I wake up on Saturday quite early so that I would be able to make my train on time. I just wasn't expecting it to be as complicated as it was. As it turns out, the system of how you locate your train is separated into terminals. They apparently have trains that are arriving and leaving every 5 minutes going to all sorts of locations. I thought it would have been more streigth forward like the subway or the JR lines, not complicated like an airport. So, I got lost, and all of the people I asked for help were also lost and it was also their first time riding the bullet trains. So I boarded the train that I thought was the correct train in a panic, then after looking more carefully at my ticket, I realized I had boarded the wrong train. I asked the people in front of me where I should be then they told me that the train I needed to be on had already left. I asked how when it wasn't even time yet, they told me that sometimes they leave early and sometimes they leave late. (Just like an airport) So I really should have been there at least an hour prior to boarding. I got really upset and didn't know what to do. I spent a lot of money on that ticket and I didn't want it to go to waste. He told me that he would explain to the train staff what had happened and said that I should be ok because the train I was on, was indeed stopping at Kyoto so I shouldn't have to worry. The staff understood and said that I couldn't sit in the researved seat area of the trains though, because this was not the train seat I had booked, so I needed to go to the unresearved cars. So I made my long walk from the 15th car to the first car of the train and ended up having to sit on the floor inbetween the cars of the bullet train. The interior is very similar to that of an airplane, and they are also treated as much the same. A stewardess walks up and down the isle offering drinks and snacks, there are bathrooms in either the front of the back of each car and the chairs are vary much the same. The luggage is stored in bins overhead and there are trays attached to the back of the seat infront of you. The only difference in that you are moving extremely fast on the ground instead of the sky, and, the best part, you seat rotates! It's only the coolest thing to have ever happned in the history of coolest things! Families would turn their seats around to face each other with all their kids. The areas between the seats are very wide, which is odd for a country that likes to do things on a semi scale. Becaues I was on the nonresearved cars, and on the floor no less, I was never offered any drinks or snacks, and even if I was, I would have had to pay for them. So, all the way to Kyoto I had to sit on the floor, or stand, whichever one was less painful at the time. I did text my friend that I was going to be 30 minutes late and she understood.
Once I arrived, she had told me the exit to head out of, but none of the signs said what she told me. So I decided that the central exit was probably my best bet, and sure enough I was right! She runs up to me saying my name and I was really excited to see her. In America, what do we do when we great someone who is a friend or family? We hug them, or shake their hand, in Japan what do they do? Bow. It was odd, but I accepted it. She wasn't confident in her English speaking skills so we mainly spoke Japanese. We spoke English only when I didn't understand at all what she was saying or I did not know the word in Japanese. For the most part, she understood every word I said in English, there were a few times that she did not know and that's when my handy dictionary came out.
First, I had to purchase an all day bus pass, then she gave me a map of Kyoto. I was very happy about this as it is easy to get lost in Japan. I gave her my present that I had purchased for her from Arizona. It was a t shirt, some candy, and post cards of the Grand Canyon and of Phoenix. I thought it would nice for her to see where it is that I live and what it looks like. I have been telling her that Arizona is very brown and that most things look dead, and that Japan is very green and alive. When she saw the pictures, the first thing she said was, "wow, everything is really brown." It was really funny.
The first locatoin we headed to was Fukushima (I think that's how you pronounce it). If you have ever seen Memoirs of a Geisha, then you should be familiar with this location. It's the scene where she is running through all the orange torii. It literally looks just like that. There are thousands of them there! It was so impressive! I couldn't believe that they had built so many! It's also really expensive to build them too. About $10k per torii. There are thoughsands there. The trail is long too. It took about 2 hours to walk through all of them. There were so many! But they were beautiful. It was quite a sight.
She took me to an udon restaurant because I told her that I have never had udon before. It was really good. She explained what each item on the menu was because she knew that I can't read that many kanji. Udon is really good. Very thick and cold but it was quite delicious. It came with tempura and I really like tempura. It's soooo good!! It's the only food that we have in the US that actually tastes like it does in Japan. So I will be having tempura in the US when I get back. It will be the only thing that tastes the same.
He had ice cream after, well, I had ice cream. She was full and didn't want any. So I had blueberry ice cream. Japan loves ice cream. It's all over the place.
She asked if I wanted to go to the Golden Pavilion and of course I said yes!! It's only the most impressive building made entirely out of gold! Who wouldn't want to go and see it! It's SO MUCH MORE IMPRESSIVE IN PERSON!!! Oh my goodness was this place so cool! The location was beautiful, the weather was nice, and the building looked so shiny! It was like they just built it. It was orginally built in the mid 14th century. It got burnded down during the meiji restoration, but like most everything historical in Japan, it gets rebuilt. So the building I saw was a actually built in 1870 I think, but they still call it original because frame was still in place and they were able to exactly reconstruct it. Some people complain that it was never THAT gold, but how would they know? Unless they are almost 200 years old I'm not so sure they have a reason to talk.
