American Tourists

Visiting the Kimiidera Buddhist templeThis has been an intensely busy 10 days. Kondo-San and Kakihara-San wanted to show me around the Buddhist temple (Kimiiedera) and castle in Wakayama on Monday, then Rob got back on Tuesday so I took the train out to the Kansia airport near Osaka to meet him. Wednesday we took the train into Ozaki (a small town 4 stops from here), and walked around looking unsuccessfully for a grocery store with foods we recognize. Thursday we took the train in all the way to Osaka, visiting the Maritime Museum, where we found the only thing written in English was the sign outside that said Maritime Museum. Thursday night we were driven to Kondo-San’s home near here for dinner, which was lovely. It was a very typical Japanese meal, sitting on the floor in the dining room, enjoying sashimi with salad and breaded shrimp and veggies cooked at the table in a manner we would call fondue-style. His wife spoke no English, but was a very gracious hostess.

I had found the Costco website for Japan and downloaded instructions, including a Google map, to a store on the other side of Osaka, so Friday we took a train into Osaka again. It was pouring rain the entire time, and after about an hour or so of walking in circles we concluded the map was wrong and Costco was not there. Neither was there anyone who spoke enough English to help us find where Costco was, nor was there an internet cafe anywhere to be found, so back on the train empty handed and soaking wet late Friday afternoon. We brought our computers up to the office for internet and Rob found the right location for Costco. Apparently if you translate the address into English first it messes up Google, but if you plug in the Japanese characters you get the right location (which was nowhere near where we were slogging around in the rain all day).

Todai ji again in the rainSaturday Ichikawa-San picked us up and drove us to his house on the north side of Osaka, about 2 hours away. It was a beautiful home in a very upscale in-city neighborhood that felt much like Madison Park in Seattle. We spent the night there, enjoying their company and learning about freestyle sushi dinners, which we’ll be repeating with friends once we get home. Sunday we took a tour of Nara, and learned much about Japanese history and culture from Junko Ichikawa, which her daughter Aika patiently translated for us. Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan, from 710 until 785 when it moved to Kyoto. There is a beautiful park where the Todai-ji temple houses the Daibutsu-den hall, which is the largest wooden structure in the world. Inside is a very impressive Buddha statue 16 meters tall, cast from 437 tons of bronze.

Sunday night we caught the train back to Tannowa to check on the neko (Maya), who had not been home alone on the boat since Ecuador. Then Monday morning we caught the train back in, heading for Kyoto this time. I had found an ad in a travel brochure for a “capsule ryokan”, where we had a reservation. The ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel, and the ones I found in Kyoto were in the $200/night price range. The capsule hotel is a modern Japanese concept, used by business people near Tokyo, where they have capsule sleeping areas in a large room. This hotel had those, but also small (very small) rooms for two. It was near the central station in Kyoto, new and clean, with private facilities in Japanese style rooms, and only cost $89/night, which was perfect for us.

Street scene in Kyoto

In three quick days we saw lots and lots of sights in Kyoto. There are 1,600 temples in the city, and we left 1,595 for another day, but we enjoyed our time there immensely. The temples and gardens were beautiful, as you’ll see when we get pictures posted. The central market was great fun, where we found lots of souvenirs and interesting foods to sample. Another afternoon on the train and we’re back at Tannowa this morning.

Today we’ll take one last try at finding Costco, using what we hope is a map to the right place this time. I still have most of the food I bought in Palau, but would feel better with a few more things in the lockers when we set sail on Tuesday. We’ve got a few chores to do to get us and the boat ready to go, but not many. Saturday night the yacht club is again hosting a party for us, but this time it’ll be a farewell celebration. Sunday we’ll have an open house on Yohelah and say one last goodbye to the many friendly folks we’ve met here in Tannowa.