Tuesday, September 2

Kyoto with Jo-Anna

Edited - pictures added!! More posts to come soon...I promise. Darn school takes too much time.

In February, my good friend Jo-Anna booked a flight to come visit me. I was sort of disappointed, because she wasn't comin until August, and that didn't help my lonliness at the time. But time flew, and lo and behold, yesterday, she arrived.

Since I had to finish working, I gave her explicit and detailed directions with colors, maps, and pictures - and we met up at Tsuruhashi. I was super excited to see her and looking forward to spending the week together; she was super happy to be in Japan and see again too. We dropped off her stuff at the dorm, and went for supper to a little place by my house - Akoya. I haven't been yet, so it was to be an adventure. It turned out to be a great one! It's quite small; there was the chef and one patron. The patron spoke some English, and the four of us had the grandest time.

They thought we were pretty awesome (cuz we're foreigners) and kept saying how pretty and good looking we were...but not in a creepy way, more in an amazed way. We laughed and talked and ordered some food. I asked for their recommendation, which was fish and octopus. It came sashimi-style...I didn't realize Jo-Anna doesn't like sushi and has never tried sashimi. But she tried it (kudos for being brave) and liked it! We took some pictures, and then pulled out our money to pay. We misread the bill, and as we were pulling out more money, they both gave all the money back and said it was on the house. I tried to pay them and shove some money in their hands, but they wouldn't take it (bill amounted to just over $30). They just said to come back sometime soon, so we're going to stop by again this week. They also said they had noticed me before (I walk by twice a day).

Today, we visited Kyoto. We wandered a bit and bought some beautiful pottery from a nice couple - took some pictures with them and chatted for a few minutes.

The man who made our beautiful pottery

This week is the Gion festival, so stands are starting to appear in Kyoto - we spent quite a while looking at the infinite and intricite pottery. When we realized we couldn't look at pottery forever, we headed up to Kiyomizu Temple.

Just before going inside, we met Gaku. He is a computer programmer who has been working in Japan for 10 years. He asked if he could join us, which was fine with us. We went into the temple area and looked at all the buildings and the three story pagoda. We also got inside one of the buildings that is normally closed - it is open today for Sen Nichi day; if you make a wish on this day inside the temple, it is as if you came for sen (1000) days! Gaku also showed us the Kiyo Mizu of the temple (kiyo = pure, mizu = water) - which I hadn't known about!

The water was really good, especially since it was so warm out, and we were quite thirsty! Then we visited some of the smaller shrines...there was one shrine especially for love. It is said that if you successfully walk from one Love Rock to the other, with your eyes closed, you will find love soon. I had to try, and I made it! So I shall find love one day soon...

After we left Kiyomizudera, we were getting pretty tired and I was pretty hungry. We walked back down to Shijo Street, and searched for food.... which took a while to find. Jo-Anna was tired and her back was sore. I was hungry. Really hungry. We were at each other's throats a bit.... and we were both a bit annoyed by Gaku. He was really nice, but we wanted to talk to each other, and didn't want to be rude to him. So we had to try and include him, which was awkward sometimes...and he was a pretty clingy walker (you know those people...whenever you turn around they are right. there.). But we did finally find food, yummy food. We relaxed in the AC and ate, and felt much better and less grumpy after.

Finally - dinner! Jo-Anna & Gaku

We did a bit more shopping and exploring, then decided to head home. We were both a bit annoyed by Gaku, but felt bad because he was really nice, and really helpful. He was asking about our plans for the week, and I sort of vaguely told him, but as soon as I sensed he might ask to join in, I changed the subject. I figured that was nicer than having to tell him "No".... On the train ride, we sort of talked to each other a bit more and (unintentionally) ignored him a bit. But he seemed really happy to have met us and gave us his email address, and got promises that we would email (and we will).

On the way home, we stopped at the supermarket and picked up some snacks, and had a party and girl talk in my room. It's been great to catch up with Jo, and we've had lots of giggles and good talks already - and it's only Day 1 of the week!

Monday, September 1

Izu, Izu, Izu (Part III)

After I awoke from the dead, we tidied up and packed up to leave our adorable little Ryokan. Off in search of breakfast.... what did we find? MOS Burger! Mos Burger is sort of like a Japanese version of Burger King or Arby's or Wendy's - and the burgers have buns! Most 'hamburgers' in Japan come without buns. Don't ask me why. After a lovely chili chicken burger, salad, some fries, and an apple pie pocket (yes, I know - super healthy!), we jumped on the bus for Irozaki. Irozaki is a beautiful coastal area that is just barely touristy, but has some gorgeous scenery.

We took a half hour cruise along the coastline...the air was hot and sticky, so being out over the ocean felt nice (still hot and sticky, though). We passed by several rocks that were island-ed in the ocean, but with fishermen on them! Fully clothed, with gear. We figured that either they could walk out at low tide, or someone had dropped them off. But it was still funny to see them sitting on a rocky island with no means of getting off.

We passed by a larger rocky island that was inhabited by monkeys!! People who had bought monkey food before departing threw the snacks out to the monkeys, who scurried around to reach it. Most of the people throwing the snacks were terrible at it - ridiculously so. And not just the kids - several adults threw snacks into rock crevices or didn't even make it to the island (which was 10 feet away). But it was neat to see the monkeys.

When we got back from the cruise, we did a little perusing of the small shops. Most of the shops were inhabited by Obasans (older women) who were delighted to see us and thrilled when we came in to look around. One lady offered us some water; Irozaki water is supposed to be especially good. Given how hot it was, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

While waiting for our bus, we spent some time in one last sparse little shop. The Obasan was delightful! She was wandering around, talking at people out the window, giving directions and instructions to random people, and repeatedly making sure we knew where to go for the bus. She was very friendly and Rumi and I got a picture with her. After we bussed back to Shimoda, we jumped on another bus - this time for the aquarium. But not just any aquarium, no no, a floating one!

There was a small ice cream stand outside the aquarium, and (of course) we got some ice cream! Feeling adventurous, we tried some new flavors... Alex had something random (we don't know what it was) and I had Brown Algae. Surprisingly good, not sure how to describe the taste, though.

We watched the huge turtles in the pool outside before venturing in...we hit up the Sea Lion show right away, followed by the Dolphin performance. It was so much fun! We sat in the first row, and could see both the underwater portion and the above water portion very well. It was both cute and amazing! The Sea Lions did some fabulous tricks, including some kisses and waving, flips, spins, and dives. We also got a 'gun show'....he lifted his flippers and gave them a little kiss, just to how how proud he was of all his muscle and abilities... The dolphin show was equally amazing! I couln't get over how beautiful the dophins were. A couple times they slowly sailed across the glass right in front of us, and I couldn't tear my eyes away. More impressive (super high!) jumps and tricks later, they waved goodbye and the shows were done.

We explored the rest of the aquarium, saw some penguins and sea anemone and a GIANT crab; small sharks and more dolphins. Then we had lunch in the restaurant. Guess what we had? Seafood! I'm not sure if it was a strange or appropriate thing to eat in an aquarium, but it was delicious! Soo yummy.

When we got back to Shimoda, we did a little more shopping and then jumped on the train for Atami...it was already almost 8 o'clock. Rumiko and I were planning on hitting up Moonlight Beach before we started our night adventure back home. We said goodbye the the guys, and decided to check the schedule.

Enter Ridiculous Adventure #2. Yes, there were two in one weekend. You wouldn't think a 2 day trip would have so many adventures and blog posts, would you? Neither did we.