Saturday, July 16, 2016

Miscelaneous Japan

Well folks, this is my last post about Japan - just a few random musings.

First, they have western toilets for the most part. So many that I never had to use one of the kind below, though there are plenty of those, too.
Their western toilets are way better than ours. Every one of them has this "bar" attached to it giving you lots of options: heated seat, bidet, shower from the front, shower from the back, music, flushing noises (perhaps to cover the noises you're making?), and so forth. Yeah, they do toilets right in Japan.
Secondly, Japan is a mountainous country. Here in Colorado, we build passes that we twist up and wind down mountains on. In Japan, there are not passes, just a million tunnels and bridges. I wish I'd known when we first arrived - I would've tried to count them all.

Also, the food. Yeah.
Here's my favorite "ice cream sandwich." A thin layer of chocolate in the middle, vanilla ice cream, and a "crust" that tasted exactly like our cake cones.
Then there are rice cakes. We ate a million of these. You get them at gas stations, and if all you're familiar with is our gas station food, you know why I was hesitant at first. But with as much driving as we did, these were often our option of quick food and keep driving. And they are amazing.
Above, it's still wrapped. Below, unwrapped. A thin layer of seaweed over a thick cake of rice with various types of fish inside. Tuna or salmon or whatever. They were SO good! It's so unfair to get hooked on a food overseas that you know you'll probably never get again.
Speaking of food, here is a typical Japanese table at a restaurant. Notice the tissues for those who like their food hot, and the ash tray, because the Japanese are where we were in the 70s and 80s. Lots of smokers, smoking inside. Ish.

Another delicious meal.
This was the restaurant I mentioned a post or two back, where you order at a machine, then take your ticket to the guy behind the counter.
Another thing that I saw everywhere, especially at rest stops and hotels, are these toy machines. We have a lot here, too, but no where near as many as I saw in Japan. Ours typically run from a quarter to three. Theirs are anywhere from $2 - $5.

While they have some of the same types of toys as we do, some are very different. Toy nurses, anyone?

How about a knit cap for your cat?
I mentioned in an earlier post about the rain. People carry umbrellas constantly, because you really never know when it's going to rain. However, no one in Japan takes their wet umbrellas into buildings with them. Stores, hotels, restaurants...everywhere are these "lockers" for your umbrella. That way you keep the building dry and don't have to worry about toting around your dripping umbrella.
These two pictures do absolutely no justice to how many "rows" of mountains we could see on our final drive from Nikko to Tokyo, but I thought I'd include them anyway. It was sheer beauty.

This robot was in the Haneda airport. It only spoke Japanese, but was very interesting to interact with.
People in Japan dress just like we do, but occasionally you'll run across a lady, or a group of them, headed out in kimonos to a special occasion.

Rice paddies anywhere they can fit them. Forget about having a yard.
I took this photo in the samurai village we visited. 10-16 is my birthday, and we kept seeing those two numbers together everywhere. It got to the point that it was a bit strange. We had seen them our first night in Tokyo when it was our hotel room number, then again on a license plate in Kyoto. I also happened to look at my phone at one point at exactly 10:16. It seemed every day or two the numbers were popping up. Odd.

That's it. Thanks for enjoying the journey with me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Japan Day 10

One of the best things we did was go kind of out of our way to visit the Jigokudani snow monkey park. So unlike anything you would see in the States, we just paid our $5 entrance fee and walked into a world of monkeys. There were literally hundreds, literally everywhere.
They ran right past us, they fought right next to us, they slept and picked at each other and were generally just amazing. I thought we'd stay for an hour. We stayed for a good two. I did not want to leave!

They don't sit in the hot springs in the summer - it being too hot and all. But they do drink from it, and a baby fell in once, which was hilarious.

From there we again drove across the island, to the city of Nikko. I kind of made a wrong call when we got there, and took us to this place first, which I wish we'd saved until after we visited the compound of the former Tokugawa clan, because by the time we got there it was only open for another ten minutes, so we didn't pay the $10 or $20 bucks to go in.
This place was pretty cool, though, and after so many hours of driving over the last two days (and not done yet - we still had another 2+ hours to Tokyo in the evening), we really needed to get out and refresh, and this was the perfect place to do it.
There are many, many of these - what they call "ghost statues" - because they say that every time you count them their numbers change. We counted almost 90, but the web says there are only 70. It was confusing knowing what to count, because some of the statues were missing bodies, but the heads were laying on the stone blocks. Do you count those? What about the ones that are crumbling and hard to know what they were? Why knows. Here are two ghost statues plus one...

The statues were right next to this river. See why it was a good place to refresh?

The Shinkyo bridge, above. In feudal times it could only be used by the emperor. It sure looks like the stone supports are carved out of a single block of stone. Impressive.

These are just a couple photos of the outside of the Tokugawa shrine. From "Almost all of the present-day shrine complex was rebuilt in 1636, twenty years after Tokugawa Ieyasu’s enshrinement. Fifty-five buildings, including Yomeimon Gate (designated a National Treasure), were completed in just one year and five months. According to the shrine’s financial records, the cost was equivalent to of ¥40 billion in today’s money. One of the special features of the shrine complex is the use of paths and stairways that follow the natural topography of the site, allowing the arrangement of the shrine buildings in a pleasing balance to create a solemn, religious atmosphere. The buildings are lacquered and decorated with vibrant colors, and the pillars and other structures are covered in a multitude of carvings. The carvings are not simply design elements; they convey expressions of religious belief as well as scholarship and philosophy.
The shrine complex was registered as a World Heritage site in December 1999."
I'm bummed we didn't get to tour it. It's hard knowing you're missing something like that when you also know you probably won't ever be back.