After a very long day on Monday, we are back at home, safe and sound.
Our seventh day in Japan began in Kyoto with a traditional Japanese breakfast:
What you see above is fresh tofu in a savory sauce. The plate in front were different flavorings to put in the sauce. Besides spring onions, I’m not sure what they were, but they added a lot of flavor to the broth. Rice was also served.
Next they brought us a tray with miso soup, Japanese pickles, fresh vegetables, and a type of smoked fish. Although very different from a Western breakfast, it was all very good and a lovely way to end our stay at the ryokan.
When we checked out I bought a yakuta for a souvenir. Mick wanted one too but they didn’t have his size. Frankly, if I hadn’t lost weight, I wouldn’t have fit into mine either! Despite what I’ve said about the Japanese all being small, like westerners, they come in all different shapes and sizes. I suppose it’s safe to say that on average they are shorter and thinner (especially thinner) than westerners, you might be surprised by the variation. At the train station I took some time to buy some souvenirs. Despite all the opportunites to buy stuff while I was actually in Kyoto, I think the sheer volume and choice overwhelmed me and I barely bought anything. But I wanted to bring back some sweets and a Japanese tea cup for myself, and thankfully they had a big store at the station selling all sorts of things.
On the train ride back we had a lovely view of Mount Fuji.
I was looking forward to getting back to Tokyo because this time we were planning to stay in Shibuya, at a hotel called Cerulean Tower. I knew Shibuya was a much more “happening” place than where we’d stayed for the first part of our trip and by this time I was looking forward to a little action. After checking into the hotel, we went out for a little stroll just to get the lay of the land.
One of our first stops was to see Hachiko at Shibuya Station. The story of Hachiko is famous in Japan: you can read about it here.
A funny side note: On April 1, Mick was reading the Japan Times, an English language newspaper. A story on the front page said that during the night, the statue of Hachiko had been stolen. Mick and I couldn’t believe it–we’d just seen it the day before! Finally, Mick figured out it was April Fool’s Day and that the story was a joke. What a relief–I thought the Japense police would suspect me of trying to take it home as a souvenir.
I’m not sure why he wanted me to take the picture below, but it illustrates an interesting point about Japan:
From the moment we got off the airplane, we noticed that some people wore surgical masks over their faces. It varied depending on where we were, but I’d say one in 25 people or so wore masks. We guessed that it might be due to lingering fears over SARS or some other contagious disease. Apparently, we weren’t the only gaijin wondering. Mick took a minute to research it, and it turns out that people wear the masks to prevent the spread of their own illness to others. In Japan it is very impolite to spread ones germs–though judging from the number of people wearing masks, it doesn’t seem to be working in preventing colds.
Shibuya was indeed more action-packed than the area near the Imperial Palace, where we’d been staying before. There were people everywhere and something happening on every corner. We passed what appeared to be a television studio filming some kind of program: Shibuya is also home to Shibuya Station crossing, which was highlighted in Lost in Translation:
We decided to back to the hotel and have a drink in the bar, which had a spectacular view:
I took the opportunity to try shochu, which is Japanese spirits. I asked the waiter what he recommended and ordered it, but I have to be honest, shochu is not for me. It’s hard liquor and tastes like it–not really my bag.
Two more days to go!