Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chelsea in Kyoto - Day 2

Tuesday, February 17

As I’m writing this, I am currently traveling around 100mph (okay that may be an exaggeration…) on a train between Kyoto and Osaka. I didn’t get the chance to write about yesterday, so I’m taking the 30 minute train ride to get a start…

So yesterday was forecasted to be rainy. We woke up an checked the weather again and it said cloudy until the later afternoon, then it would rain. So, we got up an made the most of our few dry hours. First things first: breakfast.

We decided to go to a cafe we had passed on Monday that had pictures of breakfast foods on posters outside. The door read “Cakes and Coffee” so we thought it would be a good option. We went inside and an old Japanese man indicated to an open table for us to sit at. We browsed the menu (which had some English decsriptions thankfully) and both selected Set A which had toast, scrambled eggs, some sausages, and an unidentifiable lump of white matter. When the meal came, Jessica ended up liking whatever the stuff was (we never figured it out; I think it maybe had cabbage in it) I tried a bit and didn’t care for it. 

After breakfast, we stopped by the dumpling shop from Monday to see if they still had my water bottle. Of course, they weren’t open yet. My hope of getting this thing back was getting slimmer and slimmer… 

We decided not to get another bus pass since the main place we wanted to go to for the day was only really accessible by subway. Instead, we walked about a mile to the subway station and took the train south to Fushimi Inari. 

Fushimi Inari is a major Shinto shrine/temple and is notable for its “1,000 Torii Gates” - large red/orange gates that they have lined up so you are walking through a tunnel of color. We walked through more touristy streets (surprise surprise) and saw so many street foods! I’m pretty sure there was quail on a stick, raw crab balls, and plenty of unidentifiable snacks. We browsed around and then made our way to the actual shrine complex.

When we got there, there was a well with cups for people to wash their hands and mouth to purify themselves before going into the temple. We did not elect to participate, but watched for a minute in fascination. 

We walked up the steps and I noticed that while many shrines and temples use dragons or sometimes large cats to “guard” the temple, this one had many foxes around. I think that was a unique feature because later I saw an area where kids could paint a face on a small wooden fox and hang it. We walked around for a few minutes before heading to the Torii Gates path. 

There were so many people trying to take photos with the path that it was hard to even enter it initially. We decided to wait until further along to take pictures, as it would be just too hard to get a good shot with all the people anyway. We walked for about a quarter mile (maybe?) through the gates until we got to a small clearing where we could see a map of the mountain.

I guess I should have known, but this shrine was spread around this small mountain. We looked at the map and I decided I wanted to go all the way to the top to get a good view! Plus, fewer people would elect to go so high, so there would be fewer and fewer people around.

We trekked on for about 45 minutes through gates and past beautiful scenery and interesting miniature shrines and other “buildings” until we came to yet another clearing. We looked again at the map and my jaw dropped at how short of a ways up the mountain we had come. It felt like we should at least be halfway! Nope. We debated for a few minutes: if we went ahead and continued, we were looking at at least two more hours of hiking. Neither of us had on shoes that were particularly good for hiking, and I was actually a bit tired. I do a fair amount of cardio, but I guess I’m used to more flat landscape!

Ultimately, we decided that if we continued, we would be very tired, very hungry, the rain could start at any time, and most likely the view would be anticlimactic, as it is winter not spring or fall with beautiful foliage. We turned around and went back down the mountain along a shortcut. I was glad we went up a ways, but also glad we decided not to do the entire thing. I guess I was a bit idealistic (read: unrealistic) with that goal.

We walked back along the touristy streets and caught the subway back to the area near(ish) to our hotel. We went to the Nishiki Market again (where we had dinner the night before) and went in search of a different ramen place. The day was cold, and we had worked up an appetite so a hot bowl of spicy ramen sounded delicious. We wandered through the streets and figured we would see something quickly. A mile later, we still hadn’t found anything so I busted out my Yelp app and did a search. Because of the weather (I assume) my phone wasn’t working very quickly but we eventually found a place with good ratings that was a short walk away.

