It really comes down to making an effort and repeating the same thing every day.

Last night Mick and I watched a great documentary called Jiro Dreams of SushiIt’s gotten fantastic reviews, we both love sushi, and since visiting Japan in 2007 I’m kind of enamored of the place in general, so we figured it would be interesting. It turned out to be more than that–it was inspiring.

Considered by many to be the best sushi chef in the world, Jiro Ono is a national treasure in Japan. So, what does it take to become the best sushi chef in the world? Well, for one thing, Jiro has been practicing and perfecting the craft of creating sushi for seventy-five years.

He tastes every piece of fish, trains his employees meticulously (even after ten years, his senior apprentice is still sometimes regarded as a novice), and thinks about sushi and how to improve his craft in nearly every waking moment. As the title says, he dreams of sushi.

Says Jiro:

Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is it’s the key to being regarded honorably.


While I’d say that Jiro is not a man who has achieved balance in his life (he doesn’t seem to need it as he’s content to put all of his  energy into his occupation), I couldn’t help but be inspired by his work ethic. After only four years of studying and practicing the craft of writing, I am still a mere beginner. I must practice my chosen occupation every day.

Will I some day become a true master? If it takes 75 years, then perhaps not, but it’s certainly something to strive for. With every word comes improvement, albeit in small increments, but still there is progress. With every sentence comes increased mastery.

It’s not the first time I’ve compared a Japanese craft to the craft of writing. In 2009 I wrote a post called Secrets of the Samarai Sword:

The level of expertise required to make a sword can be applied to any field, whether it be sword making, jewelry making, or in my case now, writing. Young people apprentice in this work at an early age and through the years become experts themselves, thus preserving a tradition that is hundreds of years old. It is a reminder that to be good at anything, even if one possesses natural talent, takes years of practice. It is affirming and daunting at the same time–I am a novice at writing, at least as it pertains to novels, and I have a lot of work in front of me to become an “expert.”

There is still much work to be done, but in the end, it is worth it.

It’s April Fool’s Day. I’ve never been much of a celebrant of this “holiday,” but I do enjoy a good April Fool’s joke–I just don’t do ’em because I can never think of a good one.

Speaking of good ones, the best ever played on me actually happened on our trip to Tokyo in 2007. One of the things we made a point of seeing in Shibuya was the statue of Hachiko at Shibuya Station, the loyal akita who accompanied his owner to work every day and when his owner died, continued doing it for another ten years until his own death. You can read the story here.


The day after we visited the statue, Mick and I woke up to a front page article in the Japan Times saying that the beloved landmark had been stolen during the night. We couldn’t believe it. How could it possibly be that this happened only one day after we saw the statue. We were in shock (okay, maybe not shock, but we were certainly surprised).

Then all of a sudden, Mick said “Wait a second, what day is this?” It dawned on both of us that it was April Fool’s Day, and we had indeed been fooled. The joke was on us, and probably many others in Tokyo that morning, at least the ones reading the English language newspaper. You can read the complete story here.

It occurs to me this might be one of those “you had to be there moments.” Perhaps. But it really was pretty funny at the time. And since I can’t think of my own April Fool’s Joke to play on you, you’ll have to settle for this anecdote. Happy April Fool’s!

But wait, let’s not stop here. What’s the best April Fool’s Joke you’ve played or someone’s played on you?

This weekend, I hosted a bridal shower for a dear friend. I chose a cherry blossom theme, and it turned out to be the perfect choice, for a lot of reasons. Here are some pictures from the shower and a few tips and tricks to make your next celebration a little more special.

Pick a Theme
The cherry blossom theme was kind of an accident, but a happy one. When I was looking for invites, I found one with white cherry blossoms and I liked the colors on it. After I ordered them I thought "Hey, this has to be my theme!" I already owned a lot of Asian home accessories, and I immediately knew I could create a beautiful party with this theme.

So that's tip #1: When picking a theme/color scheme, think about the decorative accessories you already own and the colors already present in your home:


In this case, I already owned the vase, Buddha, and fan. I just had to get some faux cherry blossoms to make the display complete. And see all that greenery out the window? It's bamboo. Perfect.

