cafe on the third floor.

Our little adventure took us about four hours. It was just enough time to stop back at the hotel for an extra jacket for grandmother and to walk over to our apartment to wait for Emily to come back from school. When Emily got back at 12:45, we went to Ruru, a local okinomiyaki restaurant, for lunch.

I don't think I've written about okinomiyaki on this blog or on my food blog yet. I'll get around to it eventually. If you want to know what it is, you can either google it, or trust me when I say that it is kind of like a pancake, but nothing like a pancake at the same time. (Great description, huh?)

From lunch at Ruru, we moseyed over to SATY, so that the family could experience a Japanese grocery store. Jerry said that it was just like an American grocery store, but I don't remember seeing foot long frozen squid in Publix.

Since it was a beautiful day, and since it was their first time in Japan, and since I wanted to keep everybody away from a bed as long as possible (damn you, jet lag!), I made everybody walk SOME MORE.

We did a short loop from SATY, to the tomb of Toshinga Maeda, to the Buddhist temple across the street with the Gohyakuraken, down the length of the Hatcho michi, and back to the Manten Hotel for some coffee at Jacasse. It was about 5:00 PM when we finally got back to the hotel room.

I've very proud of myself. I managed to drag a jet lagged couple in their eighties and my future wife's mother around a city in the Middle of Nowhere, Japan for eight hours and the only complaint they made the entire day was, "Angelo, I don't want you paying for anything."

All in all, I'd say it was a successful first day. Tomorrow we have tentative plans to visit Zuiryuji Temple in the morning and AEON in the afternoon. Besides being a striking contrast between the traditional and modern Japan, it should be a lot of fun.

(I have recieved some coaching on how to get Grandmother to buy you stuff at the mall. Supposedly, all I need to do is to walk over to something that I desire and to make it plainly obvious that this object would bring joy to my life. Supposedly, and this has yet to be witnessed by me, Grandmother has the ability to detect such behavior from over a mile away and once said behavior is detected, she will swoop in and purchase said object for said person, namely me. I 'll let you know if it works.)

How about some photos:

(Insert funny caption here):

Just because you visit a temple doesn't mean that you are immune from buying tourist junk:

Omikuji is a kind of fortune/wish that someone purchases at a temple (or shrine) and then ties to a tree or rope. Grandfather tying omikuji to a tree:

The grandparents standing in front of a statue of the Buddha and a waterfall in Kojo Park:

Did you think I was kidding when I said that we saw two sakura blossoms? We saw this one and one that I will post on Daily Japan Pic tomorrow:

This guy stuck his head out of the water to say hello. I think he was looking for more of a snack than an hello, though:

Nothing too special about this picture, we just thought the roots were pretty:

The coffee we got out of a vending machine in Kojo park was Jerry's third cup of the day:

Grandmother attempts to use chopsticks. I told her that if she didn't learn how to use them that she would end up losing a lot of weight in Japan.

Does the following photo help explain okinomiyaki? Didn't think so.

We probably broke some type of cultural taboo by taking a picture in front of a dead warrior's tomb, but whatcha gonna do? Gaijin desu. Sumimasen.

Here are about 10 of the 500 disiples of Buddha immortalized at Hankyuji Temple:
The last time I visited this temple it was covered in a meter of snow:

The family didn't know about Japanese elementary school kids' yellow hats. All the little kids walking home from school wear bright yellow hats (and sometimes backpacks, umbrellas, and even boots). In Japan ,it is not an uncommon site to see 30 six year old kids walking down the street without an adult. You don't really see that kind of thing in America.

The family was surprised to see that, instead of backyards, people in Takaoka have vegetable gardens and rice paddies next to their homes:

1 comment:

Emily said...

By the way, yes I do call my grandparents Grandmother and Grandfather, and have since I was a toddler. Yes, it is overly formal. Don't make fun of me.