Archive for April, 2008

Kyoto

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

So I take a train from Matsumoto to Nagoya. My ticket must have had the car and seat number printed on it but of course it is Japanese and I can’t read it. But we leave the station and after awhile the conductor comes by to check tickets. he says something to me in Japanese. I play dumb (easy to do in Japan). Finally I understand that I am in the wrong car. I should be in car 9 or 10, not car 2 which is where I happened to board the train. He even counts on his fingers to indicate I should be in 9 or 10. After some incomprehensible body language and questioning looks I prepare to leave and go all the way to the back of the train. Then I ask about my luggage. I have my bike all disassembled and in a bag, plus all my panniers. He looks at all of this and then finally says I can stay where I am. Now, bear in mind the train is about 10% full. There are plenty of seats, so what does it matter? But just out of curiosity I want to check out cars 9 and 10 to see what’s different about them. So I walk all the way from car 2 to car 8. Guess what? Car 8 is the end of the train. There is no car 9 or 10. Completely bewildered, I return to my seat. That’s what it’s like being in Japan.

When we get to Nagoya I want some information about the trains to Kyoto. I go to the information desk and ask the guy if he speaks English. “I cannot speak English”, he says, in perfect English. I respond, “Nihongo ga hanasemasen“, I can’t speak Japanese. We just look at each other for a few seconds then both of us burst out laughing. What else is there to do? I turn around and leave.

When I checked into a hotel in Kyoto they asked me if I wanted a “western” room or a “Japanese” room. I chose the Japanese one. Not sure I made the right choice. At least there isn’t much furniture to worry about.

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Kyoto is the cultural powerhouse of Japan. It was the capital of Japan for 1000 years and contains over 2000 Buddhist temples and shrines. During WWII Secretary of War Henry Stimson prohibited any bombing of Kyoto, recognizing the cultural value there. Many shrines and temples date back 1000 years. Here are some pics from one of them.

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Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s two major religions. At the shrines and temples you frequently see people perform a Shinto ritual, which is to toss a coin into the bin at the front of the shrine, clap your hands three times, then put them together, bow, and say a prayer.

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 Some of the colorful people at the temple.

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Not sure what this couple was up to. I could not get an answer from the people are me. She looks like one of those Geisha.

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Some photos of another shrine. There is often a spring at the shrines where you are supposed to wash up. I tried to get a shot from a more interesting angle.

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A roof on one of the shrine buildings.

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This shrine had a huge bell. In Tokyo, Ira and Christian, a neighbor, and I speculated that if I do risky (stupid) things I could accumulate more interesting stories for my blog. To that end I wanted to sneak in and ring this huge bell to see what happened. I chickened out.

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The roads to the temples are lined with local crafts and souvenir shops. One shop sold hundreds of these little ceramic dishes and one had hundreds of fans on display.

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Well my replacement hub should be in Japan now. I had it shipped to Hiroshima, where I am headed tomorrow. One good thing about taking the train here–it is fast and comfortable. Maybe I should ditch the bike and go the easy way!