Note: This post was originally published on July 25, 2009

My husband and I just watched a program on PBS called Secrets of the Samarai Sword. It’s available to watch on the internet, and I recommend it.


There are several reasons why this program was interesting to me personally. First, my husband picked up a book at a library book sale awhile back about Japanese swords and was immediately taken with them. That year for his birthday, I embarked on my own research and bought one for him. Much like making a sword, it was a painstaking process; there are lots of “fakes” out there, particularly, swords made by machine during WWII, and an authentic, handmade sword is expensive. I’m not sure I’d have the confidence even now to buy one again, although I’m certain that the one I bought him is authentic. We both love that sword–it is almost as important to me as my wedding ring, if you want the truth.


The second reason I found this program engaging is because I’m a goldsmith. I make jewelry out of gold and silver and some of the processes used are similar, if not the same. I use ancient techniques to make my jewelry, and this type of craftsmanship appeals to me. I’m definitely not comparing my level of expertise to the level presented by the master swords-maker profiled, but my experience with making jewelry makes me extremely interested in the techniques used in Japanese sword-making.


The level of expertise required to make a sword can be applied to any field, whether it be sword making, jewelry making, or in my case now, writing. Young people apprentice in this work at an early age and through the years become experts themselves, thus preserving a tradition that is hundreds of years old. It is a reminder that to be good at anything, even if one possesses natural talent, takes years of practice. It is affirming and daunting at the same time–I am a novice at writing, at least as it pertains to novels, and I have a lot of work in front of me to become an “expert.”

Having been to Japan and having even visited the sword museum in Tokyo shown in the program, I was also interested in the cultural aspects of Samarais, sword fighting, and sword making. But for me, the really compelling part is the fabrication of the sword. It is fascinating, and an important reminder that hard work and persistence is an important key to success.

Our friends Brad and George recently returned from a trip to Japan, which you can read about (and see marvelous photos) here:

Brad and George’s Japan Blog

Meanwhile, in my post about Yazuya Ryokan, I mentioned that we somehow forgot to get photos of our bedroom all set up with the futons.  Brad and George did manage to get one of the ryokan they stayed in and since it was very similar to ours, I thought I’d include a link here:

Ryokan "bedroom"

Seeing this photo reminds me of how nice it was to come upstairs after the huge dinner we’d eaten to find our bedding layed out and ready for us.  It was really very comfy, and oh so welcome after such a long day of sightseeing.

Though the primary purpose of blogging our trip to Japan was to share the voyage with family and friends, I also did it with the hope that it might be of help to people (westerners in particular) traveling there.

That said, I’m including, in no particular order, some observations and tips that might help you plan (and survive) your trip to Japan.

Toilet Talk

No conversation about Japan is complete without a word or two about toilets.  Indeed, I think Japan might have the most sophisticated toilets in the world.

Toto is a name you will see quite often.  They are manufacturers of toilets–and not just any old toilets (although they make those too)–these toilets have seat warmers, bidets, warm air dryers, and general "spray" functions.

The toilet pictured above was in our room at the ryokan.  The buttons on the side displayed stick figure-like pictures showing what each one did.

Just when you begin to get used to toilets that do everything for you, including pick out an outfit and walk the dog, you enter a public restroom and find <GASP>, a squat toilet.  Look, I try to be open-minded about such things, but I was not a fan of the Japanese-style toilet.  I felt very vulnerable and self-conscious while using them, even though I had complete privacy.  And now when I look at the link above, I see I was facing the wrong way when I was using them–though I doubt it would’ve been easier if I was doing it right.

It should be said that many tourist attractions we went to included Japanese and Western-style options, so I really didn’t have to use the squat toilets very often, but I never knew what I was going to find in some places.  With the exception of hotel rooms, it was pretty much a crap shoot (no pun intended) as to what kind of toilet I’d find when I entered a restroom.  I took to giving Mick the thumbs up sign when exiting a restroom that had a western-style toilet.

Something I should’ve known, but for some reason didn’t, is that Japanese public toilets often don’t have toilet paper.  You will be a much happier camper if you carry some tissues with you, believe me.

