Friday, 30 March 2007

Sunrise from Sunroute HotelSlept well again despite the small bed we shared. The skies were beautiful after the thunderstorm we had during the night, so I tried to take a few pictures through the lines on the window. The view we have allows us to people watch a little. Most things here are very tiny. The cars and buses all seem to be squished both in length and width, which makes everything cute. I have decided that it is their environment which keeps most Japanese small so well. They actually out-eat us when we go to restaurants. We are always stuffed from the portions we receive. Japanese love their food – restaurants are everywhere. However, most walk or bike great distances everyday using public or alternative transit options that are very efficient. The use of bicycles, buses, subways, trains, or by foot all are healthy choices. It’s scary to have a car here. Not enough space to store or drive, and often waiting for trains to pass. I am astounded and baffled at some of the parking jobs we have seen, where a car (even Jaguars!) is less than an inch from a wall. I don’t think I could fit my hand between the car and wall! It freaks me out to even think of trying to do that. If we lived here, I would definitely walk or bike everywhere. So despite their love of food, they stay so in shape by not really using cars. Speaking of food, we just threw on some clothes and went to the first floor shop for breakfast. We have run into several German couples at this hotel – Hoyt says a lot of Germans visit Japan. I have seen many more Russians than Germans though. After we finished our ham and cheese croissants, we showered and went on our way to Nara. This time we only took the camera which made the trip tremendously better than the day before at Akashi Kaikyo suspension bridge (it was lovely aside from the burden of our luggage). The wind was ferocious, but we managed to find the commuter rail station just across the river, then catch the JR to Nara at Nara at Tofukuji station. The ride was pleasant, and by the time we reached Nara the sun was out and brightly warming the earth. We took a single lane road lined with shops and restaurants. I enjoyed this immensely since I haven’t really purchased anything yet. I didn’t buy anything though; we stopped at an information center and asked for directions to a sushi restaurant. We picked Totogin, which we found tucked away on another busy shop-lined alley/street. This was a conveyer belt style that I had seen in movies before. All the chefs greeted us when we came in. I was too shy to grab any of the sushi, so Hoyt obliged. The patron paid by the plate – three different plates with varying pieces. We ate mostly from the cheapest grey plate that cost 120 yen, but my unagi was on the white-checkered 240 yen plate. I tried corn Building in Nara Parksashimi, something I had never seen in America, and it was very delicious! I think I like it more than unagi or the dragon rolls with shrimp tempura, avocado, and unagi. Hoyt tried the big masago maki and didn’t like it, so we waited for some more salmon before leaving. It was the cheapest sushi meal we have ever eaten – about eight plates (with two to four pieces per) for less than twelve hundred yen – and that included green tea we could make from powder and hit water spout at our seats. Five Story PagodaFrom there we headed to Nara Park, which is usually several parks and temples comprising a very large area at the base of the mountains. We entered through the Ichino-torii gate at the south and immediately saw the five story pagoda. Hoyt asked what pagodas’ purpose are, and all I could recall was martial arts. We’ll have to look it up sometime. We ventured around and saw many deer just lounging. We finally took pictures of a few around the Sagi-ike pond. The gravel paths were lined with lanterns- another thing we didn’t understand. We eventually came across several small shrines farther up the mountain, reaching the highest point on the peaceful path before descending again. I wanted to use a restroom, but all the lavatories had squatters that I refused to use. I ended up waiting until we returned to the hotel to relieve myself – I couldn’t find a Western toilet anywhere! We began Todaiji templewalking toward Todaiji temple. I thought we had come upon it, sitting high upon the mountain. We walked through an entryway and ascended stairs to reach it. The view was awesome, we could see all of Nara. Heading south was a bellfry, and just south of that another very large temple that turned out to be Todaiji, world’s largest wooden building housing a very large Buddha statue. I stopped at a shop and purchased a purple parasol first. The lady was kind enough to give us a small present as well – two small figurines. After realizing the larger building was in fact Todaiji, we paid the 500 yen per person entrance fee and checked out the massive monuments. They ware working on restoring the roof, so we paid a thousand yen to personalize a tile to help pay for the repairs. We zipped out and back to the station, my sense of direction completely twisted around. We ended up on a local back to Tofukuji; it was not too much longer than the rapid. We spent the rest of the evening viewing our photos and finishing Memoirs of a Geisha.