A few last thoughts on Japan

As cold weather blew into Beijing, I’ve been busy setting up our home and family to stay warm! That means buying space heaters, humidifiers for each room (because it is SO dry, and then you have to use all the space heaters), warm layering clothes, jackets, etc. The leaves are just starting to change to yellow, and I am looking forward to some nice family hikes in the coming weekends. 

I didn’t quite finish sharing about Japan. All in all, it was a beautiful country. Very easy to travel around using the train system, and while everyone does not speak English, the road signs are in both languages for the most part. While we travelled we tried to stay calm and be aware. Sometimes the train station hubs were confusing and everything looked the same, but my husband found that by standing in the middle and observing, he could find the right path. People we met were very friendly. Many people we met at the tourist sites had never met or seen an American before, so we often had school children and tourists approaching us for photos. 

At one temple in Kyoto, I was approached by a group of high schoolers to participate in an interview about Peace. They were studying Hiroshima in their class and wanted to learn from foreigners about peaceful solutions. As part of my discussion I was happy to explain that my children attend Montessori school, where peace is a really important part of the curriculum, as well as learning about other cultures. 

The people in Japan were most respectful and polite. I also really liked seeing young and old women dressed in traditional kimonos. Image

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Nanzen-in Temple, Kyoto

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One of my favorite gardens. A lot of the vegetation in Japan we have in our garden in North Carolina. We also have plenty of 

moss, so maybe one day, we will create a zen Japanese garden in our yard. 

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One of the many such shrines along the street in Kyoto. I just found out that these apron covered rocks are statues of Ojizo-sama, and they are placed for still-born children and miscarriages. 

One of our best dinner experiences in Japan was at the June-sei restaurant in Kyoto. We would not have found this restaurant if a group of exuberant high school girls were not following us and chatting with me! This restaurant specialized in tofu. We had a traditional yuba dish, which means that a pot of soy milk is brought to a burner at your table. After it boils for about 10 minutes, a skin forms on the top, which you then skim off and eat. 

 

 

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Finding Fuji

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Last week was a national holiday in China, and we decided to travel to Japan for the week. Our flight on Ana Airlines was reminiscent of 1980’s American flights. During our 2 hour 4o minute flight we were each given a full meal and tea/coffee service. The children were given a choice of an Ana logoed toy. We flew into Osaka where we spent one night. In the morning we were off to find Mt. Fuji. The concierge was skeptical that we would make it, but we had instructions…

We walked 2 blocks to the train station and got tickets for the Shinkasen (bullet train).20131001_120108 We took a local train for a couple stops and just missed the direct shinkasen. Our train stopped every 20 minutes or so, but the speed of these trains can go up to 200 mph….so we covered ground quickly! Once we got to the Fuji station, we had to take two more local trains to get to the little town at the base of Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, we arrived at 5pm and the buses had just stopped running! The locals were talking to us rapidly in Japanese, and after their fervent contemplation of our problem, recommended that we take a taxi to our Kyukamura resort in the national park of Mt. Fuji. Oh, did I mention we did all this travelling without ANY cash? Once we left Osaka, no ATMs would accept our international cards….We arrived at our lodging hoping that the taxi had a card scanner. He did.

http://www.qkamura.or.jp/en/fuji/

I hesitated to share this secret lodging that we found, because we were the only foreigners there. It was full of Japanese folks who travelled there to climb Fuji, and a few young families. The employees were so kind and accommodating to us. There was one person who spoke English, and this person simply followed us around, to the shop, to the buffet, to the cafe…
The meals were mostly traditional Japanese food, with a sort of pizza thrown in one day, for the kids. 20131001_181547I got my little divided tray and tried an assortment of food at each meal. Much of it I couldn’t identify. I ate by trial and error. A lot of sushi, a lot of veggies, and a lot of rice. I loved the pickled vegetables! In a traditional Japanese meal you have your sushi, then you have your steamed fish, then the grilled fish, then the vegetables, rice, soup, pickled items, and finally, a small dessert or fruit.

The dorm was located on the lake and our room was a traditional Japanese style room with straw tatami mats, a sink and toilet, low table, and futons. 20131001_195753At night when everyone is in their futon, the room warms up and takes on a cozy green tea and straw smell. After dinner we used the public bath, separated by gender, of course, and then played UNO in our room.
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During the day, we walked around the lake, the children played in the cool Mt. Fuji water in the “water plaza”, and I told my husband that when he retires he needs to sit around and do this:
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In the morning, I woke up at 5:45am to photograph the sunrise with Mt. Fuji.
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