When you get to Tokyo, you will almost immediately notice people on the streets trying to give you little packages.  I never took one because I figured it was just promotional stuff written in Japanese so I wouldn’t be able to understand it.  It turns out that while I was right about it being Japanese advertisements, they are wrapped around packets of tissues.  So take one–you might be thankful later.

Words to Travel By

While it’s true you can get by in Japan without knowing a word of Japanese, there are a few words and phrases you might want to learn in order to make your visit a bit more comfortable:

hai (yes)
ie (no)
sumimasen (excuse me)
domo arigato gozaimas (thank you very much)
kudasai (please)
nihongo ga hanasemasen (I don’t speak Japanese)
Numbers 1-10 (or at the very least, 1-5)
Basic food words for things you might need to ask for, like mizu (water), chicken, beef, beer, etc.

Without a doubt, the food/restaurant situation was the most stressful part of the trip for me.  Mick and I would decide it was time to eat then spend the next hour trying to find a restaurant that didn’t intimidate us.  Still, I managed to gain 5 pounds on the trip, so obviously I was able to feed myself.

I never heard anyone say sayonara (goodbye) in Japan, and the one time I used it I felt kind of silly–I’m not really sure when it would be used.  I think shopkeepers and waitpersons generally say something like arigato gozaimas (thank you very much) or doitashimashte (you’re welcome) instead of sayonara.  I took to saying arigato gozaimas when leaving since that generally seemed appropriate.  I rarely heard konnichi-wa (hello), but occasionally heard ohayo gozaimas (good morning).

Trains and Taxis

For us, taxis were by far the easiest and stress-free means of transportation in both Tokyo and Kyoto.  However, they are expensive.  Trains are a little confusing at first, but don’t let that stop you from using them. has a "tutorial" on taking the train in Japan.  For the most part, you will be using #3 in the instructions, "Buying Tickets at a Vending Machine."  Please note, however:

"Sometimes, the station names on the maps are written only in Japanese. If you are unable to find your destination and the corresponding fare, you can purchase a ticket for the lowest possible price, and pay the difference at the destination station."

This is good advice, since 9 times out of 10 the station names are only in Japanese.  In fact, you might even want to skip the confusion of trying to figure out how much to pay by buying the lowest price ticket and paying the difference at your destination.

Most of the guide books we used gave very specific information about what train(s) to take to a certain destination.  This made it pretty easy to get around on the train.

If you are planning on taking the shinkansen take the time to figure out in advance exactly what you want and write it down.  The guy who sold us the tickets spoke not a word of English and had Mick not prepared what we needed in advance, I’m not sure we would’ve been successful.

Make sure you have a map that is easily carried because believe me you will use it.  For example, don’t expect taxi drivers to know where you are going because they probably won’t, and don’t be afraid to show them your destination on the map.  If you don’t, they may not be able to get you to where you want to go.  They may or may not speak English, but overall it is easy to communicate with them, even if you just give the name of your destination and point it out on a map.

We never took the bus in Japan but friends have said it’s just as simple as the train.

Little Things That Make a Difference

Wear socks when you have to remove your shoes at temples or restaurants or whereever.  It’s not a faux pas if you don’t, but you’ll feel more comfortable if you do.

— Watch the locals and learn.  This is especially useful in restaurants because sometimes you are served things and you’re not sure how to eat them.

— In restaurants, you will often find a small cup on the table.  The waitperson will put your bill inside the cup and when you are done, simply take it up to the cash register at the front and pay.  Whether or not they put the bill in a cup, in all but one place (and this was the fancy french restaurant in the hotel) we had to pay the bill at a cash register upon leaving the restaurant, Dennys-style, so I can safely say this appears to be the norm.

— You will surely read this elswhere, but it bears repeating:  At any of the numerous drink vending machines in Japan, you will have both hot and cold options.  The cold drinks have blue markings on the machine and the hot drinks have red.  I mistakenly bought a hot beverage at a vending machine once so just keep this in mind.

— You will be complimented on your "good Japanese" simply by saying arigato (thank you) or sumimasen (excuse me).  It is rude to accept a compliment in Japanese culture, but don’t worry, chances are you won’t know the words to accept it anyway.

