June 10 Narita

Ahhh... Japan. This is a very simple, modest place to stay but still, it has all its parts. I see now why I had such a problem trying to design a Japanese style room in my itty-bitty house. This very simple bedroom/living area/storage and bath is Much Bigger than my house! And they put away the bed every day!!
A bit of the same concept of what I did in The Big House except they lowered the bath and the shower area is a little bigger. There are nice windows above the tub that looks onto the garden but it would be even nicer were the windows bigger as the feeling isn`t as open as we`d prefer.

The toilet is in a separate room as is the washbasin and all three are down the storage hallway behind the sliding doors of the main room.
This is my second visit to Narita. It is so convenient, you`re in your room 30 minutes after landing at the airport, and it is so interesting I don`t know why it isn`t a more popular stop.

Narita City couldn`t be more apart from the airport complex, and Tokyo for that matter. It`s a sweet small town and home to a fantastic temple complex.
Large collections of these monuments are scattered all throughout the parklands associated with the temple.
These are messages for World Peace. There are dozens of these fences with giant hooks and all these placques hung from them.
More. It`s really a wonderful stroll.
A shot looking inside one of the temples from the door.
Esoteric Buddhism is what they practice here and you can instantly feel the overwhelming difference between this world and the world of Tibetan Buddhism.
A big ceremony was going on but I couldn`t get a shot because there were helpers hanging around the doors to give you bags for your shoes and I didn`t want to just step in for the dis-allowed photo-op... so I took advantage when this priest came outside to bang on the bell.

I wish you could see their clothes! The fabrics were rich and sensuous and perfectly tailored in jeweled colors and with simple elegant designs in the belts and sashes. All very lux.

Their chants were similar to the Tibetan`s but I`m not sure, they might have used more instruments like drums, gongs, bells, etc.
And speaking of sensuous. There are two experiences that never fail to satisfy and I cannot choose between them as the more : dancing to Latin music and eating Japanese food.

Wow, be still my beating heart.

I stopped in here early for lunch because it had started raining and as of this writing at 9pm it is raining still. At least it`s cool!
June 11 and 12 in Yugawara with the Kamihagi family

It took a lot of the morning to transfer from Narita to where Shoko and Yuri picked me up. We had a happy coffee break and then Kyoko was off to dance class and a party and Shoko took me for a great round of sightseeing.

This is the castle in Odawara - a friendly small town neighborhood castle. Inside was a very nice collection of items from the time the castle was an important part of the life of the area.
They live on the coast south of Tokyo and it is stunningly gorgous driving towards their home, like a lush and forested Highway One.

Pictures yet to come:

1) the forest (it`s a wow-zer, my pictures are not)
2) the sea coast and Tak`s boat (!)
We then gathered up Satsuki and Kyoko, Yuri being at her party, and went to a nearby sushi restaurant, one of those converyer belt places where they will also make to order, and we ate about two feet of plates. These girls can Chow not to mention my contribution!

It was all very very good and I had at least three combinations that I had never eaten before. Lordy it was good.
Bed-time and everyone`s had their bath. I got the first bath and I got Kyoko`s room!

Mark the dog is here too.

I had so little time to work on the pictures... yet to come:

1) a trip to the foot spa.
2) our utterly faaabulous lunch special for us at the restaurant where Kyoko works.
3) their house and their roof-top patio for bar-b-que and viewing the sea.
The train system in Japan is surely the Eighth Wonder of the World. And as if it were even possible, I think they have improved from last time I was here, in 1999, when I thought nothing could be more perfect.

I think the bathrooms now might be more commodious and they are always spotless with plenty of paper available, both on the trains and in the stations. How do they do this?

Buy a JR pass at home, it`s much cheaper, and then just gogogo. It`s breathtaking.
And even the food is amazing on the trains. Places like this are on every platform as well as more casual convenience store type food, and similar items are available on the train itself.

I had a thrilling chat, in Japanese! with this woman because she had basically no English. I mentioned how great the trains were and she told me she didn`t drive because she didn`t want to learn but she had five grandchildren and they could all drive.

She asked me where I was from, where I learned Japanese, was I traveling alone, etc. all the regular first exchanges. I was really happy since it seems she understood because she asked the next appropriate question. It`s hard to find people who wouldn`t rather talk to you in English!
June 13 Takayama

This is going to be a day of comparisons because this place is basically similar in intent to many of the places I went in China.?@It`s a very old town with the core of the buildings preserved for tourism.

