Friday, January 31, 2014

Globetrotting: Holiday in Japan, Part 1

{Konpira Shrine, Nagoya}

Our dream to do a family trip to Japan began several years ago. With a husband who is fluent in Japanese, has a B.A. in Japanese, has lived in Japan on two different occasions, and who feels so at home with the Japanese way of life, I knew this holiday trip was inevitable. Twist my arm, right?

I was completely game for an adventure in Japan! (So were the kids; they had been familiar with Miyazaki's films for years at this point.) I was NOT, however, game for spending the entire 9 days in the busy, crowded cityscapes of Japan. So we planned to split our time: cities and significant historical sites at the front and back ends, country living in the middle. Loved the mix!

It had a bit of a rough start, though. Our flight left Singapore at 1:00 a.m. and arrived in Nagoya at 9:00 a.m. A late night and lousy sleep on the plane left us exhausted right from the get-go.

And then it was raining. A lot. All day.

But we forged ahead. (Because, really, what else are you going to do, right?)

We took the communter train from the airport into town and then chucked our luggage into some lockers at the station so we could tour around town unencumbered. Umbrellas and day-packs were all we needed. (Having lived in Singapore we knew that umbrellas were a standard accessory in most Asian countries and so came prepared.)

By this point we were ready for lunch. The goal was to eat as authentically as possible--no chicken nuggets and fries on this trip, kids! We found a little joint and read the menu.

This is when the children and I got a glimpse of what illiteracy must feel like.

This is also when my husband realized that this "vacation" was going to be constant work, constant translation.

After lunch we meandered through town, taking in the day-to-day pace of life. And the not-so-day-to-day pace of life.

{This pedestrian street was especially decorative, I believe, because it was almost festival time in Nagoya. Photo by my son}

{Outside Nagoya Noh Theatre, a convenient place for us to take a bit of refuge from the rain and for my husband to take a work call.}  

Next up was Nagoya Castle. I would have loved to have taken more photos but the rain just made it super tricky.

{Nagoya Castle--photo by my son}

{Inside the castle. I cropped out the kids*, but wanted to show part of the castle wall behind us. It always blows my mind how engineers, centuries ago, got stuff--like monstrously-sized walls made of unbelievably-huge stones--built without the conveniences of modern technology/equipment. 
Just fascinating.}

Stopped off for an ice cream and fried rice-on-a-stick thingie, then headed back to the train station for our trip to Kyoto, where we were going to stay for the night.

{Ah, Japanese trains. This is where the magic happens, folks. Such a robust rail system makes travel all over Japan so very convenient and efficient.}

Checked into our hotel in Kyoto, dropped off our stuff and got a tip on a favorite local restaurant, which I just LOVED. I was fighting to eat the last of the, yes . . . onions. (Which, for anyone who knew me as a child, is quite telling.)

Before bed we had time for a little "Culture Points"-experimentation with the, ahem, commode. (For those of you who have been to Japan, you know.) It involved a wee 4-year-old's bum that was too small to cover the geyser erupting before us. It involved screaming and laughing. It involved asking myself--very quickly--do I swoop in to rescue the tender bottom from the spewing beast or do I try to push all the buttons hoping that one of them is OFF or do I get so flummoxed that I hold my baby daughter directly in the line of fire until I can figure out how to stop it.

And it involved towels.

(Doing one's business is serious business in Japan. More on that in another post.)


Sleep, my loves. For tomorrow we take one bullet train, one regional train AND one bus up a winding mountain road to get to our next destination in the Japanese Alps.

{bakery at the train station--we got a variety of pastries for our breakfast-on-the-go}

We traveled first through the city, then the suburbs with their many inspired home gardens, then up in lush green mountain passes where we saw rushing rivers, small towns and striking bridges. The bus went deeper into the Takayama countryside, up the mountains and arrived at our stop. We got off. I took a good look around.

Big breath in.

I fell instantly in love.

(*I avoid including photos of my children where their faces are recognizable. In the first version of this shot of me and the children--next to the castle wall--I had essentially erased their faces. It was super creepy. So I just cut them out altogether. Fewer nightmares this way.)


Becca B said...

loved this

Anonymous said...

Can you tell us when the next swap is? You haven't mentioned this on your blog yet....

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