— The bus (called Airport Limosine) from Narita Airport to your hotel in Tokyo takes forever, especially once you include the time spent waiting for the bus, travel time, and dropping people off at various spots.  Still, it is far cheaper than taking a taxi and it is exceedingly well organized (as are most things in Japan).   Unless you have money to burn, you will probably use it, just know it will take a very long time.

Helpful Resources

Websites: Japan
Japanese Guest Houses
Tokyo Trains

Lonely Planet Tokyo
Lonely Planet Phrasebook: Japanese
Fodor’s Japan
Just Enough Japanese

 Note:  You can view Mick’s photos of this day here.

We saved Harajuku for last because it was a Sunday, and that’s when the cosplay happens at Harajuku Station.  I wasn’t sure what else there was to see in Harajuku, but it turns out I didn’t have to worry–Harajuku is full of shops, from high end designers like Chanel and Louis Vuitton to quirky little places selling the trendiest of clothing and accessories.

Mick determined that it wasn’t too far a walk from the hotel to Harajuku, so we made our way through Shinjuku, which it turns out is crowded even on a Sunday morning.

I was in the mood to shop today, so I went into every shop that looked vaguely interesting:
In the store pictured above, they had some really cute tops that I was interested in buying.  The only size out they had was 2, but I figured they were European sizes, so roughly 1 would be extra-small, 2 small, 3 medium, and 4 large.  So how to ask if they had other sizes?  I would’ve needed at least a 3 and preferably a 4–unfortunately I only remembered Japanese numbers 1 through 3.

I was determined to find out if they had larger sizes, so I began by asking the sales person if she spoke English.  No.  I then went to the top I wanted and pointed to the size tag and said “san,” for 3, then I put up 4 fingers.  It took a few moments, but finally she said, in English, something to the effect of “only 1 and 2.”  Too bad they didn’t have larger sizes, but I did feel a degree of satisfaction from asking and understanding the reply.

We continued on our way to Harajuku.  Along the way we saw this building:
I know I’ve said over and over again how crowded Tokyo is, but here is just another example:
When we got to one of the main streets in Harajuku, we headed down a side street because the guide book said they were more interesting.  We ended up on a really cool little street loaded with shops.

Here was one of my favorites, at least from the outside (we didn’t go in):
It’s hard to read the sign in this photo, but the top says “Extra Dope Wear Select Shop.”  Classic.

Another cool looking place:
Home away from home:
Hard to read the sign, but it says “Santa Monica.”

We found an Italian bistro-type place for lunch.  Luckily, the waitress spoke enough English to ask questions and take our order.  I found that even western-style meals look Japanese:
After lunch Mick and I decided it was time to go to Harajuku Station to see the spectacle.  Boy, was it.  Although I thought there would be more people dressed up, it definitely didn’t disappoint.  Here was the view from a bridge approaching it:
Here is a glimpse of some of the “players:”
Gothic Lolita:
Basically, they just sit around letting people take their photos.  A lot of them were also putting on their make up there.

Our next stop was Takeshita Street, which according to Mick is the most crowded street in Tokyo:


It was an odd little street, filled with many different types of stores, but most notably, stores selling gothic-type clothes.

Mick was apparently enthralled by a woman cleaning the steps of her shop: By this time I think both Mick and I had had enough of Harajuku.  As we made our tired way home, I found a yarn shop:
I ended up buying some bamboo yarn, which I’ve been wanting for awhile.  It is surprisingly soft and the fabric it knits up to drapes really well.

As much as I loved Harajuku, I was ready to leave it by this time, and I was also ready to leave Japan.  We’d packed so much into the 9 days we’d been there that the beginning of the trip seemed a distant memory.

We ended this day, like all our days in Shinjuku, with a drink at the hotel bar: I think this photo pretty much says it all:
Goodbye Japan!  We loved you, but now I’m ready to sleep!

Note:  You can view Mick’s pictures of Day 8 here.

 It’s tempting to leave the Japan blog as it is–I’ve been home for almost a week and frankly, I’m tired of blogging it.  But there are still two good days not covered and they are begging to be blogged.  So here it goes…

Finally, Cherry Blossoms!

