Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Memoirs of an Irish Geisha

At long last - my Japan diaries! I figure I'd just transcribe my Ambien and sho-chu fueled journals I kept while I was away, with additional comments and stories sprinkled in along the way. So strap in kids, here we go!

May 6: To Japan! Thought since I'm waiting for the Ambien to kick in (on the plane) I'd do a little writing. Gee, the pen feels weird...(editorial note: I love Ambien!) Today (Sunday) we flew out of P.B.I. I had a damn good breakfast (crab omelet) at Sam Sneads. We had an uneventful flight to Dallas - we actually sat to the most well-behaved kids ever (of course, they were NOT American) and had a belated Cinco de Mayo celebration in a Dallas Airport eatery (what a nice airport!)- pretty decent burritos and sangria margaritas. We have about 7 hours to go. We're currently over Anchorage. The flight has been a bit bumpy. Watched an old episode of "The Office" and "Music and Lyrics" on the cool back-of-the-seat monitor, as well as an interesting Japanese television show about how foreigners (a British gal, Canadian guy, Italian and French ladies and a guy from Ghana) perceive Japanese food. (Later) We've been on the plane a long time but it's not so bad - we had hot towels (Hi Mom!) and they added a piece of sushi to the traditional "chicken or beef" airplane meal. (Then there are some scribblings about Peter Frampton which really have no relevance in a travel post, so I'll move on.)

May 10: I'm writing this on the bullet train (Shinkansen) on the way from Kyoto to Tokyo. We have had so much fun - Monday night we arrived in Kyoto after landing at one airpirt in Tokyo and taking a taxi across town to the other one. We had minutes to spare to catch our flight, but we (and our bags) miraculously made it (never would have happened in the states.) The first night we stayed at the Granvia, which was lovely. We had a traditional Japanese dinner. Courses and courses of food (it was the culinary equivalent of that part of "Fantasia" with Mickey Mouse and the mops that never stopped hauling water into the building.) I think we had 10 courses. I knew the meal was over when they brought out fruit. I didn't recognize much, but it was all quite good. I was so happy to see Paul eat tofu! (I then gave up on this journal entry, as I had a little too much sho-chu!)

May 11: Take two. Yesterday's entry was a little too sho-chu influenced to be comprehensible. So anywhoo, our first full day was spent with Taka's (Paul's associate from his former workplace, who moved back to Japan) father's friend, Mr. Maeda, who was incredibly nice. He took us to various temples and shrines. We started with Kiyomizo Temple - a nominee for one of the seven modern wonders of the world. Very cool. There we went into this dark cavern which was supposed to represent the womb of a goddess, where we made a wish and rotated a large stone with some sort of Kanji written on it. It was so cool. I got to go to the most famous hot pepper store in all of Kyoto (so of course, I stocked up!) We went for lunch to what in the states would be referred to as a "hole in the wall" for lunch and had delicious udon noodles and rice bowls (my new favorite Japanese food - it's a triangle of rice wrapped in seaweed with some sort of filling - I loved the ones with the salmon flakes in them. These rice bowls became a "must snack" for the rest of the trip as they were available in the convenience stores (of which there are a bunch - 7-11s and Circle Ks.) Maeda had a meeting later that afternoon, so he set us up with an English-speaking taxi driver/guide named Kimi-san. He took us everywhere, including the famous Golden Pavillion. He also taught us how to pray at the temples. You bow twice, clap twice, pray and then bow. We also saw a zen garden, bamboo forest and lots of shrines and temples. Paul got "shrined out" so we went back to our traditional-style Japanese hotel (Ryokan). This place was awesome. The room was sparsely furnished - only 2 low tables and chairs (no beds.) The floor was tatami mats and you had to remove your shoes before you entered. They had traditional Japanese attire to wear, which on the first night we wore to dinner. Paul mistakenly put on the ladies' version (I couldn't tel the difference.) One of the ladies that work at the hotel, the Japanese Judge Judy, helped Paul out. All of the ladies that worked at the hotel were multi-functional - they were bellhops, maids, and restaurant hostesses. They also didn't speak a word of English, but talked a mile a minute anyway. We had another excellent traditional meal and some yummy sho-chu. Despite the fact that we were at a traditional inn, there was a TV in the room. I love Japanese TV. Lots of chat and panel shows and bizarre commercials. While we were at dinner, Japanese Judge Judy and the gals put our futons out to sleep on. The first night we also had a (much needed) massage.

The next morning, we went out with Mrs. Maeda and her neighbor Yuko (who spoke English). We went to the Imperial Palace Villa for a guided tour. There was some confusion early on, as Japanese citizens can't just walk in - they have to get permission well in advance or be a tour guide. We tried to sneak both ladies in with us, but we got caught. So Yuko came with us (she was very excited, as she had never been there before herself.) We (for once) were the ones on the tour with the translator players (how weird) and slowly made our way around the beautiful grounds (they've got lots of "cotton tops" in Japan too!) We had a delicious lunch (the biggest shrimp I've ever seen) and as we were dining, Mrs. Maeda and Yuko had something up their sleeve. They took us to Gion, the geisha district, where I got the "Maiko Experience" (a maiko is an apprentice geisha). I got dressed up in full geisha gear (it took over an hour) and took photos. The nice people even let me go out in the street for more photos - where I was photographed with some Japanese schoolgirls and some other Kyoto visitors. It was such a blast and a truly unforgettable experience. We went back to have more mystery food; and Mr. Maeda picked us up and took us to the Kyoto Cultural Center where we saw a bunch of things - a tea ceremony (which we were the "audience participants" for), flower arranging, geisha dancing, chamber music, a short Noh play and Bunraku (the cool puppets - definitely my favorite part of the show). We then headed to the Ponto-cho district - lots of geisha (and regular) bars. We had a blast. Tokyo is next, and frankly, I've typed enough today, so look for Part 2 of the Japanese adventure soon!

Warm up, Kathy!

Another one for you (and me, of course) from America's favorite "DILF", Huey Lewis! Can't wait for Saturday!

Fear not, dear reader (aka Rose)

I don't have oodles of time, but I wanted to assure my reader that I'm still alive and plan to post pictures and stories from Japan real soon - as well as a complete update of all things me. Please visit my "Frampton for My 40th" blog for more witty scribblings from yours truly. I am going to see the man on Saturday, so hopefully I will have some other exciting news to report!