She wanted to show me Gion, which is most famous for Geisha back in the day, and they still occupy much of Gion today. She was hoping we would see some walking the streets but we didn't. Everything was not out on display on the streets, and much of the old buildings still remain. I was so happy because it was like I was walking through old Kyoto. It was so much fun. She wanted me to try her favorite ice cream dessert. She took me to a restaruant, and how she knew where exactly it was is beyond me. There are no signs anywhere, nor are their any colors. Even the traffic cones were brown and colorless. She said that the bright colors would take the attention away from the geisha walking the streets if there are other colors grabbing your attention and at night the city lights up, so the bright colors would be distracting.
The ice cream place was really fun! I decided to try 2 flavors of ice cream and dongo balls! Those are so good. One flavor of the ice cream was yomogi. If you don't know what that is, it's basically a mugwarsh. Like a swamp plant. Why they decided to make that an ice cream flavor I will never know. But it was....ok. It wasn't bad but it wasn't good at the same time. So it's just ok. After the really good ice cream she was kind enough to take me directly to the hotel that I booked. First I bought my train ticket to return to Tokyo, I was not about to sit on the floor again. She asked if I understood how the shinkansen worked and asked me to explain it to her to be sure that I understood so I wouldn't make the same mistake. After talking with her about how to find my train, she took me to the hotel. She helped me check in and came up to the room with me and showed me how to work the AC and how to set up a futon. She appologized that she couldn't meet me for breakfast because she was meeting her friends in Kobe (about an hour outside of Kyoto central) to go on a trip in the morning. I understood and told her that I knew the way back to the station. It was an easy walk back.
I went back in my room after saying goodbye and thanking her for being so wonderful to me. She gave me her address so that I could send her a package when I get back. I want to thank her for all the help she provided for me in Kyoto. I turned on the tv in my room to give me a distraction because I just wanted to burst into tears. I was so overwhelmed with emotion by missing my husband, being stressed during the morning, not knowing when I will ever see my friend again, and I was so worried that I would miss my train in the morning. The TV wasn't on for long as there was a timer and the outlets turned off. It was a very Japanese style inn. The AC stayed on all threw the night though. At least thats the one good thing about the room. And futon was comfortable too. Although, my body was tired from walking all day that anything would have felt good to lay on. I went to sleep shortly afte the tv turned off and kept waking up every hour because I was so worried that I would miss my train. I skyped with my husband in the morning for about an hour because I was so upset.
I did infact make it to my train and sat in my chair and took advantage of my drinks and snacks and my extreamly comfy chair. I made it back to Tokyo safely and tried to find the shrine I needed to write about in my paper for tomorrow and could not for the life of me, find this shrine. So I just went home and thought I would just find a picture of the place online and write about the picture. All I had to do was describe how the place is different that it was when it was built. Easy enough. When I looked online, apparently it was in the middle of all these buildings and I was looking for trees. All the other shrines I had been to was coverd with trees. That's why I was having such a hard time. I wrote the paper and emailed it to my teacher. Yay paper done!
The cleaning ladies saw that I had returned and appeared out of now where like they were waiting for me or something. I had the do not disturb sign on my door. I didn't want anyone inside while I was gone. They came up to be and said "clean? clean ok?" I giggled a little and told them in Japanese that it would be ok for them to clean my room. They were so excited that I spoke Japanese. They took me to a different room and told me to wait until they were done. They gave me food too. They cleaned the room and took me back. They were such nice cleaning ladies!
I get back to my room and I couldn't find my blue bunny toy that I had brought to Japan with me. I have had this bunny since I was 3 so it's special to me. It's my one piece of home. It's actually very comforting. I looked for one of the ladies and told them that I couldn't find it. They knew exactly what I was talking about because they had seen it everyday cleaning my room. One of the ladies said that she had seen when she was cleaning my room a few minutes ago. She helped look in my room and because its a small room, there is not many places for it to get lost. She said she was going to ask any of the other workers and perhaps look in the lost and found because she may have been mistaken about seeing it. She came back a few minutes later with my bunny and told me that it had been gathered as part of the sheets when they were changing the bed. They all were so appologetic and kind and laughing with me. But I was so happy to have him back. They told me that they understood what the bunny meant to me too. I think that has to do with culture here in Japan. They seem to hold a lot of sentiment in items special to the specific person.
What I have learned from being in Kyoto is that I have improved my comprehension skills in Japanese. I didn't understand every single word that Eri (my friend) was saying to me, but I was always able to answer her questions and get the gist of what she was saying. If I really didn't understand I would say so. And after speaking Japanese all day yesterday, and for most of today, my listening skills have definately increased. I was able to understand everything the ladies were saying to me today. Which made me very happy. Mostly because they sounded like they were the fastest speakers in the world. The fact that I could make out words was just amazing to me. God is really keeping me safe here and helping me improve my skills in Japanese. He's also showing me things He wants me to accomplish in my life by being here. I really feel like I can do anything with God beside me. I look forward to what the future holds for me.