Friday, November 4, 2016

Wiping tears at 200 mph

As the date to leave Kyoto grew ever closer we began to reminisce about our first wobbly steps in this jewel of a city.  Now 30 days later, we jump on and off buses and local trains like a native, know how to navigate a grocery market, and which vending machines have our favorite drinks. 

While at the train station one day we stopped into a travel agency and purchased tickets to Yokohama and the transfer to Zushi.  I was so excited, we were traveling by bullet train!!!! 


 Not wanting to drag our luggage along with us, we had it shipped to our Zushi house.  And if you are wondering, yes we did bring an extra suitcase and yes its now filled with gifts and souvenirs.

The hotel gives us a ride to the train station, and we excitedly head to the shinkansen platform.  

Due to our extreme excitement at getting to ride this marvel of machinery, we arrived very early.  The strangest thing to us is the lack of seating at train stations.  There is no place to sit at most train stations, while a few will have at the most seating for 12.  Twelve!    There are NO! seats on this platform.  

While we are standing about numerous shinkansen trains pull into the platform making very little noise, pause and then nearly silently zoom off.  I have no idea what this thing-a-ma-bob does, but to us it looks like a giant sized spark plug, doesn't it?

So, we stand around awhile, and then walk down the platform looking into all the snack shops and what they were offering.  Greg spies a train station lady selling sushi on the platform from a portable cart and decides to buy a bento of some he has had before and loves.  It's a type sold in the Nara area and is wrapped in a salted persimmon leaf.  The fish and rice are tasty and finds the leaf adds an interesting addition to the flavor and texture of each bite.

By this time we were a goodly ways down the platform from our cars entrance marker, when a train pulls up.  Now when the Japanese train recording says, "This train will make a brief stop in ____."  They are NOT kidding!  

shinkansen pulls up, people get off, and we begin to RUN!  Car 7, car 6, car 5, car 4!  Phew!  Finally!  Greg jumps on and the doors begin to close before I can get on!!!  He jams his arm in the door and it bites him hard, but he won't leave me behind!  Finally the train makes a chime and the door opens up and I quickly jump in.

Relieved that we had gotten on the train, and with hearts pumping, we walk down the aisle to find our seats.  There is a lady sitting in my seat!  Tickets are pulled out, yes, we have the exact same seats!  We find a twosome empty seats and are just glad to be on the same train and not separated by hundreds of miles.  
   Looks like the inside of an airplane doesn't it?  Only the seats are 1000% more comfortable and there are acres of leg room.

A nice young train conductor walks by and the lady in our seat stops him and a conversation ensues.  He asks to see our tickets, and...... we got on the wrong train.  It's headed towards Tokyo, with a few stops, one of which is Yokohama, but we jumped into an earlier train.  He stands with a wee train pad and types for a very long while, then writes something upon our tickets and has us follow him to a different car. 

The shinkansen's leave every 10 minutes or so, and linger only around 5 minutes tops at the platforms.  So, if you find yourself on the platform of a bullet train and one pulls up, make sure that it's your train!  And if you miss yours, no worry there's another one right down the track.

We settle into our new seats and I'm excited by the idea we are actually on a bullet train!  And then the motion sickness begins to take hold and it takes me quite a long while to get used to the motion of this train.  The only thing I can equate it to is being on a boat, the train seems to glide sideways by the tiniest bit, confusing the eyes and the ears.  This train goes so fast that its impossible to focus on anything near, because just as you see it, 'tis gone.

Greg remembers he is hungry and lowers his seat tray and sets his Nara sushi out and begins to eat.  Suddenly the lady across the aisle jumps up and takes the sushi from his hand!  She unwraps the sushi and says, "No! No! No!" And shows him that you don't eat the leaves!!!   Before she left she made him pinkie promise not to ever eat the leaves again! 

