There’s a Whole Lot of Bowing Going on Around Here

I’ve just been to Japan. How do I know? I feel slightly dizzy from all the reciprocal bowing I’ve been doing all week, especially because we were in Kyoto, the politest of the polite in Japan. It really makes one feel special to go to McDonald’s and receive a bow after paying for your order and yet another bow after receiving your food, which is wrapped with origami-precise folds.

Polite they are, but also very French in a way–there was very little English spoken or written in Kyoto. We were defeated in our efforts to use the subway because the ticket machines were entirely in Japanese and no amount of button pressing produced anything that looked like ticket purchasing. Same problem with the ATM machines, although we did eventually find some of those later in the week at the 7/11 stores. That was important because so many stores and restaurants don’t take credit cards!

However, even though there was so little English spoken, people would go out of their way to help you, especially the taxi drivers. Repeatedly they would go above and beyond to search for the places we were trying to find. They really took care of us.

We arrived Sunday night at the Village Kyoto, our hotel, having spent a majority of the cash we had exchanged on our train tickets, because the train ticket machine wouldn’t accept our credit card.

The Village Kyoto, an odd name for a tall, thin building

The wooden slippers we were supposed to wear on the tatami mat floors. Shh...don't tell--sometimes we wore our shoes on the mats!

The chairs unfolded into beds.

The closet held all the bed making supplies we needed to make up the beds-foam egg crates, pads, duvets and pillows all covered in snowy white linens. The pillows came connected with two parts--a soft part and a hard part that seemed to be made up of crunchy seeds. You could fold the two parts together or not, and create 4 different sleeping experiences.

Next we had to find dinner. Just like Corning, many restaurants were closed on Sunday night, but we did manage to find a place close by that had pictures so we could pick out our food.

Lots of unrecognizable things, except the rice.

These were two of the breakfast options offered by the hotel

We seemed to get a lot of fish, either raw, or cooked, or ground up in different, wet, moist ways and served with unrecognizable pickley things. And rice of course, always cooked to perfection.

Our main goal of the day was to obtain money because we were about down to our last yen after also having to pay for dinner with cash. We were unsuccessful in getting on to the subway, so we knew it was going to be taxis all week. We kept seeing ATM machines but, again, they were only in Japanese. In our wanderings we happened upon this market:

It is known as Teramachi Street and it's been in this place in some form since the late 16th century.

You can buy fans

Or you can eat crabs in a restaurant that has a crab with moving crab legs

Or buy candy that make you feel like a ninja

After finding a bookstore and buying some guidebooks, we found, buried deep within one of them the addresses of a couple of English ATM’s. Once we had cash in hand we were much relieved.

Kyoto has 2400 temples and I don’t know how many Shintu shrines (it’s a lot). Altogether, it’s more than all the 7-11’s which are on every block, or sometimes twice on a block. We did not attempt to visit them all, much to Meredith’s relief, and it turned out that the 2 to 3 day advanced reservation the guidebooks talk about for some of the most popular gardens and temples is actually 3 months! That still left about 2395 available for our perusal.

Gate to the first shrine--shrines have gates and lions at the entrances

It is quite common to see women in kimonos at the temples and shrines. It seemed like they were dressing up to go to church.

 The bells at the top of the ropes are rung to get the god’s attention when the people pray. This is a busy shrine, so there are a lot of ropes.

I'm not quite sure what these are, but I think they may be wishes or prayers

A really beautiful temple

People worshiping at the temple. If there's incense you know you're at a Buddhist temple.

Flowers brought to the temple

Detail of the metal work--see the salmon?

Coming around a corner we were greeted with this amazing site--a tightly packed cemetery that seemed to go on forever

For the English speakers there was a bit of comedic relief on the trash cans outside the cemetery

The inside of another temple

some more prayers

Perhaps this is a shrine to a child who liked Toy Story

There are always beautiful gardens around these temples and shrines

Guys wear kimonos too

They were all industriously digging something tiny out of the ground

An itty bitty house. Note also the thatched roof, something you'll see a fair amount of in Kyoto

A zen rock garden

Yup, it's a big one!

A group of girls dressed up for a night on the town. Another time women dress in kimonos

Our lunch at an Indian restaurant. Authentic except they served Japanese sticky rice, not Indian basmati rice!

I’ll continue with the rest of the trip in another installment, to give me time to do laundry and feed the family. More to come…

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About DECRYPTKNIT: knitter on the loose in Shanghai

Hi, I'm Marisa Newhouse, a former pharmacist (for a brief time during the Reagan administration) who's real calling was probably anything that has to do with cooking, plants, literature and especially knitting; hence my last and favorite job, working at Woolyminded, a wonderful yarn store. But now, I have moved half a world away to Shanghai where my husband will be working. Lots of people are interested in what we will be doing here and I have always kept journals of our travels, so I thought I'd do it the modern way and keep a blog.
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2 Responses to There’s a Whole Lot of Bowing Going on Around Here

  1. Ramona Williamson says:

    Very interesting!

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