We walked into the place and saw an aisle, and two things that looked like subway ticket machines. Both were occupied, and I wasn’t totally sure what they were, so we followed the sign down the aisle that read “Counter”. There were what looked like little booths that were halfway obscured by curtains. We got to the end of the aisle, and still hadn’t seen a hostess. Jessica saw a screen on one of the walls that looked like a diagram and it had some English on it.

Basically, the diagram was of the seats in the restaurant. You were supposed to look for seats lit up with a green symbol; you could sit at any of those. We saw two seats next to each other and followed the map to them. Each seat was blocked off into a one-person semi-private booth, with a curtain halfway down in front of you. Apparently, the waitresses were in blocked off aisles behind the seating areas, and would communicate with you (unseen) through the curtain. 

By looking at the ordering cards, we had no idea how to order. Everything was in Japanese. When the waitress came by she said something to us in Japanese, and I bent down and stuck my head halfway out of the “window” under the curtain. She looked surprised and said English? I nodded yes! and she brought us two order cards in English.

These made a lot more sense: you basically build your own ramen, although there wasn’t a ton of ingredients to choose from, more so how do you want it cooked and the flavor. I chose to have medium broth strength, medium oiliness, no green onions, half spicy, and soft noodles. I also added a soft-boiled egg (my guilty pleasure in ramen!). We handed these to the waitress under the curtain and she bent down so we could see her under the curtain, held out her hand, and asked for “ticket”. 

Jessica and I looked at each other confused, and then back at her, “what??” She looked embarrassed and went and got another waiter, who squatted down and tried his best to ask us for “Meal ticket”. I had a sneaking suspicion those machines at the front were where we were supposed to buy tickets. We asked “front? by door?” and while I don’t think he understood, he did reply and said “Okay, pay here now?” We nodded appreciatively and paid him. I guess we were supposed to have paid for our meal before even sitting down. How strange!

We discovered that you are able to open the partitions between booths and were able to see and talk to each other a bit easier after that. Our food came after a few minutes and we both slurped appreciatively. I ended up calling the waitress back and requesting regular spicy (instead of half), and she brought me more spicy too put on top. It was sooooo delicious. I absolutely love ramen; the broth was delightfully spicy and flavorful, and the noodles were great. 

When we had finished both of our bowls (including drinking the remaining broth), we headed back out and decided to check out the market a bit more and then a nearby department store. We had seen a bunch of arcades throughout the market and popped into one. The workers immediately gave us each a piece of paper that looked like just an advert for the store. We wandered through and looked at the weird prizes (figurines of anime characters that all looked like Sailor Moon to me, stuffed Olaf characters, and some other interesting things). Another worker with half bleached blonde hair came up to us and tried to give us another piece of paper. We pulled out the ones we had already been given, and he said “Ohhh okay okay. One game free!” 

Ah-ha! We asked him what games, and he brought us to a machine and pointed at it and said “this, no! all, okay!” pointing to the rest of the machines in the room. We had no clue how to play any of them, so we wandered around. He called to us, “Sister! Play game!” and pointed at a machine. He held out a stuffed Olaf character (from the movie Frozen) and said “Win prize!” We laughed and he showed us how to play one of the games. It wasn’t so much of a game, really; you just pressed a button and a machine tries to slide something off a horizontal pole. If you get it off the pole, you win. Jessica went first and did not win. I went after her and still didn’t win. He tried to get us to pay more to keep playing but we laughed and said no thank you! We left the store, laughing. I wish we had taken a photo with the guy; he kept calling us “sister”. So funny.

We walked through a few of the streets and looked at the trinkets, loads of sweets, and way too small clothes. Once we made it to the main street, we headed in the direction of one of the major department stores - Diamaru. When we got there, it was closed, so we went to another one next door. It was pretty standard; we started at level B1 (where the food and sweets are) and worked our way up to the lifestyle section on level 6. We just poked around for a bit then decided to head back to the hotel for a while.

