Sunday, July 03, 2005

Forth of July, from Japan

So, I am trying a new method for loading pictures onto this site, so please forgive me if I fail in this endeavor and end up referencing pictures that do not exist. To begin with, the climate of Japan is rainy, as can be seen in this picture. This entire weekend it has rained to some degree. At the time of the writing of this post it was positively dumping. Because of this incredible rain, Japan is an umbrella country. You can buy an umbrella every block, there are umbrella racks in stores, and you rarely see anyone wearing a poncho. However, I find the rain to be good, because on days it rains it is not as hot.

So now that the weather stage has been set, let’s start on Friday afternoon. Well that day I went to see Chiaki, who Kari and I met, perform with her group. She had an excellent voice, and I felt terrible running out when I did but I had to catch the bus to get to the station. I plan to go again on Monday to apologize and tell her that she did a great job.

Anyway, I made my bus, and got to the station. Since no one else had arrived yet I had the chance to try some doughnuts from a local shop. In an effort to avoid being surprised by anything inside I bought a piece of bread that could not possibly have had cream inside because it was too small. I bit into it and found it to be filled with a disgusting cream. A short time later most of my class arrived, and after logistics that took forever we set off for Kyoto to visit Nijojo, the palace that the Shogun used to stay in when he visited the emperor. An inner gate of the castle is pictured here.

Here is a beautiful shot of some of the intricate metal work on this gate.

Pictures were not allowed inside the castle, but I did snap this one of the garden. The castle was very well preserved, and still had the old nightingale floors. By the way, I tested, and there is basically no way to walk on the floor without them making a sound. The floors are really clever. It was really more of a palace, since the gardens were incredible, but the defenses less so. After the castle we all decided to sort of go our separate ways, kind of. I predict now that logistics are going to be a major point of stress for everyone on this trip. Our group is too large for it to be pleasant. Some people want to do shopping and some think that shopping is best done on one’s own time, and besides there are more important things to see which you cannot do at home. Oh well. I feel I may be sneaking off a lot. We had sort of a dull afternoon, and then returned home.

Saturday, however, was awesome. In the morning we cleaned, which was far easier than I had been led to believe. The fact that I use my own sheet makes my job even easier. This silk sleeping bag liner is really one of the best purchases I have ever made. So after I cleaned the common room while everyone else was buys in their own rooms, we all decided to have our picture taken with the weekly tutors, who were leaving. About 30 cameras, and roughly 10 minutes of continual picture taking later, we were ready for food.

There is no picture for this. Some of us walked down to “Mr. Doughnuts” to sample the Japanese doughnuts. On a whole, they were not as good as the ones I had in Korea, but they were alright. Except one. I chose carefully to avoid anything with a filling, but obviously I chose poorly. I bit into a beautiful doughnut that had cream cheese in the center. Now here comes a rant. I positively hate how they make such good bread and pastries here and than RUIN them by filling it with something that tastes entirely out of place. Why can’t I just put cream cheese ON TOP of the doughnut if I want to? I have probably wasted over 1500 yen on bread that I thought was great on the outside but had some revolting filling. *Sigh* Anyway, after “Mister Doughnuts” some of us went to the “SupaSenTo”, a gigantic public bath. This bath was different from anything I had experienced before. For example, there was one tub that had electricity running through it. Very weird sensation. Another tub was filled with some type of medicine that turned it magenta in color. I had a great time at the bath, and came out refreshed. It was probably the second best sauna and bath place I have been to, after the Jim Ju Ban that I went to in Korea, of course. We then returned to Seta and went to Karaoke. Karaoke was a blast. I sang until I was horse, and danced until I could barely walk. However, we simply had too many people, which made it less fun then when I went in Korea, but it was still a blast, and I will go again. I really love to sing.

On Sunday almost everybody took a trip to Osaka. I chose to be in the group that went to Osaka Castle instead of going shopping. While still too big to be enjoyable, our group of 10 was much more flexible. Anyway, here is the castle.

Now the castle was entirely rebuilt in the 1960s as it was destroyed in World War Two, as were many other major castles and temples. However, the foundations were intact, and just look at these walls. Look at the size of the stones they used!

The inside of Osaka castle was a fantastic museum, but since I don’t read Japanese, I was only able to come away with a little knowledge. After the castle we went to the main areas where young people like to hang out. Here I found the moving crab that I have actually really wanted to see. I saw this crab in an Anime, and I have really wanted to see it in real life. It is sort of a symbol of Osaka.

So, after encountering the 12th underground shopping mall that I have seen on this trip (they all look the same, only the clothing that the young women wear changes from place to place) we walked down a very crowded above ground shopping promenade. The highlight of this was playing a taiko drum videogame.

So, that was the first time I have been to Osaka. This trip was mostly fun, though boring at times. However, it gave me a lot of ideas for places that I will later sneak off to on my own. Hee hee.

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