So, I'm writing this from a coffee bar in Ahakibara, which is the electronics district. anna_would
would be in heaven wandering down the back streets. I'm certain they have absolutely everything you'd need to build a theremin.
My hot chocolate is excellent. I'm told the coffee is spectacular as well. Every morning that I have breakfast with other people I get to sit surrounded by people exclaiming over the coffee and how really wonderful it is.
There seems to be wifi here, but it's all on secured networks. I'll be getting wireless later tonight so I can send this and my last entry along.
Yesterday we took the bullet train to Kyoto. As I mentioned, gosh, that bullet train is fast. It was a two and a half hour journey that simply flew past. I'm sure my tendency to nap after getting up at 5:30 had sometthing to do with it.
In Kyoto we filled our day entirely too much. We split the larger group up into two groups and everyone was told they weren't allowed to go off by themselves in Kyoto. I have to admit I had a couple of brattish moments in which I felt like muttering to myself about being allowed to go off by myself in England at the age of 12 with my sister, and then being forced to trail around like a sheep with a group at the age of 27 in Japan, but that is yet another one of the hazards of travelling with a group. When travelling with a group you end up gaining far less confidence in yourself in interacting with the place you've travelled to, in my opinion.
I feel really pretty confident in getting around in the cities in Japan. My extremely limited Japanese helps with the basics of getting people on your side by being polite, I have a very helpful phrase book put out by the Japanese National Tourist Organization which has helpful things in Japanese that you can point to to get your point across, and if all else fails and you get lost, you can always hail a cab and tell them to take you back to some central location. It's a little more expensive than the bus, but hardly catastrophic.
It's not like India, where there's a similar though not as extreme language barrier (many people speak at bit of english), but where you don't really want to trust the cab drivers or rickshaw drivers because they will take advantage of your ignorance and lostness and try to get a commission by taking you to expensive shops instead of home.
But again, oh well. So we went many many places, including two zen gardens, the golden pavillion (a zen temple covered in gold leaf) and a very large temple on the side of a mountain, which I didn't go in.
I don't really know what to write about the day, actually. It was so hurried we never really got to sit down and enjoy any of the places we were in, and I felt like a complete chump rushing through a zen garden. What's the bloody point of that? How completely non-zen!
It was nice to see the bamboo forests up by the second zen garden. It was mossy and green and lovely, and certainly the setting was beautiful, though you could tell it would be better in the midst of a season, rather than on the cusp of a season change. It wasn't quite as lush as it would be in the summer time, but the leaves hadn't changed enough to make it beautiful in an autumnal way, so it just looked sort of sparse and scruffy.
We did catch sight of a geisha exiting a cab and then scurrying up an alley. Everyone else rushed to get pictures, but I didn't bother. It's all very well to point out that geishas aren't prostitutes, I get that, but they are almost entirely a luxury item for men, without an analogous population of people for women, and I'm uncomfortable with this, and with the fetishization of geishas and japanese women and girls in general.
Most of the young japanese women are about my height, with the men a little taller, but in Kyoto we ran into many older people of both genders who were incredibly small people. Most of them barely came up to my shoulder. It really is interesting to experience the dimorphism in person. It's difficult to imagine otherwise. That must have been some change in diet...
On the train home I was sitting in a row of three seats, in the window seat, with a spare seat between me and the older businessman on the aisle. The conductor came into the car escorting and incredibly drunk older businessman and plopped him into the seat next to me. Wonderful. He reeked of drink and his movements were large and sloppy. He kept trying to talk to me in Japanese and I tried to explain that I didn't speak japanese, but he wouldn't leave me alone, wouldn't stop talking loudly at me and wouldn't stop infringing on my space, so eventually I just ignored him until he became especially insistent and then told him "ii-eh" firmly, which hopefully he understood to mean as "no". The man on the aisle looked uncomfortable, and the woman across the aisle looked up startled at one point during the tirade and gave me a look of, I think, sympathy.
One of the black belts further up the car looked back at me and asked in sign if I was okay. I figured I only had ten minutes left before our stop and so far he hadn't done anything completely unacceptable, so I nodded. He continued to be irritating for another couple of minutes, and I wasn't sure if he wasn't telling me what a bitch I was at one point, or something like that, because he sounded rather aggressive and the man on the aisle told him something firmly which made him shut up for a minute.
Finally another of the group further up motioned that there was a spare seat up there, so I gathered my things and pushed past the drunken man, and then past the man on the aisle (to whom I apologized twice, who then apologized to me) and out into the freedom of not being randomly touched and berated by a drunken idiot.
During the day when we went to the large temple on the hill, I decided not to go in because my feet were killing me and it was a further long walk up the hill, so I and another woman with a seriously sprained ankle went slowly window-shopping instead.
All of the shops on the street sold ceramics and pottery and I discovered that I have almost atrociously expensive taste in pottery, apparently. *grins*
"Oooooooh! That! I like that!... Hmmm... %2,105,000.... never mind." (That's in the neighbourhood of $21,050 CAD or slightly less)
So, Dad, I saw some incredibly beautiful things that I would have loved to get you, and which you would have loved, because they were an incredible blue, but I just didn't want to spend that kind of money on a single piece of pottery, so...
We stopped for an ice cream cone at a store where we actually had to call out and bang on the wall to interrupt the proprietor who was doing carpentry upstairs. He had the coooooolest ice cream machine. I want one! He was advertising about seven flavours of ice cream, but the machine was tiny so I wasn't sure how that would work. When we ordered he pulled a small cup of ice cream out of a deep freeze and put it in the machine, and then the machine squeezed it out through an aperture in the bottom of the cup in a traditional soft-serve way, although it was definitely hard ice cream really. It was a sweetly efficient system, though the disposability of the cups was problematic in the long term, but I wonder if you could re-use them in some way.
This morning I decided I would spend the day doing my own thing, at my own pace. I would listen to my body and rest often (it never feels like I can really do that when I'm travelling with the mob) and do exactly what I wanted to do. So I got up, went and had breakfast (curried pork on rice; have I mentioned how much I'm loving the food?) and then got on the train, thinking I'd probably head out to the ginza or somewhere else.
Once I was on the train I made the decision to get off at Ahakibara and look for cool electronics things for zargon
. I bought myself a cheap watch. It's on a carabiner and shaped like a turtle. You pull two of the legs back and the shell opens to show you the watch face. The first one I bought fell apart in my hand when I opened the package, so I took it back and without a quibble they gave me another one.
I wandered for quite a while and then decided to get back on the train and keep on going, but then decided I needed to sit for a little and found this little cafe and... here I am!