Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hisashiburi (long time no see)

Even though I love blogging, I had to take a break on my travels. My visit home was packed with friends, family, good beer and food and four trips to the movie theater. To some people this might not be worth mentioning, but I love movie theaters as much as I love coffee, which is to say, A LOT.
Anyway, now that I am back in Japan Land my adventures have already begun. Mikel picked me up in Nagoya. We spent the first jet-lagged night in a "smoking" room, despite the fact that Mikel requested non-smoking... something got lost in translation. It's just one of the many things that come out differently than expected when we bumble over the few Japanese words we think we know. That's what I have come to realize. I think I know a lot more than I can actually communicate in a practical way. I have conversations like (English translation, obviously), "Oh, Megan-teacher, would you like to run a race in Japanese iron shoes in Nino next month with Mikel," says my vice principal. "Oh, um...ok. I email to Mikel do. I to Mikel, email to do... email... do... to e-me-i-ru." All the while I am sweating, and grinning like the Cheshire Cat (in other words, maniacally). "Ok, umm," as she looks at me confused, "please, you can e-mail Mikel. Let me know."

After our night in the smokey hotel, we went on a week-long trip. First to Gujo to see a festival. We slept in a tent for one night and our car for two. We were nice and smelly by the time we made it to Kyoto and got a hostel with a shower. In Kyoto we walked our butts off. We like to walk, but we also had the unfortunate bad sense to try and find restaurants in our Let's Go guide to Kyoto from 2004. Bad idea. Only one still exists. We found it after about three hot, depressing hours of dragging our butts around downtown Kyoto looking for anything remotely edible for vegetarians. The restaurant we found is called Didi's. We like to talk about that time as, "Didi's or Big D" as in: Divorce. We joke about splitting up (we are travel buddies!) but when we are hot, smelly, tired and hungry, LOOK OUT. Danger. Thank god for Didi's.
We didn't find the amazing $100 ice cream sundaes in the photo above until our second night, during which we walked for one and a half hours to another restaurant that doesn't exist anymore. We could have shriveled up and died at the idea of walking all the way back on my blistered feet and "combini" food, but we decided to work our way home from Circle-K to Family Mart (convenience stores) eating veggie sushi and getting drunk on Asahi Dry (bad Japanese beer). Japan at night is very interesting, especially when you can drink beer in public and people watch. If I wrote a guide book for people with no money and a heart for adventure, I would recommend the "combini beer tour."
And I would recommend making faces like this man when walking down the street. The hat is optional.
Hello from our HUGE tent. We were trying to be inconspicuous as we were rough camping by a river frequented by traditional Japanese fishermen and very friendly rafters. A giant yellow tent isn't exactly what I would call stealth, but it didn't seem to matter. Due to stink factors that I mentioned before, I "took a bath" in the river, hence the swimmin' suit. Suit up missy!
We made an amazing discovery. Japan has AWESOME coffee. It's really strong and if you go to a cafe for breakfast, you can get a set (pictured above) with usually toast and a hard boiled egg. The coffee comes with super thick cream and a sugar syrup. The day we found out this not-so-secret aspect of Japan, we went to two other cafes the same day. Like I said, I love coffee and so (thank god!) does my husband. I would have posted the photo of Mikel at this table as he was much more photogenic at that moment, but my photo of him doesn't have a good shot of the breakfast.
Check out this sweet shirt! This is a food stand at the festival called Gujo-dori that we went to. (And yes, these three almost-blonde ladies are all Japanese. ) People dance certain traditional dances in a trance-like manner all night. After we danced the full cycle of six dances that they would be repeating, we pooped out and went to sleep in our sweet sweet kuruma.
Many people at the festival were dressed in traditional summer kimonos like the women in the photo. It was beautiful!

Mikel might kill me for posting this, but I think it is a fun photo. He is standing in a path created by hundreds of "tori" or gates which indicate the entrances of shrines. This place is in Kyoto and it is called Fushimi Inari. I hobbled through it on my giant blister, and then limped about an hour north to find our long-sought Indian food, which was good (the restaurant was recommended by the hostel so we knew it existed) but it was a lot like tomato soup with various Indian spices. Anyway, food is good, even if it isn't the BEST.
Now we are back at work and my blister is gone.
More soon, but it's time for lunch at the ol' junior high.
Happy August!