Today we went to Kyoto. We’d been warned that it was one of the hottest places in Japan, but I hadn’t paid too much attention to the warnings thinking that I wouldn’t really notice the difference after the heat I’d already been dealing with. Boy was I ever wrong! It was the single most brutal day of heat and misery that I’ve ever experienced. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d been wearing shorts, but AWelkin had mentioned prior to the trip that it was one of the more conservative areas of Japan and we shouldn’t wear shorts there because it’s just not done1. I have to say that if I’d known in advance how brutal the heat would be there; I would have ignored that cultural advice and worn shorts. It was horrific and it make matters worse, the main temple we’d come to see was more than just a little ways from the train station and all the walking was uphill. Before we got there though, we rode the local bus system which wasn’t too bad, except when it got crowded2. Once the bus desposited us at the base of the hill to the temple; we started the climb, ignoring all the shops on the way up. When we finally made it to the top of the hill; we found we had to go up a set of steep stairs to get to the actual temple area. I think we’d already visited another temple that day (I’ll have to go through all the tickets and scraps I saved from the trip to double-check) and so AWelkin allowed those students who wanted to; to rest at the base of the temples. Only about 5 of us (3, if you didn’t count AWelkin & Bryon) actually went in. It was the most beautiful temple we’d seen yet and had a view of the valley area below which rivalled (but didn’t quite beat) the view of the ocean at the one previous temple. Again, words fail me here so I’ll have to hurry up and see about posting some pictures.
After we finished up at the temple, we had a short time to do some shopping on the way back. I started off trying to help Bryon find a kitsune figurine but we had no luck. Then I saw a shaved ice stand on the way down. I stopped to get some and cool off a bit while Bryon continued down to meet up with AWelkin. After I’d cooled down a bit, I took my ice with me as I finished walking down to the meeting point. Then we waited around far too long for all of the students to finish showing up and then took taxis back to the train station. On our taxi-ride back, Keki-san pointed out some maiko walking off onto a side street. They were wearing beautiful kimonos, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop and I had put my camera away so there was no chance to get a picture of them. *sad*
Once we all got to the train station, we all headed back to the Jikei center. On the train ride back, I had a nice chat with H-san (the bigwigs of Jikei that spent the most time with us). He gave me some background/history of Japan and asked me what I liked about the program so. It was very pleasant. Unfortunately, I don’t think I gave him the information he was really looking for because I’m such a non-traditional student and only went back to school in order to take this course. *sigh*
At the Jikei center, the staff out did themselves again with a barbeque for us. They grilled bits of beef (tiny, tiny but very tasty slices), corn, potatoes, onions, peppers, something like tofu but made from a root (which I didn’t care for) and rice balls (which I loved). They also had fresh (pulled from the ocean that day) which they grilled whole (heads, scales and all); but they ran out before I got around to trying them. I was soooo disappointed (not). They finished off the meal with more fresh fruit (watermelon and grapes) as well as shaved ice inside of plastic sticks (like a frozen popsicle). I tried both the melon and cream soda flavors, yum! Towards the end of the BBQ, Keki-san was talking with AWelkin and mentioned how much she liked the Japanese bath at the center. There was a bit of silence amoung several of us as AWelkin figured out that Keki-san wasn’t talking about a bath in her room, but a bath like a Japanese bathhouse. Several of us insistently were asking where it was and if we could use it. When we learned we could (unlike the pool which had been closed because no lifeguard was available); there was much rejoycing. *yeah* It was odd showering up in front of other men like that, but the ooo, aaaa, ah, ah, NOT COLD water in the tub (which was 3-4 times the size of my bathroom here in the US) made it all worthwhile. Especially since it relaxed my feet; so that for the first time, in about 2 weeks, my feet weren’t hurting. Aaaaahhhhhhh.
After the relaxing bath AWelkin, Bryon and myself did a bit more karoke and it was old farts night for about 2 songs each before some of the other students came in. AWelkin & Bryon slipped out early but I didn’t quite until my throat hurt but that didn’t take as long this night, partly because I was still somewhat sore from the night before and partly because they were smoking quite a bit more that night.
1 One of those clutural difference things.
2 AWelkin, Keki-san and Sato-sensai seemed very amused to see me srunch myself on top of a step inside the bus and push my head up at an angle along the cieling to make room for some of the little old ladies getting on to the bus.