Tuesday - On Tuesday we got up (again) at the crack of dawn (for me, that meant 7:00, for Mom, that meant 5:30ish) and took off for Kyoto. Kyoto is the previous capital of Japan, and the old architecture has been quite well preserved / copied for tourism's sake. Mom and I visited Nijo Castle - a beautiful castle with amazing artwork.
We were required to take off our shoes to walk the old wooden floors through the castle. The original artwork on the doors and walls was breathtaking - unfortunately, cameras weren't allowed. The shogun who built the castle wanted to be quite sure of his safety - and incorporated two over-the-top safety features (the castle was already surrounded by large stone walls and a moat). The castle is famous for it's 'nightingale floors' - floorboards designed to creak, creating a sound like a nightingale. With the special floor, no one could sneak into a room or around the castle without someone knowing. The shogun also had hidden rooms for his bodyguards, marked by large red tassels. We saw the red tassels in several places.
Above - Nijo Jo and it's garden in the background...
After Nijo-Jo, we walked in the hot weather to Imperial Palace Park. We were quite hungry, so we stopped for a Japanese lunch of udon (thick white noodles) and fried rice. After lunch, we discovered that you can only access the Imperial Palace if you request a special permit...so much for that idea! But it was a nice walk through the park, and we had a good lunch there.
We subway'd a ways and walked some more, up to Kyomizu Temple. Since we were pretty tired and it was late in the afternoon, we decided not to go into the temple, and to do some souvenir shopping instead. (Warning: I may rant and ramble in the next paragraph...)
We visited a short but delightful shopping street with all kinds of delightful things...notebooks, art, dishes, incense, dolls, clothing, shoes, umbrellas. I was trying to decide souvenirs I wanted to purchase now to send home with Mom - less stuff for me to bring home in August! I don't remember when it happened - or even how it happened. But near the end of our trip, while I was finally making a decision, we noticed a tag or a label that proudly read, "MADE IN CHINA". Disappointed, we promptly decided that we could not purchase a souvenir from Japan that was made in China. However - this proved more difficult than we thought. Once we started checking, almost everything was made in China! I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was slightly surprised, and disappointed. The shopping street looked so...quaint and realistic. But Kyoto is a tourist district, and let's be honest - it's much cheaper to buy in bulk from China than make it! I was frustrated that I couldn't even buy a true Japanese souvenir. In the end, Mom bought a couple notebooks, and we had some ice cream. Last time I was in Kyoto, I found a beautiful little dolly, and the lady told me she was an antique. She's been on my mind since I first saw her, and I decided that instead of buying several 'Made In China' souvenirs, I would rather have one authentic souvenir. We found the place again, and I bought her. She is handmade with antique fabric - even her face was painted by hand. Purchasing a beautiful and authentic souvenir of my time here took away a bit of my frustration and disappointment in all the China souvenirs.
We left Kyoto with our (few) souvenirs, and went home, with big plans for Wednesday morning.
Wednesday - We got up Wednesday, at the crack of dawn one more time, and had another delicious breakfast. Mom finished packing her (and some of my) stuff up, and we went to the onsen for an early morning soak. We left with plenty of time to get to the airport...
Once we got there, we found out that her flight departure had been delayed by - not 1, not 2, but 4 hours! Didn't need the extra time to get there, after all... So we had a nice lunch, checked her baggage, and then did some airport browsing. We found many of the similar souvenirs we had found before...some seemed more authentic, but you never know. We shopped, then sat, then shopped some more...we explored across the plaza, and into the airport hotel. Sitting in the sunshine on some coin-operated massage chairs, I had a short nap, and Mom had a massage.
We did a little more shopping, and then said our goodbyes. I waited until Mom went through the first security check, and then headed back to the train station. It's difficult to describe what I was thinking and how I felt when I hugged her goodbye.
I felt very small, very alone, and very vulnerable, and somewhat hopeless. I made it this far, by myself - I knew I would survive the rest of my adventure here. But I suppose I had gotten used to spending most of my time alone, and having Mom there for 5 days - someone to talk to, listen to, hug, laugh with, walk with, eat with...I suppose I knew that being alone now would be that much harder than it was a week ago. Part of me wanted to book a flight home for the next day, part of me wanted to go home and curl up and cry myself to sleep, and part of me wanted to not think or feel at all. I chose the latter most one - pulled out a book, and buried my face in it on the train; so no one would ask if I was alright...because I wasn't.
It's been a week since Mom left, now. I've slipped back into my routine, but I still miss having her here. I miss Canada (I never realized how proud I am to be Canadian, but I am!), my family and friends, and the busy and active life that I am used to having. Mom and I talked some about my life here vs my life in Canada, and some of her thoughts, combined with some of my own thinking has helped me understand why I don't feel like myself, and why I am somewhat over-emotional and so up-and-down. It's encouraging to understand some of why I've had a difficult time, but it's still hard to get through those difficult times.
In 86 days, my friend Jo-Anna will come visit for a week, and then I will be home. I'm excited, but I suppose a little nervous. I wonder how much I really have changed, how much the life I had has changed without me, and how everything will fit together in the fall. But - no matter - that's not for 93 days...
Until then, more Japanese adventures to come...