We took the bullet train to Kyoto yesterday, and are now back on the train and en route to Hiroshima. I am very impressed by, never mind how fast, but how quiet the cars are on the tracks. Like any mode of transport, there are some bumps, so if our friends and family get a postcard with slightly chicken scratch printing (note that my printing is already sub-par), sorry!
Day 1, was a half day of jet-lag induced haze, so I had to rely on my pictures to express myself. I’m on local time now, so let’s see how I go. 🙂
Something everyone told me before I got the plane is that the Japanese are unfailingly polite. And they are. I’ve never been bowed to so much, ever. Or said thank you so many times (though if I had more of a grasp of the language, I would be able to express myself with more than just “domo arigato”). My thought is that the politeness softens the rigid structure of things in a country of very deeply ingrained tradition of a patriarchal society. It’s a bit paradoxical. The younger generation makes it even more so. It’s very interesting to watch.
There are queues to ride up the escalators and to get on trains. The trains are always on time. Always. Everyone has the latest in mobile technology, and the reason the trains are on time (present day) is because of the innovative technology that they develop every day. (The trains were on time before technology because of above mentioned structure.) Jay-walking is a rarity. (Although, there have been a few rebels I’ve seen jay-walk, and a few sneaky folks sliding in to a lineup to get on a train car.)
We are travelling with our friend Matt. Matt is an American living in Canada (now a citizen!), who lived in Japan with his Japanese wife, Dori, for two years (and then they moved back to Canada). Dori lost her battle with cancer this past September, so I will say that this trip is emotional and leave it at that for now. But I do wish she was here because she was a really lovely person, and a lot of fun to be with.
Matt has the wonderful advantage of having a very impressive grasp of the language, which has been very helpful. It’s quite amusing to see the very subtle surprise on someone’s face when he asks them a question in their native tongue.
On Monday, we took the city train to Chiba, which is a city just southeast of Tokyo. It is where Dori was from and where her parents own/run a very cool bar called Ashibi. First on the agenda was lunch at a sushi place where the food is served via conveyor belt. All I have to say is “YUM”.
We split up after lunch so Matt could run some personal errands, and Sean was given the responsibility of taking me to the mall for a couple hours. (He was here with Matt in October so has some recognition of where some landmarks are.)
Now, while I love to shop, I’m not made of money, so there was a lot of browsing in a multi-story Holt Renfrew/Hudson’s Bay combo style shopping paradise called Sogo. Lots of designer brands on most floors (everything Lanvin is popular here), and a couple floors with more accessibly priced kitchenware, flatware, stationery, beauty products, etc.
I wrote about paradox earlier in this post. Well, imagine walking through the Tiffany and Co. shop and having the instrumental version of the “Ghostbusters” theme randomly come through the speakers. We had a good chuckle about it.
We wandered over to Ashibi to have a beer (Kirin Black; very Guinness like and very delicious) and then met up with Matt to go have dinner at an Indian restaurant he used to frequent very often. Yes, an Indian restaurant. In Japan. The gentleman who owns and runs it is a former architect who moved to Japan to study architecture and stayed to work for a firm. The Tokyo grind got to him and he gave it all up to open his restaurant.
I could see the chef making the nan in the kitchen but I was not prepared for gigantic pieces of nan that came out in baskets with our meals. It was an fantastic and very tasty vessel for my butter chicken starter (an absolute favourite) and for my “Ladie’s Curry” thereafter.
I am a sissy when it comes to spicy food, so I was happy the menu listed the levels so you could choose the heat level. They even bring out a little dish of the curry sauce so you can test it and ask for less or more heat. Both times, I asked for less. Again, I’m a spice sissy.
As Matt used to eat there a lot when he was teaching English to locals, he knows the owner well. We were treated very well (not that we wouldn’t have been otherwise) and it was a wonderful meal.
My laptop is dying and there isn’t an outlet on the train. It’s a sign I need to enjoy the rare opportunity of my having a window seat.
Matta ne! (See you later!)