We walked back to the hotel and had a rest for our tired feet. We decided to watch a movie and since Memoirs of a Geisha (Jessica’s top choice) wasn’t on Netflix, and Spirited Away (my top choice) wasn’t ANYWHERE on the internet, we went with Netflix’s recommendation for Japanese movie - Picture Bride. This was a 1984 drama about 1910s arranged marriages between Japanese girls and Hawaiian sugar cane farmers. It was boring at times, and we didn’t really know where the story was going, but it wasn’t terrible. 

After the movie, we had expected it to be raining but it hadn’t started yet. We went across the street to an Irish pub we had seen called the Man in the Moon. So strange for an Irish pub to be in traditional Kyoto Japan. It was a bit more expensive than I was hoping, so Jessica just had a little dinner and then we left. We walked down to the McDonald’s at the end of the street and I got something to eat. Terrible, I know. 

On our walk back towards the hotel, I saw a small sign on the sidewalk outside a building that said “Parker Roll Bar” and then below that “good music”. I had been wanting to go to a more traditional Japanese bar, so I suggested we pop in. We walked down some stairs and around a corner, and into a small, mostly deserted bar. When we walked in, an older Japanese guy turned around at the bar and said something in English with a big smile on his face (I’m trying to remember what it was he said, but I can’t!) He welcomed us in and asked if we were tourists. We said yes and he asked us to sit and have a drink. We chatted with him for a while and learned that he is in a band; he told us about the places that he toured and how he wanted to go to America. 

We sat and had a Sapporo with him for about 30 minutes. He was hilarious and obviously excited to practice his English with us. We asked him to take a photo for us, and he agreed excitedly. I gave him the camera and we smiled, ready to take the photo. I saw the red light that means it is focusing, but he didn’t hold it down long enough for the photo to actually take. He started to try to take a bunch of photos, like a photoshoot, and I started laughing and had to tell him, “They aren’t taking!” I told him to hold the button longer, and he tried but again he couldn’t do it. After laughing for a few more failed attempts, I took the camera and demonstrated. He said “ahh!” and tried again…. and failing once again! I told him “Hold it for a long time!” and FINALLY he took one. Once he figured it out, he took another. Then, we said he should be in a picture with us, and we got one of the only other patrons at the bar to take a photo for us.

We left here and went back to Man in the Moon for a little better atmosphere. After a while, we met a couple of other white guys, Chris from England, and Dan from Manhattan. We chatted with them for a while and had a few drinks before calling it a night around midnight. We walked back across the street and fell into bed after yet another long day!

Oh, one other interesting story! On Monday night, my eyes got very dry and I needed to take out my contacts. I had brought my solution, but not the case. Unfortunately, I use a solution that needs a very specific case (for a chemical reaction) and I was going to be out of luck without it. I decided to go to the convenience store outside the hotel and find some regular solution. After some searching, I saw two packs of contact solution/case. Neither having any English, I chose the one with the weird looking case, thinking that it might be similar to mine.

I got to the hotel and took out my contacts. I’m not sure if that case was meant for hard contacts or what, but the soft contacts didn’t stay in the little prongs and just kind of floated around. I put the solution in and went to bed. The next day, I needed to put them in. I was worried about it now, because I realized there may have been some special instructions that I hadn’t followed. I tried to put one in, and it kind of burned my eye (to be fair, I was thinking it might and it could have been half mental). I didn’t get the contact in, but put it back in the case for the time being.

I grabbed the bottle which had an overwhelming amount of Japanese, and decided to try the feature on the Google Translate app where it takes a picture and translates the words. After some trial and error, I finally got it to work! Of course, the translation was literal and probably not very accurate, but the general idea I got was that the solution was made to remove proteins on the lenses, which is what I needed it to do. I read something about tap water, so I decided to just rinse the contact with water and try again. That time, it worked and felt okay! However, later that day my eyes were hurting pretty badly and I had to remove them again. I think for now I will keep the contacts out and wait until we get back to Korea to put them in again after using my specific solution!

That’s all for Tuesday! Wednesday (which for me is today), we go to Osaka. :)



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