Pulling into Yokohama is only leg one of our trip.  Now we need to find the Zushi line and the correct platform, and that is my job.  I go up to a station fella, hand him our tickets and he tells us which platform to get onto.  We go and stand around, remember the lack of seats?, and finally our train pulls up after a ginormous wait of about 6 minutes.  All the trains we have been in have had the station names in both Japanese and English.  Some of the trains have a recording of two different women saying the stop and any connections from that station.  Zushi is the very last stop on this line and off we get and into a taxi and quick as a wink, we are at our new house for the next few days.

Zushi is a small town on the ocean with a beautiful beach.  It is packed to the gills in the summer by tourists from Tokyo wanting to cool off and party at the beach.  By November the town's population has shrunk back to the resident population and all is quiet.  Its a good place to end our travels with a few day trips from Zushi.

Beautiful metal work on the sidewalk rail, with the beach in the distance.

The beach

 Shells collected at the beach, with a wee piece of pottery!

 A scenic canal

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A giggle, confusion but mostly about food

While most of the translated English in Japan is perfect there are a few oddments, like  on a restaurant menu, "hole wheat bread".  But this sign was to funny to pass up.  Trying to be respectful I waited until no one was around before I snapped the sign.  This was at an Buddhist Temple that we haven't blogged about yet.

Every single toilet that isn't in a home has this how to use sign.  I'm not sure what the issue is, are their people who are worldly enough to travel, but don't understand how to use a modern toilet?  The used toilet tissue though has a reason, some Asian countries toilet tissue is very sturdy and can't be flushed as it will muck up the works, so when they visit Japan, they don't know they are to flush used tissue here.

Without a doubt, this is the best fake food I've seen.  I have a real thing for plastic fake food.  Doesn't that ice cream and whipped cream look real?  Amazing!

Oh, and I've had to buy a small wash cloth to carry around and about due to very few of the restrooms having either paper towels or hand driers.  Of course I just had to get a cute one from Hikone-jo!  Got very tired of drying my hands on the leg of my pants....

The very first meal we ate out together was a grilled meat restaurant right down the street from us.  We both tried Wagu beef, and it is everything folks talk about.  Tender as a summer day, flavorful just fantastic.  When sliced super thin, it basically melts in your mouth.

While in Arashiyama I had a fantastic meal, as we were walking down the street a menu board announced "gluten free set"!  I was in googolplex heaven, the hellz with that flimsy 7th heaven!  Besides the duck, this was the best meal I've had in all of Japan.  Greg saw a sandwich on their menu that he just had to try, Grilled cheese and egg salad.  He loved it!

While in Nara we ate at a traditional Japanese restaurant.   Looky at the amazing meal Greg got!  He loved every bite too!  The clear bowl is a dessert made of cubes of sweetened agar agar, pineapple a sugared bean and a sweet light "broth".  At first Greg was hesitant  about trying it, but he loved the desert "soup".

KFC is quite a big deal here, so is McDonald's but we haven't gotten there yet.  The translated biscuit is a weird cross between a biscuit and a donut, and is fried and served with honey-maple syrup.  Greg gave it a 5.4 out of 10.  However, he loved the chicken sandwich!  The usual fried chicken tastes the same, just less greasy.  They sell a fried chicken tender that has a sweet bbq that he enjoyed.


While out and about one day, Greg was feeling a mite peckish and I saw this sandwich that I'd heard about and was eager to find out how it actually tasted.  Poor Greg has been my pinch hitter in the taste buds department and has eaten quite a lot of things he didn't want so I could find out what they tasted like.  He loved this sandwich.  Strange as it sounds its mega fluffy white bread, crusts removed filled with sweetened whipped cream [no vanilla only sugar] and slices of fruit.  That sandwich disappeared quick as a wink!

This has to be the smallest sink in the entire world!  My hand is about 6.5 inches long.

Aren't the carrots and peppers tiny? We used my iphone for comparison.  I've yet to see any that are larger, but they pack in a ton of flavor.  The peppers are thin walled and are closer to a banana pepper in texture than the peppers sold in the US.

Candy and rice crackers are popular souvenirs.  And am amazed at the wrapping on the rice crackers, they are nearly to adorable to unwrap!