Monday, February 27, 2006

fish heads, fish heads, rolly polly fish heads...

This weekend was utterly fabulous. Robyn, my Canadian friend who I met when we lived in Lancaster, was visiting from Seoul, where she teaches English as well. Her aunt and uncle live just outside of Kobe in a little town called Obayashi. They had a great little place, and live on the campus of a private Catholic girls school. They were great and made me feel like family.

Saturday afternoon, Robs and I headed for Osaka. We needed to expose her to Japan, and I think we were pretty thorough. First, there was general wandering. We located a few restaurants we we intrigued by, and of course, a British pub! I taught Robs about the true heart of no public drinking regulations, and we drank our conbini Asahi whilst walking the streets. We went to a great little temple that had beautiful lanterns, and a very unique stamp for my shuin book.

After that, we trotted back to the English pub and threw back a couple happy hour cocktails. Then it was off to the rotating sushi bar. This place had the best wasabi I have had so far in Japan. The texture of it was soft, and it was STRONG. There was no maguro, but we still managed to gorge ourselves. Next, introduction to pocky and chu-hi.

We sat and people-watched. Very relaxing. We fumbled around in a purikura booth and managed to get some good shots. I wanted to hit up Pachinko, but wasn’t sure about etiquette etc, in there, so I figured I better not embarrass both of us. After a lot more wandering and photos near the river, we headed back to Obayashi.

Sunday morning, we headed to Himeji.

Himeji is known primarily for its castle, Dai-tenshu. It was built in the early 17th century, and represents the highest achievement in Japanese castle architecture. The white heron castle (named so because it is covered in white plaster, and its eaves resemble a white heron in flight) is the most famous in all of Japan. It was enormous, and the interior was all wood and gorgeous. It was simple, with some glass cases with armor, scrolls, sculptures, etc on display. There was a small indoor shrine located at the very top of the castle, and a wacky old dude screaming out the window to his friends on the bottom level. Very serene, dude.

Here is a shot of the pathway made up partly of old tiles from the castle roof.

We got a joint ticket to the Himeji Castle Nishioyashikiato Garden Koken. It was built on the site where the Himeji Lord and his men's samurai houses existed in the Edo Period. There are 9 gardens, but we didn’t have enough time to walk through more than 3. We were appreciating beautiful nature as quickly as possible (sadly ironic, I know!).

There was time to stop in the Soju-an (teahouse) so Robyn could have some macha and sweets. The ladies inside were ridiculously attentive and adorable. The head mistress tried to explain something about kocha (which apparently means black tea, and therefore makes NO sense in the following context) to me for about 10 minutes. I offer you this poorl translated version, (iow) what I got out of it...

"You eat the sweet first, then drink the tea. do you speak much Japanese? Where are you from? Missouri? Misery? giggle. Oh, a teacher in Toyama-ken. Kocha... Oh, you do not understand kocha... oh you can read hiragana! please wait a moment. (at this point she goes to get a paper for me to read, which is half kanji, half hiragana.) oh, you cannot read kanji (she goes away again and gets her reading glasses, she proceeds to read me the entire paper, as I sit in confusion). Kocha, kocha...Japan has 4 seasons that you can appreciate in this garden. Green, green... nani nani... how did you hurt your arm? Oh, that is unfortunate. Anyways, (counts seasons on her fingers) spring, summer, autumn, winter. Different plants and flowers bloom in different seasons. green... beautiful... castle...."
That's about it. But damned if she wasn't convinced I could understand her. Then she went into the backroom and I heard a little girl asking how to say, “does it hurt?” in English, so she could ask about my arm (awww!). She brought out her two little apprentices. They were about 6 or 7 years old, and were so cute! They asked if we would like more tea, and brought it out, bowed, the whole 9 yards. We took this photo with them.

I also give you my second drained macha cup. I will keep track of these on here, for my own amusement.

After a great weekend of drinking, catching up, and tanuki hunting, Robs and I parted ways in Sannonomiya, and I managed to return to Takaoka in one piece. I will end this by settling a dispute between J and myself...

this is trout!

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