Our eighth day in Japan was probably the most beautiful.  Our plan was to walk from our hotel to Meiji Shrine and Mick had figured out a fairly direct path through a park (actually, upon reading this, Mick just informed me that it was probably the most indirect route we could’ve taken).

Somewhere along the line, I’d forgotten about the cherry blossoms, because I was surprised to see that the park was absolutely brimming with cherry blossoms and people sitting on blue tarps, enjoying them. The cherry blossoms aren’t just a tourist attraction–Tokyoites love them too.  And what’s not to love?  I feel so lucky that we got to see them. The park was absolutely gorgeous.  Everywhere you looked there were cherry blossoms and people.  I did see a number of gaijin in the park, but unlike us, they seemed to be gaijin living in Tokyo.

I guess I could fill this whole post with cherry blossom pictures, so I’ll end it with this one:
Our next stop was to be Meiji Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken.  Emperor Meiji was an important figure in late 19th and early 20th century Japanese history and he is known as the symbolic leader of the Meiji Restoration and the subsequent industrialization in Japan.

Like so many historical sites in Tokyo, the original Meiji Shrine was destroyed during air raids in WWII.  The existing structure was re-built in 1958.

There were two weddings going on while we were at the Shrine.  Here is a photo of the bride and groom with their procession:
The wedding photo portion of the event didn’t seem very different from those in America:
About this time, Mick and I were starving so we made our way to what looked like a noodle shop. 
Again, no English was spoken, but it was pretty easy just to show them what we wanted since they only seemed to serve two different types of noodles.  Mick tried to order beer by saying “bi-ru,” but apparently he didn’t say it right because the waitress couldn’t understand him.  He ended up just pointing to the picture of Asahi on the wall and that was enough to get us two mugs.
It ended up being one of the best meals I had in Japan.  My noodles were in a very spicy broth and they were simply delicious.

Golden Gai

After lunch, we were feeling fortified enough to walk to an area called Golden Gai, which is a small district containing numerous small bars.  When I say small, I mean that some of them only contain like three seats.  Unfortunately, they were all closed this early in the day, but it was an interesting place just the same.  I could imagine what it would be like at night. 
  Next we made our way to a seedy area of Shinjuku called Kabukicho.  It’s billed as a red-light district, but during the day it doesn’t seem to have much going on. 

The place in the photo above was called “Honky Tonk Ladies.”  Only in Japan, I’m telling you.
Almost as soon as we walked into Kabukicho I wanted to leave.  Like most of Tokyo, I didn’t feel unsafe, but I did feel uncomfortable.  We made our way back to Shinjuku.

Another Lost in Translation Moment

When we got back to Shinjuku, Mick wanted to go to the Starbucks at Shinjuku Station crossing and look out onto the crossing, like Scarlett Johansen does in Lost in Translation.

Here we are, sitting on bar stools at the window:
And here is the view from those seats:

Here’s another look:

This is the view of where we were sitting from the outside:
We ended the day with a western-style meal from room service:

Tomorrow:  Harajuku Girls

Note:  You can view Mick’s photos and video of this day here.  You can read some of his thoughts about the trip here.

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.Img_0973

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.

It was nice to just wander around Shibuya with no real sights to see.  Mick was amused to see a Japanese version of the Mac/PC commercial playing in one electronics store:

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:

This photo does not do justice showing the sheer number of people crossing here at any one time.  It is simply incredible, but I’ll blog a little more about that tomorrow.

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.

I followed up with a nice big mai tai to wash the taste out of my mouth.  🙂

A nice man offered to take a picture of Mick and I:

Two more days to go!

Note:  You can view Mick’s photos and video of this day here.

Well, I didn’t think I’d have so much time to blog today, but we are at the airport with about three hours to wait until the plane takes off.  I might just finish all this blogging before we get home (though it’s doubtful).

Kyoto has like 1400 temples, shrines, and other such sites.  We had one full day to view them all.  Obviously, we had to be selective. 

Upon finishing a traditional Japanese breakfast (which I will blog about tomorrow), Mick and I hopped in a cab and went to Nijo Castle, which was the Kyoto palace of the Tokugawa Shoguns.


