Japan 1 – Kyoto – 12/2014

May 30, 2015

With The Turtle V safely on its way back to California, we had a little time to burn. One of the countries we had always been interested in visiting was Japan. Being so close to South Korea it was easy to take the overnight ferry to Osaka and the “bullet train” to Kyoto.

Japan 1 046According to Wikipedia, Japanese are the sixth largest Asian American group in the US at roughly 1,304,286, including those of mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity. Southern California has the largest Japanese-American population in North America. Hard working and industrious, they are an integral part of our American culture. In their own country they form an exciting and totally unique culture, much different than we might have imagined just because they make Toyotas and Hondas.

Reputation has it that Japan is extremely expensive to travel in. Our current Lonely Planet guide suggested that if you don’t mind eating noodles once in a while and keep away from five-star hotels, Japan is not cheap but quite affordable.

The first guesthouse we stayed at was very traditional, with the bathroom downstairs requiring careful negotiation of something close to a chicken ladder. Our room was covered with grass mats. No chair, no table, and the beds were rather thin futons, an interesting experience. Soon we would move to a western-style apartment. OK, so we’re soft.

Japan 1 050While the public transportation system was excellent, traffic congestion often made it slower than walking. The other option was the uncountable number of taxicabs, mostly black and polished as if they were going to a car show. The drivers wore snappy hats, white gloves, coat and tie, and looked more like private limousine drivers.

On Christmas Eve we treated ourselves to the opening of the Kabuki season of the popular Minamiza Theater. While the costumes and actors were, ahhh—, interesting, everything was in Japanese so I think I may have missed parts of the four-hour performance. Quite surprisingly, during the lengthy intermission, most people popped out their little lunch boxes and chopsticks and enjoyed dinner right in their seats.

Strolling through the dark streets of the Geisha District after the performance, (more about that later), we always felt totally safe. The nighttime colors of fountains and canals were beautiful.

 

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