Sunday, September 7, 2008

JapanBall 2008 - What Day Is It? I'm Really Behind!

I'm in my hotel in Kyoto on Monday writing about riding the shinkansen to Kyoto.  Which actually happened two days ago.  The interesting part about writing this blog (and for means that I should write every day.  Hmm, this leads to a delicate balance between the time management of experiencing everything and then writing about it.

So let's see if I can catch up.  The group rode the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto.  As we checked out of hotel, Bob and Mayumi had cabs lined up to take us to Tokyo Station.  Again, I can’t describe enough how pleasant it is to have these little details taken care of.  There are no worries when it comes to transportation.

I bought a bento box at the track.  We managed to find the space behind the last seat on the shinkansen to store our luggage.  (Marc ended up stacking our big suitcase on top of a fellow group member’s.)  How is it possible that a train that can take a passenger to the other side of the country not have enough room to accommodate that passenger’s luggage?  I admit that I’m a notorious over packer, but on this trip we did very well considering we’re staying in Japan the entire month.  Luckily, there is good overhead space, so we put our smaller bag up there, but there were a lot of people who were traveling with fairly large suitcases.

I love looking out the window of the bullet train as it speeds through Japan’s countryside.  Once we’ve passed Tokyo and Yokohama, it’s so nice to see the green spaces and the rice paddies and the farmhouses and the mountains.  I think October is the time of the rice harvest.  One of my favorite things to see from the window of the train is the stack of cut rice fashioned to look like its kanji character ().  The neat lines of the paddies look like the kanji, too (). The farther west we travelled, the more I saw rice that was harvested and stacked.  In the east, the rice still looked green. 

As I look out the window, I'm flooded with sights of the countryside.  The clusters of houses with ceramic-tiled roofs zoom by. Mountains as a backdrop. Industrial buildings: Shiseido, Knorr, Foleo.  I saw two white cranes (or were they herons?), one standing in a rice field, one flying between two rice paddies.  People riding bikes on a lonely road cutting through fields. 

 Once in Kyoto, we take a short walk to the hotel where we have a few minutes to check in, drop our bags in our rooms, freshen up and grab a quick bite to eat before walking back to the train station to make our way to Nagoya for our second game of the tour.  On the train I sat next to a lovely Japanese lady who was on her way to visit her daughter in Tokyo.  We spoke in Japanese, mainly about food and travel, and although I understood about 80% of what she said, I was pleased with the conversation.  I find that once most Japanese people realize that I am capable of speaking Japanese, they are happy to talk.  They slow it down for me, though, and it's almost as if their vocabulary changes to accommodate my third-grade level.  

It's time to run out for dinner with Marc, so I must put my writing on hold.  I'll catch up later.

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