This photo was taken in the outer area of the palace.  We were able to tour the inside of the palace, but unfortunately they wouldn’t allow photographs or even sketching of the inside.  It was really fascinating, however.  In some of the rooms they had life-sized dolls set up to illustrate scenes in history or the purpose of a particular room.  It was cool to see a traditional Japanese "home" after living in our ryokan room for a day.  Though the palace rooms were much, much bigger, they weren’t all that different from the rooms we were living in.

All the visitors had to remove their shoes and leave them in the provided shelves.  Funny to tour a public place in your stocking feet.

Another interesting feature of the palace was the floor, called the Nightingale floor.  When walked upon it squeaked in such a way that it sounded like lots of birds tweeting.  This was done intentionally to warn the inhabitants of someone trying for a surprise attack.

After touring the inside of the palace, we were able to explore the gardens surrounding it.  They were so beautiful:

It became very windy on this observation deck:

This was the view from the other side of the observation deck:

By this time I had a hankering for some traditional kyoto sweets, which are hard to explain but are very delicious.  Basically, they consist of a small "tortilla" (I use this word very loosely) wrapped around some flavored bean paste.  Might not sound yummy, but I assure you they are.  The ones I am eating here are strawberry flavored:

Our next stop on today’s tour was the Golden Pavilion:

This photo is a contender for this year’s Christmas card, so don’t be surprised if you see it again.  Mick and I found on this trip that it’s easy to get someone to offer to take a photo of you simply by taking a photo of yourself (Mick and I’s standard photograph).  Almost every time we did it, someone offered to take a photo of us together, but then asked if we would reciprocate.


The Golden Pavilion is a very popular tourist spot, as witnessed by this photo:

Like Nijo Palace, the Pavilion had beautiful gardens surrounding it, as well as little memorials and offering places.
Here, tourists are trying to land their offerings (coins) in a small bowl at the foot of the statue:

Pachinko Success at Last

I’m sure you guessed that I wouldn’t leave Japan without playing pachinko.  In Kyoto, the pachinko parlours were a lot less intimidating than those in Tokyo, and this time we took advantage of the attendant and let him help us.

Here I am, boys and girls, finally playing pachinko!  It turns out it’s not all that complicated, but it certainly is a good way to get rid of some cash if you have a mind to do it.  Proceed with caution!

After we finally learned, a day didn’t pass in Japan when we didn’t play pachinko at least once.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ryokan

When we returned to the ryokan, the Okami brought us a delicious drink made with yazuya–it tasted like warmed lemonade.  After bathing and putting on our yakutas, we made our way to the dining room.  This is the view out one of the windows:

This night’s dinner was completely different than the one the previous night.  It started with fish topped with a broccoli-type vegetable in broth.

Next came some of that vegetable tempura I’ve come to know and love in Japan:
No meal (even breakfast) is complete in a ryokan without a little sashim.  Tonight’s featured different fish than the night before, but was similiarly presented:

How gorgeous is that?

Our next dish was Kyoto beef, lightly seared and terrfically delicious.

This night’s dinner would also feature shabu-shabu, but this time, with fish and tofu instead of beef:

The citrus shown here is yazuya, of course.

The final dish was simply beautiful–a gorgeous box of sushi:

It was almost too pretty to eat, but of course I did my best.

There was a curious couple sitting next to us at dinner–a older man, like perhaps 65, and a younger woman, like around 25 (if that).  I assumed it was a father and daughter traveling together.  When we sat down, the woman said hello in English and throughout the meal I could see her paying attention to us.  Finally, toward the end she asked us where we were from and explained that she had lived in Australia for six years.  Of course her English was very good.  There was something she said, however, that implied that it was not her father she was with and Mick and I got the creepy feeling she was actually with a "boyfriend."  Hmmmm.  Maybe you had to be there to get what I’m saying, but it was kind of weird.

After dinner, Mick and I were determined to go out and see the geishas on Potoncho-dori.  This is a street they walk down at night, getting to their places of business.  Here I am, walking down the street by day because Mick didn’t get any that night.

Unfortunately, we must’ve been out too early (around 9pm) because we didn’t see any at all.

We ended up in a much more familiar place to the likes of us:

I have to admit it felt good to be in a place that might’ve easily been in England or even Santa Monica.

I’m loving Japan, but I am also longing for home…