Difference 1) in China all these preserved areas are surrounded by big booming skyscrappered cities and everywhere is packed to the gills with Chinese tourists.

Here it is very sedate. The streets are quiet and the town is surrounded by crisp mountains and clear streams.
2) in China every Every EVERY one is either already cheery and lively and laughing or about to be. They walk with their chins up and their eyes always looking around for something to find amusing.

Here it is very sedate. People walk with their heads held straight, looking straight ahead, rather in a quiet personal world of their own design.
3) in China the shops and restaurants and sightseeing spots are presented first with commerce in mind. The shopkeepers call out to you, the goods are stacked high, there is a cost for everything, the signs are loud.

Here, well, you know what I`m going to say. Notice the bit of garden at the side of this shop. Almost every establishment has such a place of refuge and commerce is conducted in the most civilized way you can imagine.
4) in China personal space (and in this my experience is very shallow) seems a little wild with stuff just left where it lies and is more for noisy socializing than anything else.

Here personal space is treasured and protected. Every bit is tended and these pot-gardens are promonent in front of many houses.
I do really enjoy everything about Japan but this woman who runs the ryokan where I`m staying was able to smile at me I think because we were previously acquainted. This is it for smiling faces so far!
I was reduced to taking pictures of myself.
Sake is BIG in this town. I must have seen 20 places where they manufacture and bottle sake. There are also many elegant stores that feature sake. They say it`s the mountain rice and the mountain water that makes it special.

I tried a couple local brews last night and can report that even the cheap stuff is good!
One time when I was just standing in a door having a look at a brewery this guy gathered me up and took me on a 30 minute tour of the facility. We went through the whole process - in Japanese !. I missed plenty but understood plenty too so that was a real kick.

Notice, I took 5 tries and could not catch a nice picture even though it seemed to me we were having a really good time and he was quite cheerful throughout.
June 14 Takayama to Matsumoto

I hung around in the morning snacking my way through the food shops. They`ve all got samples out for your tasting pleasure and it was Fab to be able to try so many different things.

Another specialty of the area besides sake is what they call san-sei, or mountain vegetables. They preserve them in a milllion ways, mostly salty, some spicy, some sour, etc.

Then I thought, hey, I`ve never been to Matsumoto, I can go see Matsumoto right now! So I went to the train station to figure the schedule, it was easy-peasy, and I was off.
The two hour way to Matsumoto from Takayama is by bus but since my pass is only for the train, I took the four hour route instead requiring a big back-track out of the mountains and then up again. No prob.

There are what look like small family rice fields all along this route with kitchen gardens attached to every house.
Oh look, a patch of dirt. Something needs to be planted!
Lovin` the train.

In the big cities in Japan traffic can get a little rough but basically there are rules, everyone knows the rules, and you can pretty much count on not getting run over in a crosswalk.

I`m thinking that in China, and in India even more so, people are going to have to go through some major heartfelt paradigm shift, to comply with and enforce rules of the road.

You can drive in Japan even on the `different` side because you can know the rules. But it`s so crazy in China (and in India even more so!) you can`t dream of driving, forget it, and that impacts your ability to do business and for that reason alone something`s gotta give.
I passed this one by...
Here`s a cutie!

My poor ratty old feet having trudged around five weeks on the road got themselves a nice bit of refreshing. She spent more than one hour on nothing but this paint job.
June 15 and 16, sayonara!

A few snaps from the Matsumoto castle and I've got some panoramas to put together too.
Notice those cup-like things. It`s a rain spout and I want one. They also make these incredible high-tech car ports that I`m lusting after...
Takayama is a temple town too. They call themselves the Kyoto of somewhere. A lot of places call themselves the Kyoto of somewhere which only emphasizes if you ever come to Japan you won`t want to miss Kyoto!
It rained all day here, then I went back for a last night at the Kamihagi's.
Another greee-at dinner. Kyoko has wonderful taste in jobs!

I'm home now, up after sleeping for 16 consecutive hours(!).

Where I've been in Japan so far:
Odowara-castle, Yugawara-Kamihagi, Takayama, Matsumoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Narita, Nagasaki, Negoya, Nara, Nikko, Yokahama, Hakone, Kyoto, (Hokkaido,) Sapporo, Shiretoko-National Park, Nemuro, Noboribetsu, Sendai, Yudanaka Onsen, Jigokudani Rotemburo, Nagano, grrThat Post Town, (Shikoku,) Tokushima, Kochi, Matsuyama-Dogo Onsen,
HomeAsia • Japan • '05 Jun: Japan

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